Alen Marcina is a professional coach, having served as a head coach for 4 seasons in the NASL. After a near decade-long playing career, including time in Greece, New Zealand and The US, Marcina moved into a coaching role with the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012. He would become the team’s head coach in 2013 and lead them to a pair of championships in 2014. After a short stint with Rayo OKC, Marcina (now 37) has turned his attention towards expanding his knowledge of the business side of soccer and youth development.
We spoke with Marcina about his time in the NASL, what it took to become a manager and some of the more interesting current stories in the Canadian men’s soccer world.
NSXI: Since you left Rayo OKC, what have you been up to?
AM: I am a firm believer we are students of the game and learning is a lifelong process. My professional coaching career thus far has been with two start-up organizations. Ultimately these experiences have laid the foundation for me to understand “winning formulas.”
With that said, I’m taking this time to refine my skills both on and off the field further. I’m currently earning an M.B.A with a concentration in Sport Business, in the process of acquiring my licenses and consulting for professional coaches and players in both the USL and NASL.
I’ve recently been offered a Technical Director position with the largest youth organization in its city which will provide me an excellent opportunity to better understand the makeup of the youth market. The most recent staff that I had assembled, which includes a UEFA Pro coach and Director of Sports Science who recently obtained his Ph.D., are collectively working together to acquire the knowledge and processes to maximize a professional club’s performance both on and off the field.
NSXI: How did you find the shift from player to manager?
AM: I believe both the USSF and the CSA are doing a fantastic job in providing the knowledge and resources to educate us inspiring coaches. The commitment to improving the overall level of soccer in North America is astounding, and I for one am very proud to be a part of this process.
The shift from professional player to coach was, fortunately, a relatively smooth transition. My last four years of my playing career was in the USL, which is a fantastic league. I had the fortunate experience to learn under some superb coaches that ultimately helped shape who I am as a coach today. At a young age, I’ve been blessed to win multiple championships both as an assistant coach and as a head coach. None of this would be possible without ownership believing in my abilities to lead, an incredible technical staff, as well as talented players who displayed the unquenchable thirst to learn, improve and demonstrate a commitment to the process.
NSXI: What do you think of the NASL compared to the leagues you’ve played in?
AM: Second Division Professional soccer in North America has grown substantially. The overall product both on and off the field has taken great strides, and in my opinion, will continue to grow and excel. There have been many people who have contributed to the growth of the game which currently spearheaded by USL’s Jake Edwards and NASL’s Rishi Sehgal leading the way.
NSXI: How did you find working at Rayo OKC?
AM: I’m incredibly happy with the collective work that was put in during my time with Rayo OKC. Assembling a brand new squad and setting up an entire infrastructure in little over a month was quite impressive. I can look back now and state there were quite a few challenges. However, collectively as a staff we saw those challenges as opportunities. Shared vision, collaborative leadership, and the commitment to creating a culture of excellence were essential in the club’s inaugural season success on the field.
NSXI: Your time with the San Antonio Scorpions including a trio of titles but ended somewhat controversially amid the team’s folding. How do you look back on your time with them?
AM: My time in San Antonio brought many great memories. It was also an excellent opportunity to learn, grow and assemble different performance strategies both on and off the field. I was fortunate to be a part of multiple championships during my time. I am thankful to Gordon Hartman for bringing professional soccer to San Antonio and Coach Tim Hankinson and President Michael Hitchcock for giving me the opportunity to start my coaching career. To the incredible fans, supporter groups, sponsors, and youth soccer community who were committed to the club and provided an exciting atmosphere each and every game. It is also amazing to see Spurs Sports & Entertainment take over the pro ranks and elevate the game to a whole new level in their pursuit to obtain an MLS franchise in the magnificent city of San Antonio.
NSXI: Between San Antonio and Oklahoma, you coached some interesting players. Of the high profile players, who stood out the most?
AM: I have been fortunate to work with a large number of professional soccer players that include identifying those starting their professional careers to current and former national team players, and former world cup players. As a staff, we worked tirelessly to obtain the right players that fit the game model and would contribute to the culture of excellence we were collectively creating. We applied the “Action Theory” and objectively evaluated players based on specific actions of each position as it relates to our game model. Included in this process was determining players that embody a high character, team first mentality, and high talent execution. All players bring something unique to the table. I am thankful to each and every one of them for helping me grow and become a better coach.
NSXI: Both of the clubs you’ve managed have sadly folded. Has that had any impact on your love for the game?
AM: Yes, the two start up professional clubs I had the honor to coach unfortunately no longer exist. Both were for entirely different reasons, but nonetheless, both had tremendous on-field success in a short period. I am very thankful to have these experiences as it provided me with the insight and tools necessary to maximize any start-up organization and team performance both on and off the field. I feel these experiences have heightened my business acumen providing me the required tools to carry out a number different leadership positions from technical director to coach within a pro club. I remain as passionate and driven as ever with the consistent desire to lead, learn and grow as a professional. I’m personally motivated by my relentless pursuit of serving players and staff to become the best they can be.
NSXI: You’re currently without a club and the national team is without a coach. Have you thought about applying?
AM: It is an absolute privilege for any coach given the opportunity to lead a national team. If you can coach the country of your birth makes it that more unique. With that said, comes the tremendous amount of responsibility to ensure the success of the country. If in the future there is that possibility, I would embrace that challenge.
NSXI: As a coach and a Canadian, what type of coach do you think Canada is in need of at the moment for the national team? Is there any experience you would view as essential to the post?
AM: This is an excellent question, and I am positive the leadership at Canadian soccer has a detailed and thorough list of expectations, requirements, and candidates for the next coach of Canada. Worth noting, Canadian fans are astounding and are very passionate about the sport. This was present in the MLS Eastern Conference Championship series between Montreal and Toronto, where close to 100,000 people attended the two games. Not only is there the importance of the next coach but it is also essential that there are more Canadian players regularly participating in high-level competitions. I would also add, Mr. Victor Montagliani has done a great job on impacting the cultural change in Canadian program. Adding the likes of Jason DeVos as Director of Development is a sign of great things to come in the Canadian soccer landscape.
NSXI: Any thoughts about the rumoured Canadian pro league?
AM: The MLS, USL, and NASL are doing a fantastic job providing opportunities to Canadian players and coaches at all levels of the pyramid. Recently the MLS has modified the domestic player rule which now allows an improved Canadian player development pathway. As a Canadian, I would love to see ‘The Canadian League’ come to fruition. With that said it will take committed ownership groups, meticulous planning, and an elaborate business plan. It will also require leadership dedicated to running a sustainable professional league with the overall vision of improving the game both nationally and globally.
You Can follow Alen on Twitter @alenmarcina1979