Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville City FC announced on Wednesday that Head Coach James O’Connor, Assistant Coach Daniel Byrd and Goalkeepers Coach Thabane Sutu this week agreed to new contracts with the club that will hold one of the USL’s top staffs together for the long-term.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled we are,” said Louisville Chairman John Neace, “to announce we’ve signed new contracts with Coach O’Connor and staff which will keep them here with us through the 2020 season — when we plan to play our first season in our soccer-specific stadium.”
Led by the coaching trio, Louisville has accumulated more USL points and goals than any other team in the league since starting play in 2015. Both years were capped by runs to the Eastern Conference Final of the USL Cup Playoffs.
“I’m obviously delighted to put pen to paper and commit,” O’Connor said. “A lot of credit needs to go to John Neace. I think he’s played a key role in my signing and all of the coaching staff, and I have to thank Gary Mellor of Beswicks Sports for advising me.
“It’s a really exciting time for us to be associated with Louisville City when you look at the plans for the future. I feel honored and privileged to be in such a good position, and I’m really excited to be the head coach of Louisville City.”
O’Connor, a native of Ireland who played for storied clubs such as Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, took his first head coaching job with Louisville as the club was forming in 2014. He holds a top-level UEFA Pro License and has quickly established a winning tradition here.
Stars to come through Louisville — guided by O’Connor and Byrd — include 2015 USL MVP Matt Fondy and Bryan Burke, who was named Defender of the Year that same season. In 2016, defender Kyle Smith went from a tryout signing to USL Midseason Rookie of the Year, and striker Chandler Hoffman was named Midseason MVP.
Louisville went 14-8-6 last year even after losing Fondy, who set the USL record for goals in a season by netting 22 in 28 games. O’Connor navigated his side to a streak of 17 league games unbeaten.
Sutu, a local legend who also serves as technical director for the United 1996 FC youth program, has showcased an ability to quickly develop goalkeepers. In 2015, then-starter Scott Goodwin posted a 1.19 goals-against average between the posts.
When Goodwin left the club to enroll at Harvard Medical School, Greg Ranjitsingh stepped in and went five straight games without allowing a goal. Ranjitsingh transformed into an international talent, called up in the fall to train with Trinidad and Tobago during World Cup qualifiers.