Former UConn soccer coach Ray Reid getting back in the game with the Hartford Athletic – Hartford Courant

If you know Ray Reid, you know that soccer is in his blood, and retiring was the furthest thing from his heart.

But Reid, one of the most successful college coaches in Connecticut, announced his retirement last December after 25 years at UConn. Now, he’s returning to the beautiful game with the Hartford Athletic as technical director.

Reid, 62, will be the head of soccer operations, overseeing all aspects and answering only to owner Bruce Mandell.

“They do a great job on the business side,” Reid said. “They get great crowds, do great promoting, marketing, they do a great job there. We’ve just got to get more resources to lift up the soccer side. I think we can do that. ”

The Athletic, who debuted as a USL franchise in July 2018, have averaged over 4,640 fans per game in 2021. On the pitch, they have struggled, going 9-22-5 the first season, 11-3-2 in the pandemic- ravaged second season, 12-15-5 in 2021 and 1-1-6 so far in 2022.

It would be hard to imagine a better fit for this job. Reid is high-energy and relentless in his passion for the game. Though he needs flexibility in his schedule to tend to family concerns, he also needed more soccer-related goals in his life.

“I miss the comradery of the locker room, the team,” Reid said. “I want to be able to oversee it. I’m going to be responsible for the head coach, assistant coaches, strength, athletic training, analysts, the academy. Building the locker room, getting the players ready, building the culture we want to build. ”

Reid was captain of one championship team at Southern Connecticut and coached the Owls to two more Division II titles before moving to UConn in 1997, where he replaced Joe Morrone. During his time at Storrs, Reid won a Division I championship and took teams to the NCAA tournament 25 times before retiring with a career mark of 457-149-78.

In this new role, Reid won’t have the headaches that go with college recruiting and fundraising, the transfer portal, the name-image-likeness issues, it’s just about soccer. And is there a better-known soccer figure in Connecticut?

“Ray Reid is a Connecticut soccer icon and we are thrilled to be adding him as our technical director,” Mandell said. “He has a proven record of success both on and off the pitch and his experience will perfectly complement Coach [Harry] Watling and the rest of our technical staff as well as provide unique opportunities for our organization as a whole. ”

Reid does not plan wholesale changes upon taking over. The Athletic plays at home on Saturday against New York Red Bulls II at Trinity Health Stadium.

“The level of play is pretty good,” Reid said. “I’ve been watching the guys play last month, watching every day, observing. There are challenges you’ve got to take on, but Connecticut is a good soccer state. Good fans, good location, a great venue to play. Hopefully, I can help Coach Watling and Bruce Mandell get our group going in the right direction over time. I’m coming in to evaluate every aspect of it over the next couple of months. I like Harry, I think he’s a good coach. I’m there to put a plan in place going on, evaluate everything and see what our best course of action is. ”

As Reid pointed out, all the elements are in place for a successful operation. The Athletic has a loud, loyal fan base that makes its presence felt at home games. All that’s needed is a few more wins.

“Ray is one of the most influential people in soccer in Connecticut and his experience and knowledge of the American soccer system are welcome additions to our organization,” Watling said. “I’m very pleased that he has decided to come on board and look forward to working with him.”

Before he left UConn, Reid established a scholarship program to help minority coaches. He has a wide coaching tree, with 19 of his former players or assistants coaching at Division I college or pro level, including Chris Gbandi, his successor at UConn. Since “retiring,” he has been involved in various fundraising projects, helping to draw 500 attendees to a dinner to help launch a soccer scholarship in memory of John DeBrito, who played for him at Southern, and a series of podcasts, “For the Love of the Game. ”

So Reid, with plenty to do in retirement, is now back in the game and ready to build another winning culture.

Dom Amore can be reached at damore@courant.com

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