NJ/NY Gotham FC general manager and former professional soccer player Yael Averbuch West sat down with CBS Sports soccer podcast Attacking Third this week to discuss her journey from former pro to current GM for her former club. Averbuch West discussed enhancing the club culture, hiring a new coaching staff, the expansion and college drafts, and how being a former NWSL player helps her in the GM role.
A New Jersey native, Averbuch West was a North Carolina Tar Heel before being drafted by her hometown Sky Blue FC in the 2009 WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) draft. After winning two WPS championships, her playing career went overseas as the WPS folded, but Averbuch West made her return to the states in 2014 as the NWSL was in its second year as a pro league.
She won the 2015 NWSL Championship with FC Kansas City under head coach Vlatko Andonovski (now the USWNT manager), and was integral in helping develop the current National Women's Soccer Player Association before retiring from the game ahead of the 2019 season. The former USWNT defender now finds herself in an administrator role for an NWSL club, and after the departure of former head coach Freya Coombe, Averbuch West has already made her first big hires as a GM -- head coach Scott Parkinson and assistant Beverly Goebel Yanez.
"I think as a player, my understanding of the magnitude of that decision and the process that needed to take place I think is really deep," Averbuch West explained of the coaching search. "So for me, looking at piecing together the right staff like that, is make or break for the player experience. We know from seeing in the media, from everything that goes on in the league, the player experience from that [hire] everything else emanates out. If the players are happy and feel like they're being treated professionally -- they're getting better, they can compete to be their best in the field -- everything else in the organization builds off of that."
Want more coverage of women's soccer? Listen below and make sure to follow Attacking Third, A CBS Soccer Podcast devoted to bringing you everything you need to know from the NWSL and around the globe.
Gotham FC were currently in the middle of their regular season when Angel City FC, set to join the league in 2022, announced the hiring of then-Gotham FC coach Freya Coombe. The East Coast club announced in a tweet a thank you to Coombe and that the team was conducting a new coaching search.
Thank you Freya 👏— NJ/NY Gotham FC (@GothamFC) August 23, 2021
Ownership thanks Coach Coombe for her outstanding two-and-a-half years of service with Gotham FC. She has led us to increased success on the field and helped us develop a strong, gritty culture representative of our communities. pic.twitter.com/cKvuN5BT4p
"I think when we looked at the numbers, it was like over 30 candidates from like literally all over the world, all different backgrounds, all different types of people, to make sure that I was I had a really good picture of like [who] was out there for this," Averbuch West said.
Averbuch West further explained that she took feedback from players and current coaching staff during the vetting process for the positions, and wanted to make sure that who ever came into the roles was a good fit for the team and their current transition since the club was in the final stretch of the season and making a playoff push.
"I wanted to look at people to who I think would come in and mesh well with our current staff and mesh well with the current players," the GM said. "We have a transition to make, we're not starting where everyone's coming in the beginning of preseason. So I looked at who is going to help us make a smooth transition and work well with the players we have. What I'm hearing from them I took their feedback that the things they need and want, moving forward. Same thing from the staff.
"Who is going to be good right now to make that transition, and then who also really fits within the club culture, and where I see this club wanting to go. So understanding that from ownership, from staff, from players is -- what is the core, the essence of what this club is about? And who's going to support that moving forward."
When the club announced the hiring of Parkinson and Gobel Yanez, the initial response from outside the team was overwhelmingly positive, and despite the team currently sitting outside of playoff position, there is still a path to the postseason. Gotham FC feel like they have the right staff and roster in place.
"I think the thing that really solidified it for me was that I know Bev Yanez is so loved as a player, like there's probably not a more loved player in NWSL," Averbuch West said. "But the Twitter reaction for people who know her and know Scott, like, honestly, I didn't think anyone could rival her and I think Scott maybe rivaled her, and it was literally tweet for tweet.
"I knew that people really liked and respected Scott but I didn't think I knew the extent of it prior to seeing that, and I was honestly blown away. But they're lovely human beings first, and I think they have come in and it's been pretty seamless, in terms of transitioning."
(Editor's note: Averbuch West is married to CBS Sports soccer analyst Aaron West)