He has been there and done it before as a successful head coach in the NCAA soccer tournament.
As coach of two successful men's college teams over three decades, the Hartford Athletic technical director had to meander through many a postseason competition -- all stocked with talented teams, trapdoors and surprises around every corner.
Date ✅ Time ✅— Hartford Athletic (@hfdathletic) April 7, 2023
Round three here we come 😤 pic.twitter.com/a4XkX4JXsP
"I think they're similar," Reid said. "They're similar that on any given day, anybody can win. We played great teams at UConn that weren't as good as we were but, on the day, were better off and fortunate.
“I think that's the same thing with the Open Cup. I mean, with all due respect, Sacramento [the USL Championship side who reached last year’s Open Cup Final] has done a fantastic job,” he said. “But if you listed every team in the Cup, they wouldn't be the second-best team. Yet in that competition, what they've done is unbelievable. They almost won it.
“So, the knockout competition, in some ways, is very similar to the NCAA tournament,” Reid added. “If you don't have your right game, on the right day, you go home."
History of Post-Season Successes
Reid's teams did go home early often.
In fact, he holds the distinction of coaching four sides to college soccer glory. Southern Connecticut State University, out of New Haven, won three successive NCAA Division II titles in the 1990s and his University of Connecticut squad secured the Division I crown in 2000.Last year the 62-year-old Reid was introduced to the Open Cup up close and personal with Hartford Athletic, who defeated Oyster Bay United 3-1 in the Second Round before falling to the New York Red Bulls of MLS (2-1) in the Third Round.
Now they’re off to a similar start, beating amateurs Lansdowne Yonkers 3-0 to earn another Third Round date at MLS’ New England Revolution.
At Hartford, Reid has put together a veritable who's-who of veteran coaching talent. The impressive technical staff includes:
- Head coach Tab Ramos, a former USA midfielder who played in three World Cups and guided the U.S. U-20 Men's National Team to the quarters of three consecutive U-20 World Cups. Ramos most recently coached the Houston Dynamo (MLS) before joining Hartford last year.
- Assistant coach Omid Namazi, who’s coached nearly 20 teams, including the U.S. U-18 men's national team and several professional women's and indoor teams.
- And assistant coach Dan Gaspar, who has earned a reputation as one of the top goalkeeping coaches in the world. He has been an assistant with Portugal and Iran’s national teams at the World Cup and also with club sides Benfica and Porto.
"Tab [Ramos], to me, is the best player this country has produced and he’s a great leader," Reid said. "Omid Namazi has worked with Tab before, and they finish each other's sentences. I think they're a great partnership. Danny Gaspar is one of the top goalkeeper coaches in the country. He has been with Carlos Queiroz in Portugal and Iran.
"We're the best of the best working with our guys."
And of course, let's not forget Reid himself, whose resume is, well, amazing.
After starring at Brentwood High School in Long Island, Reid earned All-Region honors at Suffolk Community College. He transferred to Southern Connecticut in 1980. There, he played for and eventually was an assistant coach under the legendary Bob Dikranian before taking up the head coaching reins of the team, guiding the Owls to the 1990, 1992 and 1995 Division II championships.
A Star on the Official Record
By the time he stepped down as UConn coach in December 2021, Reid had amassed a 457-149-78 record at both schools, the second highest among men's coaches at four-year schools. He also guided the Huskies to eight College Cups and 13 NCAA quarterfinals and 13 Big East crowns. His SCSU squads advanced to the quarterfinal round six times.
In terms of personal honors, Reid was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America coach of the year four times and was inducted into the CT Soccer Hall of Fame and Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. The soccer field at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium in Storrs was named after Reid last September."I had been going at one pace since 1983," he said.
He was demanding of his players, but even more demanding of himself. Reid remembered when former Duke University basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski decided to call it a career.
"He said 'I gave it everything I had and I squeezed myself dry,'" Reid remembered. "I'm not comparing myself to Mike Krzyzewski...I squeezed myself dry."
But Reid soon discovered that he missed the game.
"I was not ready to completely stop," he said. "I said, you know what, I still want to be involved in the game, just at a different level of coaching."
Landing in Hartford
He got that opportunity as Hartford Athletic’s technical director, overseeing the entire scope of the club’s soccer operations.
“We're trying to grow the club,” Reid said. “We're trying to professionalize the club more. It's my job to get it right. This is a different thing, a different way to help to be involved in building something.”
Reid said that he didn’t miss the day-to-day coaching stress."My body was overly stressed-out coaching for 40 years,” he said. “I didn't want to lose a spring game. I didn't want to lose a friendly game against Fairfield in April, never mind a regular season game. I feel in good conscience that I gave everything.”
"It's not like college basketball, whether it's bigger pressure, but you have 25 people helping you. You've got to write up training sessions. You've got to travel. It can exhaust you,” he said.
Reid's influence should live on for decades. Forty-six of his players have been drafted by MLS teams, three as the No1 selection. He also has a coaching tree in which his former players have become coaches at the professional or college levels.
"I hope I helped move the needle forward," he said. "I hope I impacted people. I hope I changed some lives for people. I hope I moved the game forward.”
A Coach of Future Coaches
At last count, 29 former SCSU and UConn players are guiding their own teams -- or are among key personnel on technical staffs. That’s 19 at the college level and another ten professionally and with some national teams.
The professional end includes America de Cali head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who once headed up the Mexican National Team, Chicago Fire and the New York Red Bulls. There’s also Sporting Kansas City director of player personnel Brian Bliss, Capellli Sports technical director Chris DaSilva, and former Real Salt Lake and Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke.
At the college level, there’s nine head coaches who played for Reid - Chris Gbandi (UConn), Bryheem Hancock (University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley), George Kiefer (North Carolina State University), Michael Mordocco (Long Island University), Robert Muuss (Wake Forrest University), Tim O'Donohue (Naval Academy), Bo Oshoniyi (Dartmouth College), Tom Poitras (Northern Kentucky University) and Kevin Anderson (who moved from Columbia University to Southern Connecticut last month).
John Deeley, who worked with Reid as UConn associate coach, is MLS side Inter Miami’s Academy director of scouting.
Reid's legacy also has included a special endowed fund established by the United Soccer Coaches Foundation in 2020 -- the Ray Reid Family Fund. That fund, which included a contribution of $25,000 and a $75,000 estate gift, will provide an annual scholarship to a minority coach to attend a United Soccer Coaches education course or its annual convention.
"The game has given me a lot," Reid said. "This is something I wanted to give back. Something I feel strong about is advancing opportunities for minority coaches, whether it's white, female, Hispanic, that doesn't matter, underrepresented coaches. It was important to me.”
Head in the Here and Now
While he’s carved out a piece of soccer history, Reid is more concerned about the present -- league and Open Cup play. The team is off to a slow start: winless in five league games and second-from-bottom in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
"I think we have a good group," said a defiant Reid, with an Open Cup win under his belt and a chance to progress and gain momentum in the competition. "We have nine to 10 new starters. We have 17 out of 21 new players to the club. It’s going to take some time. It's going to take some time to build this thing right. I'm excited with the guys we have. I'm excited with the staff we have. We're going to be fine."
Before Hartford can tackle a next league game at the Charleston Battery on Saturday, April 8, they’ll need to focus on getting past Lansdowne Yonkers in the Open Cup on Tuesday to secure a first win of the season. That way, the team will earn another opportunity to play an MLS side and help Reid add another chapter to his storied career.
Michael Lewis can be reached at email@example.com and @Soccerwriter on Twitter. His book (ALIVEAND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers) is available for purchase.