As D.C. United prepare for the 2021 MLS Season, the new coaching staff are hard at work to establish a team philosophy and identity that will compete for MLS Cup this year. In a new era following the departure of long-term head coach Ben Olsen in October, Hernán Losada was announced as the new head coach in January 2021. Losada is now tasked with implementing his high-pressing and attack-minded philosophy to a new league in MLS. Nicolás Frutos, a former teammate of Losada’s and Argentine compatriot, joined the coaching staff in February 2021 to add his experience at the top level of Belgian soccer. Assistant coaches Chad Ashton and Zach Thornton continue with the Black-and-Red and round out the technical staff. Ashton and Thornton’s lengthy experience in MLS will be pivotal to Losada navigating the nuances of the league in his first year.
With each coach in the technical staff having experience at a variety of levels of soccer in different countries, we take a look at how each individual coach will impact the team in 2021.
Losada joined D.C. United as head coach on Jan. 18, 2021 after successfully guiding Belgian side Beerschot FC to promotion to the top division in the 2019-2020 season. The Argentine had a successful 15-year professional career, playing for Independiente in Argentina before moving to Europe where he played for RSC Anderlecht (Belgium), SC Heerenveen (Netherlands) and others before ending his career with Beerschot V.A.. Following his retirement, Losada joined Beerschot’s coaching staff as an assistant before being handed the head coach job in October 2019. The 38-year-old is renowned for his tactical awareness and commitment to a high-pressing and attacking style of play.
Frutos, the most recent addition to the coaching staff, joined D.C. United as an assistant coach on February 15. Frutos joins Argentine compatriot, Hernán Losada, who he played with at Independiente at the start of his career and followed a similar career path in Europe. Frutos made a name for himself as a physical and prolific goalscorer for Anderlecht in Belgium where he scored 41 goals in 69 appearances. Frutos joined the Andlerecht coaching staff following his retirement in 2010. After working with the U-19 team, Frutos became assistant for the first team before becoming interim head coach in 2017, winning three of his four games in charge. His work with the U-19’s at Anderlecht will be valuable experience for D.C. United as the Black-and-Red continue to develop the young core of Homegrown players on the roster.
Ashton is the longest tenured coach in the D.C. United technical staff. Ashton joined the Black-and-Red as an assistant coach in 2007; working under Tom Soehn and Curt Onalfo then Ben Olsen in his 15 seasons with the club. In 2020, Ashton became D.C. United’s interim head coach following the departure of Ben Olsen in October. His experience as a coach in the league will be valuable institutional knowledge for Losada in his first season as a coach in MLS.
Ashton played in the American Professional League and played for the Dallas Burn in the inaugural MLS season in 1996.
Thornton joined D.C. United as Director of Goalkeeping and assistant coach before the 2015 season. The coach has been instrumental in the development and dominance of Homegrown and U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
The former goalkeeper had a 17-year MLS career and also played for Portuguese powerhouses Benfica in 2004. He won one MLS Cup, one Supporters’ Shield, and three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in his career in addition to being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 1998 and 2009.