Spain named new LMU men’s soccer coach

Published 4:49 pm Thursday, January 10, 2019

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Robert Spain has been tabbed as the seventh head coach in the history of the Lincoln Memorial University men’s soccer program, it was announced by VP of Athletics Dr. Jody Goins on Thursday.

“Lincoln Memorial University is excited to add coach Spain as our new head men’s soccer coach,” Goins said. “Robert’s energy, professionalism, and focus on developing well-rounded student-athletes allowed him to emerge as our top candidate. Robert’s experience as a former student-athlete, head coach and professional scout positions him to quickly have a positive impact on our student-athletes as we constantly pursue academic excellence and championship-level competitiveness.”

Spain comes to Lincoln Memorial following a two-year tenure with the Major League Soccer (MLS) affiliated Columbus Crew, where he served as the head academy scout and worked underneath current US Men’s National Team head coach Gregg Berhalter.

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“Obviously this opportunity is extremely exciting,” Spain said. “I want to thank Dr. Goins, Cam Whicker and the search committee. For every reason, from a personal and professional side, it checks every box for myself, my wife and my family. It was an opportunity that was perfect for us.”

During his time with the Columbus Crew, Spain was primarily responsible for identifying youth players with the potential for future professional careers within the organization.

At the end of the 2017-18 season, the Crew was the only club in the United States to have both its U17 and U19 squads reach the national quarterfinals. Spain worked with 18 players that were called into US Youth National Team camps, 14 players brought in to train with the first team and eight players selected to join the first team for preseason tours.

Spain also helped Crew players sign college scholarships with Wake Forest, Akron, Stanford, Georgetown, Virginia and Notre Dame among many others.

Prior to his stint in the MLS, Spain spent the 2016 season as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duquesne University. That season, the Dukes finished 8-5-5 after going 6-10-2 the season before, cracked the top-25 of the national rankings, and appeared in the top 10 of the region rankings for seven straight weeks.

At Duquesne, Spain produced the only top-25 ranked recruiting class in program history after signing three top-150 players. He also coached the goalkeepers that season, leading to nine shutouts, including a program-record run of seven straight.

Spain was also a part of significant turnarounds at his two previous stops before heading to Duquesne.

He spent the 2015 season as the assistant coach at Northern Illinois and helped the Huskies go from 3-9-5 the season before to 7-7-1. In his first coaching gig in 2014, Spain took over as the head coach at Division III University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, leading the Bobcats to a 12-7-1 mark. The season before he got there, Pittsburgh Greensburg went 3-16, making it one of the most prolific turnarounds in the history of Division III men’s soccer.

Spain inherits an LMU men’s soccer program with a storied history, as the Railsplitters have made a pair of NCAA Final Four appearances, including a trip to the 2007 national championship match. Lincoln Memorial has also tallied double-digit wins five times this decade, though the program has made only one NCAA tournament appearance since the start of the 2008 campaign.

“This is a program that has had success before and is capable of getting there again,” Spain said. “The administration has high expectations and they want to win. Those are rare opportunities at any level of soccer in this country. Getting to try to build something that you know where it can go is really exciting.”

Spain’s teams have a history of improving quickly. He has ambitions of using his professional development experiences to continue that trend at Lincoln Memorial.

“I want the players to feel like we are playing a professional brand of soccer,” Spain said. “The people that are watching will hopefully be able to see that. Maybe not immediately but over time.

“We want to be proactive and try to be a team and program that people can look at and say, “Wow, this area doesn’t have pro soccer but this is about as close as you are going to get.”

Spain received his B.S. in Sports Administration in 2010 from the University of Charleston, where he was a two-year letterwinner for the men’s soccer program. In 2009, he played under the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year and was selected as a team captain while the Golden Eagles made an appearance in the Elite Eight and finished 19-4 overall.

He holds three different United Soccer Coaches diplomas (National, Advanced and Premier) and a Professional Scouts Association (PFSA) license.