PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sources tell CBSPhilly.com that Rene Meulensteen will be presented as Philadelphia Union sporting director on Friday morning.
An article published on Wednesday night revealed that the former Manchester United assistant will be brought in as a “consultant, to assist with the sporting director structure”. But the team does not currently have a sporting director, and it’s unclear how much influence a consulting job would provide. Sources close to the situation say Meulensteen will actually play a bigger role and oversee player-personnel decisions at the club.
The rumors started when Meulensteen was spotted with Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz, and part-owner Richie Graham, in a luxury box at Gillette Stadium during the June 28th road game in New England. A reddit user posted a picture online, and Meulensteen’s name became one of the first to arise in the Union coaching search.
Sources then told CBSPhilly.com that Meulensteen was the top candidate for the job, ahead of Curtin, who was then-interim coach.
One day after that news was reported, ESPN picked up the story, with analyst Taylor Twellman tweeting that no coaching deal had been reached. Jeff Carlisle confirmed Meulensteen’s candidacy through quotes from Sakiewicz.
Meulensteen then confirmed his contact with Philadelphia in a Dutch article published on September 11th.
A person close to the story later revealed that Curtin’s success in the U.S. Open Cup significantly helped his case, and ultimately won him the coaching job.
But Meulensteen’s name didn’t go away, and Sakiewicz never refuted the continued rumors, revealing in a late October sitdown with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marc Narducci that the Dutchman was still in the picture.
Regarding Meulensteen, Sakiewicz told Narducci, “I won’t say that won’t happen, but it isn’t happening now.”
Curtin won the coaching job towards the end of September, but was not formally presented as head coach until last Friday. Contract negotiations had delayed the announcement of his hire by more than a month.
During that press conference, Sakiewicz was asked if he would be adding a general manager, sporting director, or another front office executive.
“Well, I said we’re constantly evaluating our structure and today is about adding a very important piece, which is our first team manager,” Sakiewicz said on November 7th. “We continue to look at making heavy investments in this club. We invested heavily in Tommy Wilson with the academy and what we do up there in Wayne. We’re investing heavily in Jim and resources given to him to make sure we get this team continuing to move in the right direction. We just built the practice facility, which is really important for a professional team to have, and I’m sure the guys and all of us are happy about those two beautiful fields next to PPL Park. So, like everything, we are evaluating our structure, and whatever we can do to make the on-field product competitive in MLS 2.0 or 3.0, we’re going to do. So, there’s going to be lots of announcements over the next three months — players, staff, structure, forward thinking, and I hope everybody’s excited about it.”
When asked who would make the player-personnel decisions in lieu of a general manager, Sakiewicz said the following:
“The man sitting right to my left, Jim Curtin.”
It’s widely believed that Sakiewicz has held a role in player-personnel since the dismissal of manager Peter Nowak and head of scouting and player development Diego Gutierrez in 2012. Sakiewicz, however, has denied those claims.
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