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FC Tucson names Revs, Sounders veteran as head coach

Sawatzky already familiar with Rising's Schantz, Kino

FC Tucson announced Wednesday that former Seattle Sounders Youth development director and current Tacoma Stars coach Darren Sawatzky has been named the head coach of the Tucson soccer team. Sawatzky becomes the club’s fourth-ever head coach and the first in the team’s new professional era in USL League One.

"I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to help build on the history of FC Tucson and all of the great people that have built the brand and opportunity in Tucson,” Sawatzky said. “Helping the development pathway for Phoenix Rising through the USL League One team in Tucson is a great opportunity and working with Rick and the staff at Rising is something I am really looking forward to. A big thank you to Bobby Dulle and the ownership group at Phoenix Rising and to Lane Smith and Cliff McElroy at the Tacoma Stars/Sounders U23 for everything in this process. We are looking forward to building a winner."

Sawatzky is taking over the coaching post immediately, the team said.

Among Sawatzky’s many coaching jobs were a stint as the director of youth development for the Seattle Sounders. During his tenure, the U16 and U18 boys teams won multiple division titles, with the U16 team reaching the national semifinal once. The academy also produced numerous players who went on to become professionals including most notably U.S. National Team members DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders).

“We are privileged to have someone with Darren’s wealth of experience to lead FC Tucson in our first year as a professional club,” said Phoenix Rising General Manager Bobby Dulle. “His strong relationship with Rick Schantz will allow him to have a significant impact on our plan of developing talented players that can succeed at the top professional levels in the United States and around the world.”

FC Tucson’s new head coach also brings nearly a decade of professional soccer experience with him to the job which includes stints with Major League Soccer and United Soccer League clubs. At the end of his career, Sawatzky played with then-USL side Seattle Sounders, appearing in 67 matches and scoring 22 goals.

Familiar face

Being a part of Rising’s “development pathway” will mean Sawatzky will be working closely with one-time FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz. It will not be the first time they have worked together.

In 1993, both Schantz and Sawatzky played for the University of Portland. In a 2012 article for TucsonSentinel.com, both Schantz and Sawatzky spoke of their experiences playing under legendary coach Clive Charles. Sawatzky credited his professional career, despite being in his words an “average” player, to Charles.

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This will also not be Sawatzky’s first time coaching at Kino. The Sounders U23 squad made the Premier Development League (Now USL League Two) conference tournaments staged in Tucson in 2012, 2015 and 2016. Sawatzky’s teams beat FC Tucson in the two matches they played in those tournaments.

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FC Tucson

Darren Sawatzky