Reno 1868 FC head coach Ian Russell, a former player and assistant coach with the Earthquakes, is spending a few days in San Jose to meet with the club’s technical staff in advance of the 2018 USL season. The affiliate partnership between the Quakes and Reno is as strong as ever and Russell has proven to be a tremendous link between the two sides.
We sat down with Reno’s boss to chat about the 2017 season and what his goals are for 2018.
SJEQ: Tremendous debut season for the club. What were your overall thoughts on 2017?
Ian Russell: “Yeah, for a first-year franchise, our goal was to make the playoffs and we did that. We had a slow start to the season, but ended up really getting a lot of wins as the season went on.”
SJEQ: You guys not only had a strong offense, but the top offense in American professional soccer. What do you attribute that success to?
IR: “Having great players is obviously a huge help. We had Dane Kelly, Antoine Hoppenot. They both scored a lot of goals. But I think the main thing is we had players in every position that were scoring goals. Our two center backs were scoring goals, all of our midfielders too. Chris Wehan got seven or eight goals. Goals came from everywhere. We did a lot of pattern play going to goal and I think that helped a lot.”
SJEQ: Reno hasn’t had a professional soccer team for long. Can you talk about how quickly the community has taken to the club?
IR: “They really got behind it. We have a supporters’ group called Battle Born Brigade. They really brought a lot of energy to the stadium. A lot of media coverage. The fan base actually grew as the season went on because it was such a new thing. It also helped that the team was successful. It’s exciting for Reno.”
SJEQ: Quakes’ second-round pick Lindo Mfeka spent nearly the entire season with Reno. How did he look in his first season as a pro?
IR: “Lindo was good. I think Reno is really good for Lindo’s development. Attacking midfielder. Scored some huge goals for the club. If he was with the First Team, he wouldn’t have played much so Reno was a great avenue to get him a lot of minutes and playing time.”
SJEQ: What are your goals for the 2018 season?
IR: “Our goal for 2018 is to continue to find players we feel can eventually make our First Team. Soccer-wise, we want to make the playoffs again and it’s just a matter of finding players we feel can contribute and move up.”