AFC Ann Arbor have announced the return of Rod Asllani as an assistant coach for the 2019 season. Asllani returns to The Mighty Oak and with him returns a heap of experience coaching not only with AFC from last season, but overseas in Europe as well. This will be Asllani’s second season with AFCAA and he joins Head Coach Eric Rudland and newly appointed Technical Director, Boyzzz Khumalo, as the announced staff returnees.
Rudland had high praise for the Albanian as he is set to return to the club’s coaching staff. “Last year he did an outstanding job training our backline players and helped us shape a solid defensive team structure. I know the players enjoyed working with him and will be excited to have him back this season.” The focus on the back line helped The Mighty Oak to an NPSL best 0.33 GAA in the regular season within a back line that included two players that will feature in the USL Championship this upcoming season in the TopDrawerSoccer.com NPSL Player of the Year, Stanley Okumu (Real Monarchs) and Football Manager’s Season’s Best Eleven, Mike Novotny (Hartford Athletic).
“I'm looking forward to working with Eric and the rest of the staff again. We want to win trophies by playing a good brand of football,” said Asllani when asked what excited him about returning for another season with The Mighty Oak. These goals, however, are molded in the preseason, which Asllani is well-aware of. “The NPSL season is short and with players that come from different colleges/experiences it's very challenging to get everyone on the same page in a short period of time. So the main goal of preseason is to build the team chemistry and lay down the expectations.”
The story of Rod Asllani’s career throughout the sport is a long and intriguing one that has taken him through a plethora of spots. “As any other young kid in Albania I started playing soccer in the streets and later joined the youth club of my hometown. When I was 19 I moved to the states where I played at Schoolcraft College and Madonna University,” Asllani told AFCAA. As he continued on, interest in coaching grew. He received his UEFA B License at just 27 years old while still playing, and obtained his UEFA A License a few short years after hanging up his boots.
The level of prestige that a UEFA A License has is nothing to scoff at, but it is what Asllani has done in his experiences that is all the more impressive. He spent two years as the sport director of Albanian top-flight side KF Kastrioti before moving to his first coaching job with second-division side FK Dinamo Tirana. After two seasons there, Asllani joined KF Korabi for the 2015-16 club season as the assistant coach and helped the side garner promotion to the Albanian Super League before returning to the States.
Since returning to the States, Asllani breaks down what he has been doing, saying, “I've been working as a youth soccer coach and last year I started as an assistant coach at Madonna University where we reached the final four in the National Tournament for the first time in school's history.” When asked what led his winding road to this stop in Ann Arbor, Asllani said, “Since I've been back in the states I've been looking to get involved in more competitive soccer. It all started from talking to Bilal [Saeed, AFCAA Chairman] one day during a futsal practice with Ann Arbor Mudpuppies. I expressed my desire to get involved and he got me in touch with Eric and the rest as they say is history.” Success continually follows Asllani wherever he may go, and that certainly hopes to continue to hold true this season for AFCAA.
The fit of Ann Arbor gels incredibly well with who Asllani is as a person, as he describes, “I feel like my personal goals align with the club's goals. It's an organization that has been successful and continues to improve year after year. Everyone involved is held to high standards.” He continued to describe his appreciation for the way of “how everyone is treated as family” and how the club “gives back to the community that supports us so much.” The returning assistant also could not forget about those who support the side, saying of them, “Without them the game is not the same. That's who the game is played for and we want to give them the most entertaining type of football. For me that's what makes this club special.” Asllani’s contributions to the team as a coach go a great deal in molding the side that has given its fans so much to smile about this past season. He, and the rest of those in the organization, will hope for more of the same.