New Mexico’s expansion United Soccer League franchise, announced in June, still doesn’t have a crest, colors, logo or even a name.
But now it does have a head coach and technical director.
Today, USL New Mexico will announce that Troy Lesesne (“Luh-sane”) will be in charge. The team will hold a press conference this morning to introduce the coach at Isotopes Park, its home field when it debuts next March.
He’s been an assistant coach with the Charlotte Independence since 2015. Lesesne holds a USSF A coaching license, the second highest credential behind “pro.”
“At the end of the end of the day, we wanted someone who was going to come in and be part of our community in an authentic way,” team owner Peter Trevesani said. “What I saw was a head coach who just hadn’t been given a head coaching job yet.”
The USL is the second division of American professional soccer.
According to USL league data, the average age of a USL head coach is 41.8. Lesesne, 34, will be one of ten coaches league-wide under age 35.
“Although he’s young in terms of his age he probably has more coaching experience than many of the hires coming into the league,” Charlotte Independence Coach Mike Jeffries said. “He’s got a really good coaching platform. The age and the baby face are deceiving.”
Lesesne is charged with filling out the technical staff and team sheet. He said conversations are ongoing to complete both. He expects a mix of experienced and newer players who want to help build the franchise.
“I want them to be technically and tactically proficient,” Lesesne said. “From a mentality piece I want intelligent players, (not) running just to run versus running intelligently, both in possession and out of possession. They have to fit the mentality piece of what our club is going to be after, competing relentlessly every day.”
USL New Mexico declined to use a search committee or scoring matrix in the coaching search. The club had applicants from Europe, South America and North America before winnowing the finalists to six.
The initial phone interview with Lesesne turned from a quick 15-minute chat into a 90-minute discussion of coaching philosophy and tactics. An early sign to Trevesani he found a serious contender.
“It was more important finding someone I knew I could work with every day,” Trevesani said. “We needed a coach who had the tactical mind to stay a step ahead and was coaching for where the USL is going to be in a few years.”
Lesesne acknowledges he’ll have a learning curve despite 2019 being his fifth season in the USL. There likely will be more movement on personnel acquisitions once the 2018 USL season ends this fall.
“We’re going to have a proactive approach to the game, we’re going to take the initiative,” Lesesne said. “We’ll look to keep the ball as much as possible. We’re going to try and press higher up the field.”
This is Lesesne’s first professional head coaching job. He climbed the coaching ladder, starting as an assistant at his alma mater, College of Charleston, for nine seasons. In 2011 and 2013 CollegeSoccerNews.com named him one of the “top 20 assistant coaches.” In 2014 he was hired by the MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps and assigned to its USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery. He’s been an assistant coach with the Charlotte Independence since 2015.
“He studied the game, every technique, every tactic, every approach every single day try to make himself better,” College of Charleston coach Ralph Lundy said. “He’s a student. Every day he wants to read new ideas, new concepts. He wants to be prepared to give so much to players.”
Lundy is currently 4th in victories among active D1 coaches. This season will be his 32nd season with College of Charleston. He witnessed Lesesne’s maturation as a player and then an assistant on his staff. He praised Lesesne’s relentless work ethic and ebullient personality.
“He’ll add so much to every aspect to the Albuquerque soccer community,” Lundy said. “He knows when to have a great time and when to get the work done. ”
The only announced player on the expansion club is Eldorado High School graduate Devon Sandoval. USL New Mexico will mark his fourth expansion club in his last three professional seasons. He stressed team chemistry on and off the field as important.
“Communication is huge, especially with a brand new team,” Sandoval said. “The soccer culture in New Mexico is alive and very vibrant and going to really take to the USL New Mexico team. I’m really excited to see how things work out. I’m sure the new coach is up for challenge.”
In 2001, Lesesne was named the South Carolina boys high school player of the year his senior season at Brookland-Cayce High School. He finished his prep career as his school’s all-time leading soccer and in 2005, had his jersey retired.
Lesesne played NCAA soccer at the College of Charleston, earning his Master’s in Communication in 2004. His senior year Lesesne garnered a trio of accolades: Division I All-America third team, NSCAA All-Region first team, and All Southern Conference first team.
Lesesne was on staff with the Charlotte Independence from its genesis, so the expansion process isn’t unfamiliar.
“He was with us for the whole process. He knows the things that went well and more importantly probably the things that didn’t go well,” Jeffries said. “He’s going to come into the job with his own ideas how to run things. He’s also got a very good sense how to build franchise from the ground up.”
Trading the Deep South for the Southwest will be an adjustment, but one Lesesne and his wife, Amanda, are ready for.
“I want to learn about the region, I want to learn the culture, what the landscape is so we can capture those audiences,” Lesesne said. “I want to provide a product on the field that they can be proud of, make them keep coming back for more.”