Author: Matt Privratsky
This week, the University of Minnesota announced that Erin Chastain will be the new head coach of the Gopher Soccer program. A former Gopher captain and Minnesota native, Chastain returns home to become the 5th head coach in program history following Stefanie Golan’s departure for her own home state of Missouri. What set Chastain apart, how do we predict this fall season, and what are her initial tasks on her to-do list? Let’s dive in.
How did Chastain set herself apart
What should be clear now, and was likely a little understated in our previous analysis, is that her extensive *head* coaching experience likely played a real role in putting Chastain above other “internal” candidates and even other strong outside options. Yes, she also has impressive assistant coaching stops on her resume (Santa Clara, Northwestern) but Becky Maines is no slouch in that department either, nor was Krystle Seidel -- who’s most extensive coaching experience also took place *at the U*. So in terms of resume and skill set, it was significant that Chastain was able to show a track record of recruiting and winning at a high level as a head coach, for a significant sample size, at the Power 5 level.
Though it also bears remembering that -- as hard as it is to believe -- the soccer itself, once interviews begin, almost never comes up. Tom McGinnis, Sr Associate Athletic Director in charge of women’s soccer and several other sports, led the search and told us in anexclusive behind the scenes look at the hiring process, that it would shock you how little tactics, strategy, or even just the sport in general comes up during those interviews. Instead, a candidate’s fit in terms of values and passion for coaching at the University of Minnesota really become the focus.
How might the team's style of play/performance change?
As a standard disclaimer, I will admit I have never watched a DePaul women’s soccer game that didn’t involve the University of Minnesota. So we are going to keep things pretty damn basic here. The Big East and the Big Ten are different conferences. Stefanie Golan and Erin Chastain are both badass head coaches, but they are different people. And every season comes with much more nuance and randomness than outsiders -- like me -- can really truly account for in our analysis.
And yet, for all that, the statistical profile of the Stefanie Golan’s Gophers and Erin Chastain’s Demon Deacons (man typing that takes getting used to...) are essentially the same.
For this analysis we used the last 8 seasons because both the U of M and DePaul really tried to narrow in that era in giving a snapshot of Chastain’s tenure there. She had a few seasons prior that seemed like something of an understandable ramp up to leading a program so we’ll let 2013 be our starting point. DePaul and the U both score just under 1.5 goals a game and giving up about a goal a game over that era.
For all we know DePaul’s version of that statistical profile was a bit different than the U’s, and they did dip in terms of overall performance -- from their incredibly impressive run from 2013-2016 -- but part of that may just be the natural ebbs and flows of leading a program for that long. Golan’s move to Missouri was a bit hard to understand because it wasn’t as set in our expectations as a move like Chastain's from smaller DI school to larger DI school. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, that a change of scenery can be beneficial for both players and coaches.
Anyway. Back to the comparison. As a reminder, the U’s path to getting to that 1.5 goals scored and 1 goal allowed typically looked like:
And, frankly, some of those traits may carry over simply through the existing players themselves, but it will be so interesting to see which ones respond differently and blossom under a new coach.
Chastain’s To-Do List
First on Erin Chastain’s to-do list, other than literally moving herself and/or her entire family here, is to finalize the rest of her staffing decisions. She’s leaving behind what was an all female staff at DePaul, including long time assistant and associate head coach and now Interim Head Coach Michele O’Brien -- who would seem positioned as a likely predecessor… -- as well as Rachel Pitman. Let’s pretend for a second that both of those women get elevated at DePaul and are not heading to Minnesota.
The cupboard on the Minnesota staff that Stef left behind is pretty damn full. Becky Maines was a candidate for the head coaching job but some players we’ve spoken to spoke highly of the idea of her remaining on staff in her current assistant capacity. Because Chastain is so experienced, keeping a younger coach like Maya Hayes on board could make sense as well. Director of Operations Sarah Johnson (SJ) is fantastic and could help serve as a stabilizing presence if more changes to the rest of the staff were made. For all we know Erin could keep all of them due to time constraints for this season and re-assess next winter. Or she literally already has every position lined up for someone outside the program. The reality is probably in between those two scenarios, though.
Next she has to actually finalize the roster. It’s pretty late to be bringing in any transfers, but is it maaaaybe still possible? Could Minnesotan Morgan Turner use her COVID year of eligibility to return home to Minnesota after a four year career at DePaul under Chastain? Who knows. If a magically available centerback and a few central midfielders just sort of materialized because they specifically love Erin Chastain, we’re not going to complain.
We do know that she spoke to the team yesterday after the hiring announcement and the responses we’ve heard so far are super positive. Not to beat a dead horse, here, but the players we are most curious about are the ones who take this opportunity with a new leader in charge and shine. Even with the *same* head coach, players can look very different from one year to another (Delany Stekr being a BOSS centerback after not playing the year before, Patricia Ward being a seriously great outside back after years on the wing, Katie Koker breaking out at outside back after getting to solidify into a role there vs a jack of all trades responsibility).
We should have a long introductory show with Coach Chastain in the coming days. The fact that she was even able to respond to our inquiry during maybe the craziest most hectic day of her life speaks really highly of her and we can’t wait to dive into all the absurd lineup questions we have no business asking!
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