'Win-ability' is key word for Loons’ training boss Roden

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Damian Roden comes to Minnesota United a new man for a newly created position — senior director of sports science — that oversees the club's athletic training and medical departments.

He also comes with a long résumé in an arms race growing across Major League Soccer and globally a résumé that includes almost as many job titles as stops along the way.

"I've been called many things," he said. "I've been called head of performance, director of performance, head of sports science, director of high performance. I think it just means that I'm old."

At 46, he returns to MLS after two seasons back home in Wales and in Europe. He has worked for some of the biggest clubs in England and Europe, including the Premier League's Manchester City and Belgium's RSC Anderlecht. He was mentored by one of England's great innovators, former Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce.

Roden brings an "every player, fit for selection, every game" philosophy that equates players' availability to what he calls "win-ability."

"If you have everyone fit and healthy, you have a better chance of being successful," Roden said. "That's my forte. That's what I bring."

It's why Minnesota United management announced his hiring Wednesday to supervise a remade sporting staff that includes new director of sports medicine Hilary Obert, who last month replaced senior director of player health and performance Stacey Hardin.

Roden has known Loons coach Adrian Heath since he taught part of a coaching license course Heath attended some 20 years ago. He worked with Obert and veteran Ozzie Alonso in Seattle.

Heath calls Roden "one of the most respected in his field."

"At some stage, I tried to get him at every club I've been at," Heath said after Wednesday's 5-2 preseason victory over Columbus Crew in Florida. "This has been the time we managed to pull it off."

Roden discovered during his job interview that he played against Loons chief soccer officer Manny Lagos when Roden played for Columbus in the USISL in the mid-1990s.

Roden's two playing seasons convinced him to pursue a coaching career that veered these past 25 years into a sports-science specialization focused on player fitness, recovery and injury prevention. That specialization has become so far advanced Heath calls today's training techniques "unrecognizable" from old days when players trained by running sand hills.

Lagos calls Roden "one of the better candidates worldwide" in soccer sports science and deems his hiring "signifies growth within the club and expectations of what we want for the future."

"As that area of our world continues to evolve, it's so important we give an environment for our athletes to flourish," Lagos said. "It's a big step him coming on board."

Roden spent two seasons in Seattle, the last the Sounders' 2019 championship season. He, his wife and two teenage sons returned to Wales because of family matters, but he said they wished after a few months they had stayed.

"I've always loved America," Roden said. "I really loved my experience playing in Columbus. We always vacationed in Florida, so I'd see Adrian when he was in Orlando. I love American sports, love MLS, the whole experience. The environment is different from European football and the weather is fantastic. The weather in the U.K., it's chalk and cheese."

The Loons wanted him because of his extensive experience in the Premier League and his two MLS seasons.

"MLS is unique," Lagos said. "It's such a big continent, you really need somebody who understands the challenges here are different from in Europe."

Roden wanted the Loons after watching them from afar his two seasons in Seattle. They came within a minute of reaching the MLS Cup last December before losing 3-2 in Seattle in the Western final.

"It just seemed like a club on the up, trying to do things properly, stage by stage," Roden said. "They have aspirations to be a competitive, progressive club. It matched my ambitions to get back to the States and be with an aggressive club that competes for championships."