The Fuego have brought in a new head coach, the Fresno soccer club announced early Wednesday.
Sean Lanigan of Virginia will become the Fuego’s first full-time head coach as the club hopes to elevate to the top ranks of the Premier Development League. The 49-year-old with a breadth of coaching experience and licenses, will be the third coach of the Fuego as the team enters its 14th season. Lanigan replaces Scott Alcorn, who stepped down in August after seven seasons.
Lanigan will be in town this weekend for the club’s winter combine tryouts on Jan. 2-3 at Clovis East High, though he will officially begin his post Feb. 8.
Since 2003, Fresno Fuego has won four Southwest Division championships in the Premier Development League.
“I am beyond delighted,” Lanigan said in a recent phone interview. “It’s a level that I’m really looking forward to coaching.”
Lanigan said he has been planning for the upcoming season, as he’ll have just under two weeks to build his support staff and field a squad for exhibitions against Armenia’s FC Ararat on Feb. 18 and the North American Soccer League champion New York Cosmos on Feb. 24, both at Chukchansi Park.
“I’m over-the-moon excited,” he said. “I just can’t wait. I’m anxious to get my first look at former or current Fuego players who will be out for the combine.”
Lanigan has more than 30 years of playing and coaching experience. He holds a UEFA A License from the Irish Football Association, a USSF National A License and an Advanced National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
The native of northern Virginia played goalkeeper at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., before coaching within DC United’s youth academy and reserve squads.
Lanigan was also highly involved in Fairfax-area boys and girls high school programs, having accrued a 118-25-10 career record over nine years, according to the Fuego. In seven of those seasons, he coached his teams into the ESPN national rankings.
Over the past 19 years, more than 200 male and female players from his club or high school teams have gone on to play at the NCAA D-I level, with almost 20 of those making it to the professional ranks, according to the Fuego.
“Sean is a perfect fit for us and the timing couldn’t be better,” Fuego general manager Jeremy Schultz said.
Schultz recommended to Fuego owners that they should hire a full-time coach who will help in identifying and developing local talent from the college level down to youth clubs across the San Joaquin Valley.
“On our end, from the front office and ownership stance, Fuego has been trending upward, but where we’ve lacked is having our feet down on the grassroots level,” Schultz said. “Now, we’re at a crossroads, in terms of soccer growing so quickly in the country and us having a great foundation of fans around the region. Being a full-time coach, it will allow (Lanigan) to work with our partner clubs and give Fresno Fuego a better presence inside the growth of this sport.”
Lanigan said he feels the cross-country move is the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate his professional coaching career after he was charged with molesting a 12-year-old female student in 2010. He was later acquitted by a jury in just 47 minutes. It was determined that the accuser, upset with Lanigan over a discipline issue, had fabricated her story, according to The Washington Post.
We’re excited for the change of scenery. We’re embedded to Virginia, but both families are very supportive and plan on doing lots of trip to California.
Sean Lanigan, on his cross-country move to coach Fresno Fuego
After his acquittal, Lanigan sued the Fairfax County School Board for reimbursement of his legal fees. The board eventually settled the suit by agreeing in 2012 to pay Lanigan $72,838, according to The Post.
Lanigan said his wife, Karin, and children Daniel, Briana and Kylie are moving with him.
“It certainly was the right place at the right time for myself and my family,” Lanigan said. “My kids are very supportive of me following my soccer dreams and soccer career.”