Huw Williams left his mark on FC Kansas City, NWSL

Dan Lauletta December 12, 2016 31
FC Kansas City general manager and assistant coach Huw Williams resigned from the club on Thursday, December 8. (photo by ISI Photos/FC Kansas City)

FC Kansas City general manager and assistant coach Huw Williams resigned from the club on Thursday, December 8. (photo by ISI Photos/FC Kansas City)

Huw Williams stepped down from his position with FC Kansas City last week, ending a four-year run as Vlatko Andonovski’s right-hand man. He leaves behind a legacy of having helped build the NWSL side that set the early tone on playing style, earned playoff berths each of the first three seasons and capped the last two with championships. Andonovski’s name will forever be attached to those teams but make no mistake, Williams has been an integral part since the beginning.

“It was very much part of our passion to play the game the way we want to watch the game,” Williams said while trying to deflect credit for his role in implementing FC Kansas City’s attractive 4-2-3-1 system that took hold almost immediately. “Quality soccer at pace is what we called it. That was our whole philosophy right from the start. That’s how we liked to watch the game and that’s how we wanted to coach the game.”

Williams said he and Andonovski spent hours pouring over the original group of allocated players before their preferred selections to league headquarters. When the announcement hit, the Blues landed Nicole Barnhart, Lauren Cheney (now Holiday) and Becky Sauerbrunn from the United States and Desiree Scott and Lauren Sesselmann from Canada.

“Game changers, right? We had the core of our team set. Right down the middle we had quality players. We got extremely lucky,” Williams said.

But as the allocation process across three different women’s pro leagues has taught us, a team is only as good as the players it fills in around its stars. Asked to pick a highlight of his four years with FCKC, championships excluded, Williams said: “I love the draft.”

He loved it, and he excelled at it. Under Williams’s watch FC Kansas City landed Erika Tymrak, Jenna Richmond, and Shea Groom all in the second round. The club also used first-round pick Kristie Mewis to acquire Amy Rodriguez, and with first-round pick Kassey Kallman, there was one championship run and then a trade to nab Heather O’Reilly.

“We had a lot of contacts throughout the country,” Williams said of the draft. “I guess the roles were reversed a little bit. I had been coaching youth soccer for a long time. I had a team that won nationals that included Shea Groom and Kaysie Clark. Roles were reversed. Now college coaches were contacting us. There was a huge amount of film. Vlatko’s system, too. Don’t get me wrong, those are very good players, but Vlatko’s able to adjust his system to suit those players and help them be successful.”

For all of the great players picked by the Williams/Andonovski team, the best draft moment for Williams was a pick used on a player that made only nine appearances for the club over two seasons. With the 27th pick in the inaugural college draft in 2013, FC Kansas City nabbed Huw’s daughter Nia Williams.

“I called her, and she literally had no idea,” Huw said. “She was at college at the time. I said, ‘Hey, just hold on to the phone a second and listen to this.’ Her name was announced, ‘With the 27th pick, Kansas City picks Nia Williams.’ Her reaction over the phone was priceless.

“When you ask about the highlights, that certainly was one of the highlights. This was her playing to her max and reaching her full potential. That’s something that will never be taken away from both of us. The experience of me being on the sideline when she stepped on the field for the first time, that is something that will be with both of us forever.”

Williams will not be at the 2017 draft. He’ll be back in Kansas City where his efforts will now be focused on Global Sports International, his company that runs soccer events around the country.

“I’ve just been torn between both, in honesty,” he said. “We are launching something new next fall that is going to be taking more of my time. It seems like the right time right now to do this.”

Williams is not ready to share details about his new venture just yet, but if his FCKC years are any guide, it will be a smashing success.

  • Steglitz49

    Meanwhile, money is poring into the ladies game in England. The article has some interesting observations about the barriers to soccer for girls in the old country.

    • Diane (DeeG)

      Way to stay on topic…

      • Steglitz49

        Huw Williams is from Wales originally. Granted, not England but part of the UK.

        How about a positive and constructive comment next in a comradely spirit of mutual trust?

        • Diane (DeeG)

          I would be positively ecstatic if you’d stay on topic and trying to keep you on topic IS a constructive comment. Your trying to tie the article to Williams is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h at best. If I can trust you stay on topic and comment about the actual article you post on, then you can trust me not to call you on it.

          • Steglitz49

            The EQ has degenerated. It used to be the site for WoSo. They covered not just WoSo in the US but Americans and Canadians abroad let alone the European scene and quite a bit of the Asian scene too.

            Americans abroad seems to have reduced to a weekly report on Australia, which seems to have become a winter holiday camp for not so good players.

            The big change in modern WoSo is quite how much money, not least in England but elsewhere, is being poured into the game. That is worth covering. Likewise is how the English are trying to identify and deal with obstacles to getting girls into soccer.

            It is too early to tell but by the looks of it the next 2-3 years will be crunch years for WoSo. Which WoSo do we want and does it matter?

            Finally, you must have realized that I intensely detest all these snide remarks and slurs on named players regarding rumors about their lifestyles. I seem to be alone in leaping to their defenses, striking at the bottom-feeders and lowlife with aplomb. I would appreciate help in that uneven struggle.

          • Ethan

            Steglitz49 does make off-topic comments that don’t quite make sense, and what he says isn’t always appropriate. However, there’s nothing wrong with his original comment here, and plenty of people, myself included, make such comments because the Equalizer doesn’t have an off-topic thread. Posters want to let people know of certain subjects that haven’t been covered yet by the Equalizer. However, those subjects don’t fit with any particular article. They might fit better with a less recent article; however, then it would be less likely if anyone ends up reading the comment. Unless an off-topic thread is created, I don’t see a problem with Steglitz49’s comments here. If you want to criticize someone at the moment, just take a look at the comments thread for the Heath and Sanchez article.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you.

          • Diane (DeeG)

            Maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought this was a blog, not a forum. If you want an off-topic thread, as you call it, post on a forum. There is a certain amount of etiquette involved in commenting which you, Steglitz49, and a few others refuse to observe. If you have suggestions for subjects you’d like The Equalizer to cover there are several ways to contact them and make your interests known. To take the comment section off topic is disrespectful to the author of the article and the subject covered. I am not affiliated with EQ, so my comments are wholly my own and express my frustration with this continuing trend. Also, referencing someone who you think is doing something worse than what you’re doing does not negate what you are doing.

          • Ethan

            Well, We Ain’t Got No History, the Chelsea SB Nation blog, I frequent is one of the best blogs out there, and they have a daily off-topic thread.

            I like having conversations with the people here on women’s soccer more than anywhere else, and it’s frequented by people more than other sites. That’s why I make off-topic comments sometimes.

          • Diane (DeeG)

            You fail to want to see the difference between WAGNH and EQ. One gives you a place to be off-topic/choose your own topic and one does not. This is the latter.

            As this seems to be going nowhere, I’ll just ask that you consider showing more respect to authors/subjects posted here and put in your request for an off-topic thread.

  • Rdalford

    Interesting perspective on the NWSL draft (in article where William gives credit to prior history of with youth soccer and relationships built up over time with college coaches helping with the draft). Dames in Chicago also has long history with youth soccer and both FCKC and Chicago have done fairly well thru NWSL draft (with Chicago 2013 selection of Bywaters – which did not work out well – as exception). Successful history with youth soccer and resulting relationships with college coaches does appear to have a positive impact on NWSL draft results.

    Hope that FCKC ownership situation gets resolved (soon) and hope that Vlatko says on and continues to coach FCKC.

    • Steglitz49

      Bywaters, like Casey Short, got injured but unlike Casey never made it back.

    • mockmook

      I think those relationships should be most important for later rounds.

      In the 1st or 2nd round, the coach needs to know the whole draft and needs to be fluent in parsing the elite players (that everyone is aware of).

      For example, Tymrak was ranked as the #16 upperclassman by Top Drawer Soccer. And, she was projected to go to FCKC in the 2nd round by All White Kit. So, Huw wasn’t performing rocket surgery by taking her.

      • Steglitz49

        Happy Lucia! I know that it is almost a month till the draft takes place but it is not as if there is much speculation around it except what you are trying to generate ably assisted by Breakers Fan.

        Any new thoughts about your mock draft?

        • mockmook

          Neigh. All is quiet — too quiet…

          • Steglitz49

            Maybe all the top seniors have found berths across the oceans?

            Do you know when the transfer windows close? 22-Jan?

          • mockmook

            Which transfer windows?

            But, I’ll just mention that Google can be an acquaintance (if not a friend).

          • Steglitz49

            In Europe there are transfer windows even for WoSo.

          • Steglitz49

            More transfer news from the other side of the pond:

            Liverpool Ladies have signed the highly experienced England international defender, Casey Stoney MBE.

            Stoney spent the last three seasons with Arsenal Ladies and helped the Gunnerettes win the FA Women’s Cup this year. She has also played for Charlton Athletic Ladies, Chelsea Ladies and Lincoln Ladies.

    • mockmook

      I think the better example of Huw/Vlatko doing their home work was the pick of Alex Arlitt at #38 in 2016

      She’s already been valuable to FCKC, and may really break through this year.

    • Lorehead

      While I appreciate all the links to interesting WoSo stories the Eq didn’t cover, congratulations on writing the one comment actually about the topic of the article.

  • guest

    Off topic – tier 2 woso league “United Women’s Soccer” announce expansion
    from site
    “UWS Announces First Round Of Expansion
    Four Midwest-based organizations will join the league for the Summer 2017 season
    EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ – After a successful inaugural season, United Women’s Soccer (UWS) is laying the foundation for their Summer 2017 season as four Midwest-based organizations have signed on to join the league in its first round of expansion. Detroit Sun F.C. (MI), F.C. Indiana (IN), Fort Wayne United F.C. (IN) and Grand Rapids F.C. (MI) will take part in UWS action next summer, with league management looking to add 1-2 more teams to form a Midwest Conference.”

    UWS league currently has two conferences, East (6 team) and West (5 team) and with this expansion adds these four teams as base for Midwest conference

    • Steglitz49

      I presume this is an almost if not purely amateur league. In the absence of promotion-relegation and with NWSL teams relying on the draft, this typist gets the impression that this is a form of hobby-soccer.

  • Steglitz49

    Meanwhile on the other side of the pond the FA Girls’ youth Cup QF draw:

    Arsenal v Birmingham City
    Liverpool v Aston Villa
    Millwall Lionesses v Chelsea
    Sunderland v Teesside Sport

    There is a London derby — Millwall Lionesses vs Chelsea — and North East derby Sunderland vs Teesside Sport.

    The date for the quarter-finals, played on a Saturday morning, have not been announced. Girls in this case is U16.

  • Ethan

    Off-topic: Heath and Sanchez won Female Player of the Year and Young Female Player of the Year, respectively.

    • Lorehead

      Both deserving winners!

    • Steglitz49

      In the second paragraph under the picture of Tobin, what does it mean when it reads: “… Heath, who this year competed in her fifth world championship for the USA.”?
      — In 2016 the US are the reigning world champions and remain till 2019, when they may well retain the title in France.

      • Lorehead

        U.S Soccer says it means, “(2008 Olympics, 2011 WWC, 2012 Olympics, 2015 WWC, 2016 Olympics).” I realize you think this is an Americanism.

        • Steglitz49

          The US lost the WC-11. That final is WoSo’s equivalent of the 1954 men’s final.

          As for the OG-16 tournament — RIP USWNT.

  • Rdalford

    NWSL news
    16 Dec 2016
    CHICAGO – The Chicago Red Stars announced today that the team has acquired the rights to forward Summer Green from the Seattle Reign FC. In exchange, Seattle will receive Chicago’s 37th pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft and an international roster spot for 2017.

    Chicago/Dames picks up NWSL rights to Green (who has roots in midwest, born Illinois played youth soccer in Michigan before UNC college career) while Seattle and Harvey get 2017 draft pick and 2017 international slot.

  • I’ve been away from EQ for a while, but wanted to chime in and say thanks for this article. Head Coaches tend to get most of the credit, but Huw Williams has been instrumental for FCKC, most especially during each draft. I’m anxiously awating the 2017 draft to see if KC’s draft success remains or if Huw stepping down hurts the teams future potential. Hoping Huw passed on some of his draft skills to Ando. 🙂