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'Soccer Rabbi' moves on: FC Tucson's Pearlman to OKC Energy FC

Pearlman to join with former Sereno & Rapids coach Steve Cooke at pro squad

FC Tucson coach Jon Pearlman, who along with Rick Schantz and Greg Foster formed the triumvirate that founded the local team, will be leaving to join the coaching staff of Oklahoma City Energy FC.

Pearlman will be working under Steve Cooke, a former coach for the Colorado Rapids who had coached with Phoenix club soccer powerhouses Sereno and Del Sol.

“It’s a unique opportunity, obviously,” he said. “I’ve got a long relationship with Steve Cooke here in Arizona. I have a lot of respect for the work he’s done here and on the professional side.”

Pearlman had been the captain of the Union College Flying Dutchmen where he was given the Brian Baker Award for leadership of the team. His coaching career included work at the Real Salt Lake Academy and locally at Tanque Verde Soccer Club and Rincon High School. He also was a scout for U.S. Soccer.

Pearlman, nicknamed the 'Soccer Rabbi,' served as part of the management team of FC Tucson and became head coach of the team in 2017 after Rick Schantz left to become an assistant with Phoenix Rising FC.

His time at FC Tucson helping steer the semi-pro team as either head coach or general manager brought the team to the playoffs in all but one year of their existence. In his year as head coach, the team earned the top spot in the Mountain Division and a berth in the conference semifinals.

There is still one gap in his resume: coaching a professional team.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow. Be a coach but learn about the management side of things,” he said. “I am considering the future of being a front office person. I love being on the sideline at the highest level possible. It checks a lot of boxes for me, and it’s a great ownership group.”

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Pearlman dangles the possibility of returning to Tucson, particularly if rumors of FC Tucson moving up to a third-division pro league come to pass.

“There will certainly be a professional team here and I’d be interested in being part of that,” he said. “I’m completely committed to Oklahoma City, but Tucson is my home. I would never discount any opportunity to be back here. Tucson means a lot to me personally.”

“If I come back, I’ll be here as a stronger and more experienced coach,” he added.

A press release from FC Tucson and Phoenix Rising FC said the organization will conduct a nationwide search for Pearlman’s replacement effective immediately.

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).

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FC Tucson

Former FC Tucson coach Jonathan Pearlman