Dan McNally’s career path had a predictable direction. He was an assistant coach for the University of Cincinnati men’s soccer team and a Division II head coach previously.
“I had a straight career path to be a head coach at a Division I college,” McNally said.
That was his goal.
“Then, FC Cincinnati came along.”
McNally sat at Jeff Berding’s kitchen table and discussed how they’d build a club that could join MLS. At the time, they were building a club that didn’t even exist yet. And when it was finally announced in August 2015, McNally came the club’s first employee. He was the “Head of Operations.”
If that job sounds open ended, it was. He became the Vice President of Operations and oversaw all of the club’s day-to-day needs, including game day operations, facility operations and soccer operations – even security. Operations is a nebulous role that includes much more than most people realize.
In fact, not until earlier this month was the Englishman’s title and role refined to specialized roles and tasks. Now, he’s FCC’s brand-new Director of Soccer Operations.
It’s not just a new title, but a new opportunity for someone who’s journey with the club has had the same trajectory as the team’s: from third division USL to hosting the reigning MLS Cup champions on Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium as its first MLS season comes closer to a close.
As the Director of Soccer Operations, he’ll help facilitate the overall needs of the team, the technical staff and soccer staff at the new $35 million Mercy Health Training Center in Milford. While he’ll still manage game day facility needs for the club’s matches at Nippert Stadium through 2020 (“I’ll remain the guy that ran Nippert Stadium, for better or worse,” he said with a smile), McNally will also oversee all logistics and budgets for the technical department and will be the conduit between the team in Milford and the front office in downtown Cincinnati.
“When you open a $35 million facility, you want the soccer guys to focus on soccer, and I think Dan plays a really nice hybrid role,” said FCC Chief Operating Officer Dennis Carroll. “He understands the sport and the team’s needs, as well as the business side. He can fill a void in helping the soccer people focus on soccer, while also operating the facility as efficiently as possible.”
In the new role, McNally will report to General Manager Gerard Nijkamp.
“We have multiple departments on the technical side, but we need one person who’s off-the-pitch focused and responsible,” Nijkamp said. “Dan already did that for the matches, but also here in Milford. I’m happy he’ll be here more and become more visible in managing off-field operations.”
In truth, this is the perfect move for McNally and the club alike.
For him, the former college coach will be back around the team on a daily basis and work with the technical department. That means more time closer to the soccer side of the club and the field, and less time regularly commuting almost daily between the downtown office, Nippert Stadium in Clifton and the Mercy Health Training Center.
But for the club, the role shows the continuous faith in rewarding those who’ve been with the club from the start – literally.
“I think it says everything to his tenure and the club’s commitment to its staff,” Carroll said. “This is such a critical role because not only is it a new facility, but it’s 25 minutes from downtown, and in order to establish the culture we have, we’ll need a conduit and Dan’s just the perfect person to play that role.”
McNally and Berding together in 2016. @DanMc_20, Twitter.
Four years ago, McNally left a stable situation in a leap of faith for a new club. That leap now means he’ll manage one of the top sports training facilities in country. When the West End Stadium opens in 2021, he’ll also no longer lead stadium operations, which means less time worrying about restrooms and traffic flow and more time watching the team into which he’s invested his life.
“This is the perfect point where I need a new role that fits my passions,” he said. “Soccer is my background; soccer is my passion. I’m excited to be at the training center and back around the team every single day. I’m really happy.”