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'Glad to be a part of it': GM-coach Trevor James, DCFC agree on three-year extension

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News

In a year beset by uncertainty, Detroit City FC's faithful can bank on one thing — their general manager and coach is returning.

Trevor James, who was hired in January 2019, has agreed to a three-year extension with the National Independent Soccer Association outfit, the team announced Tuesday. No financial terms were disclosed.

Detroit City FC general manager and coach Trevor James

Le Rouge locked in the GM/coach after the Englishman helped lead his charges to the 2020 NISA Fall Championship in their first season in the new third-tier professional league. James pulled off the achievement despite a cloud of playing amidst a pandemic, which left the team's playing roster shrouded in uncertainty.

The feat was all the more remarkable considering DCFC found itself 1-2-1 (win-ties-losses) in table play, which included a 2-0 defeat to the Michigan Stars in the opener.

DCFC won the 2019 National Premier Soccer League Member’s Cup and the 2019 NPSL Great Lakes Division in James’ first season in charge. He succeeded Ben Pirmann, who was 49-17-17 in seven years as Le Rouge coach.

The GM-coach described negotiations as "very easy." The biggest hang-up was an uncertain financial picture caused by the lack of fans at Keyworth Stadium due to state restrictions during the past year.

DCFC raised $1.8 million from more than 3,500 investors through its Be An Owner campaign, which featured punk rock icon Iggy Pop.

"They wanted me to come back and I always wanted to come back," James said. "It wasn't a matter of not coming back. In coming back, I didn't want to financially tie up the club.

"Obviously, we had very little money coming in without having the fans. They budgeted it, they planned it that way and I'm glad to be a part of it."

The NISA Fall Championship title catapults DCFC into the league's national final in June where Le Rouge will face the winner of the spring tournament. DCFC has also qualified for the 2021 U.S. Open Cup, entering in the second round.

The national knockout competition was canceled this year due to the pandemic. Le Rouge advanced to the U.S. Open Cup's second round in 2018, losing to then USL's FC Cincinnati 4-1.

"I'd love for the club to have some success in the Open Cup," James said. "That's a target of mine, to try to put the club on the map in the Open Cup." 

James, 62, who previously played and coached the game in his native England, has a well-established reputation on American soil.

He served as assistant coach with the Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy from 2006-10, including a couple of stints as interim boss. During his tenure, he also oversaw the creation of the club’s youth academy.

James moved up the coast to become assistant head coach of MLS Portland Timbers from 2010-12.

He then moved on to the Midwest, becoming director of Scouting and Assistant Technical Director for the MLS Chicago Fire from 2014-15.

James headed down Interstate 65 to Indianapolis, where he served as technical director of the Indy Eleven, which was making the transition to the United Soccer League from the soon-to-be-dormant North American Soccer League. 

James’ sharp eye for soccer talent was honed while working for the late Sir Bobby Robson as a freelance scout. 

The pair collaborated while Robson managed FC Barcelona, Newcastle United, FC Porto, Sporting Lisbon and the English national team in the buildup to the 1990 World Cup.

Robson is best known for managing Ipswich Town FC, leading the Tractor Boys to the 1978 FA Cup and 1981 UEFA Cup. James began his coaching career at Ipswich Town before moving to nearby Colchester United.

“Our first year with NISA as a professional club certainly wasn’t what we imagined back in February, but Trevor and (wife and Assistant GM) Tiffany (James) put the health and safety of the players, staff and community first and still came away with a pair of trophies to add to the Clubhouse,” said Sean Mann, DCFC owner, in a written statement.

loconnor@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @larryo1961