How well do you know the New England Revolution?
Do you know who the head of scouting for the Revolution's academy is? Do you know who the goalkeepers coach for the Revs' youth teams is? Do you know helps Remi Roy train the first team's goalkeepers? Do you know who acts as the liaison between Spanish-speaking players and the MLS coaching staff?
The answer is Jasir Charris and if you're mouthing the word "who?" while reading this, remember the name.
Charris is a Colombian-born former soccer player who wears half a dozen hats for the New England Revolution in addition to coaching goalkeepers for their PDL affiliate Real Boston Rams.
The Bent Musket talked to Rhode Island Oceaneers General Manager David Borts about Charris and the club in general. "I've been around a lot of coaches," Borts told the Bent Musket, "and Jasir has put together a program that is just tremendous."
Jim Antonakas, the owner of the team who also owns fellow ASL team Mass United FC, approached Borts in the spring about the prospect of joining the new American Soccer League. "At the time I said to give me a year and I'll go put together the best organization possible," Borts said, but Antonakas pressed the issue over the summer. In the middle of July, Borts had an ultimatum of sorts to either put the team together to pass on the option to operate Antonakas's club in the ASL.
With just 5 weeks before the start the season, Borts set out to put together a quality soccer organization on late notice. Borts, who is the president of Rhode Island's United States Adult Soccer Association affiliate, reached out to long-time friend Steve Votolato to be the club's assistant general manager. Votolato is the head of state's U.S. Youth Soccer body and Borts is very excited about the Rolodex available to the Oceaneers now.
"Steve and I have done a lot of projects together and there couldn't be a better pair of people to be involved in this," Borts told the Bent Musket glowingly. As the chiefs of both the adult soccer and youth soccer governing bodies in Rhode Island, Borts and Votolato know just about everyone involved in the sport across the state. "Regarding our connections in the soccer community, there couldn't be two other people better for this. It's kind of the perfect storm ultimately as long as we're around."
As excited as Borts was to talk about Votolato, his volunteer assistant coaches, or the impressive turnout for tryouts, the Oceaneers' general manager could not stop mentioning Jasir Charris.
Hobie Hare, a member of the Revolution coaching staff and head coach of the Rams, recommended Jasir and after a one or two conversations it seemed Charris was the only logical choice. "What Hobie told me is that in the Revolution academy and the whole community up in Foxborough, they really want to get this guy some type of head coaching job so he can start moving on."
Despite a full CV, this job with the Oceaneers will be the highest level of coaching in Charris's young career. Borts didn't seem nervous about hiring a first-time head coach, but rather sounded grateful for the opportunity to have him in the organization.
"He is a find; that's all I can tell you. This is his first job at this level but he'll be the best coach in the league within a year and I'll be happy if we can keep him for maybe 2 years."
Borts went to to say that Charris has a bright future in coaching, "He's going somewhere, whether that's a big college program or an assistant job in MLS. He's a tremendous trainer, has a great rapport with the kids, and actually he's been a big help in attracting a lot of the players initially."
"The system that Jasir is putting in, which is a possession-dominated system, is something that several of the kids, even those who played Division-1 [college soccer], haven't seen in training before." The training at Oceaneers' practice and the style Charris is coaching the team to play is "an attractive product for the players."
Borts stressed that his trust in Charris will help the Oceaneers avoid some of the pitfalls of former Rhode Island-based clubs. He told the Bent Musket that he knows his own duties as general manager and that he'll give Charris the space to implement his own training system free from any micromanagement. "It's very important to maintain the differentiation of roles within the club; that's been one of the greatest failures of clubs around here in the past."
Borts admits that because he started late after initially planning to join the ASL in 2015, "some of the organizational stuff is behind the 8-ball," but he is confident about the team. "We're trying really to build from the field out."
While the team continues to improve in the league, Borts and the rest of the club's staff will pursue sponsorship deals and try to nail down a more permanent home venue during the winter. The ASL calendar is split between a fall campaign and the spring campaign, which allows the Oceaneers an opportunity to shop around for investments during the mid-season break.
"On the field we need to maintain our coaching staff because our coaching staff is phenomenal. As long as we keep this coaching staff for a couple years there are few ways to fail."
Rhode Island Oceaneers host Mass United FC on Saturday night at 9:15 from Bryant University's Bulldog Stadium in Smithfield, RI.