Kerry Zavagnin is back with the Wizards. Not as a player, but as the newest member of the coaching staff.
Zavagnin, who retired at the end of the 2008 season after 11 MLS seasons, including the last nine with the Wizards, will join Curt Onalfo’s staff next season.
Zavagnin, a midfielder, played more minutes, 20,516, and in more games, 236, than anyone in franchise history, was the last remnant from the Wizards 2000 MLS Cup championship team and appeared in 21 games for the U.S. National Team.
"As I made the transition from player into a coaching career, I honestly wanted to do it in a familiar environment," said Zavagnin, 34. "Starting off for an organization and a city that has provided me so much happiness over the course of the last nine years, it fits perfectly for me and my family.
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"I’m committed to this process in which we’re trying to build an organization that is going to thrive not only every couple of years but year in and year out."
Zavagnin fills the vacancy on the staff left after the 2007 season by Chris Henderson, who became the technical director of the expansion Seattle franchise, which begins play in 2009.
Wizards coach Curt Onalfo, sensing 2008 would be Zavagnin's last season, kept the position open for him. Now, Onalfo has a full staff, including assistant Kris Kelderman and goalkeeper/fitness coach Dave Tenney.
"Kerry had an outstanding playing career, and there are certain players who can make the transition to coaching, and he’s certainly one of those guys," said Onalfo. "He was a very smart player and student of the game.
"He’ll bring enormous freshness, having just played. That perspective often is extremely helpful. He'll have a lot of good insight to help our staff."
Zavagnin, an MLS All-Star in 2004, battled injuries last season and appeared in a career-low 17 games, starting 13. He scored eight goals with 28 assists in his 11-year MLS career that began in 1997 with the New York MetroStars.
He doesn’t believe he'll have difficulty crossing that line from being a teammate in the locker room to being a coach.
"I’ve always considered myself while I was a player communicating a lot on the field and being an extension of the coaching staff on the field," Zavagnin said. "In terms of how I talk to the guys and what kind of knowledge I can provide, I don’t think a lot of that will change.
"At the end of the day, there will be some guys I spent a great deal of time with and battled in the trenches with. I have a lot of respect for them and to be able to provide for them in a coaching role, I'm very excited, and I think they’ll be responsive."