Entering yet another season on the sidelines with the New York Red Bulls, assistant coach Richie Williams has seen plenty. Twice named interim coach, he's now working with his fourth head coach in as many years with the club.
Along with death and taxes, Richie Williams on the sidelines for the Red Bulls is as close to a constant as you will find in this world. This past off-season, he interviewed with several MLS teams for head-coaching vacancies, eventually coming back to New York after the positions were filled by other candidates.
He was the interim head coach in New York before the Red Bulls hired Hans Backe. But the Swede believes that Williams will be running the show himself soon enough. In fact, Williams made such a great first impression that one of Backe’s first acts as head coach was to lobby management to bring Williams in as a member of his staff.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m happy being here and this is where I want to be,” Williams said. “Being able to be an assistant [coach] here, in many ways, is better than being a head coach in many other places in the league, given the resources and facilities provided to us here.”
He is a local boy from Middletown, N.J., who grew up watching the Cosmos at Giants Stadium before heading to the University of Virginia for a standout collegiate career.
From college, Williams joined MLS in 1996 during its inaugural season and became a midfielder known for his tactical acumen and gritty tackling. He went on to play eight years and was a regular call-up to the U.S. national team.
Williams has been crucial to the team during yet another coaching transition, helping to pave the way for Backe and fellow assistant Goran Aral to take over.
“I think that, without a doubt, the work of Richie and Des [MacAleenan, the Red Bulls' longtime goalkeeper coach] has been vital to what we’re doing here,” Aral said. “Coming into a league as complicated as this with transfers and rules, having someone like Richie makes what we do much easier and helps us tremendously in putting together the pieces for the squad.”
Backe also credits Williams with moves like this week’s trade for Toronto FC and former Welsh international Carl Robinson.
Although he is hesitant to make comparisons between this year’s team and last year’s that finished among the worst in league history, Williams is confident that the new brain trust in Harrison is going about things the right way. After all, Williams has seen plenty of upheaval over the past four years to know what works and what doesn’t.
“Things are going well here, the players know what they need to do and what is expected of them,” Williams said. “I think we are ready for a great season in 2010.”