Special Report on Lansing United: Part 2 — The Head Coach

Eric Rudland will be in charge of constructing Lansing United’s roster as well as all the coaching duties throughout the team’s upcoming summer season.

“When I sat down with (Jeremy Sampson) it was very apparent that he’s passionate about this organization,” Rudland said. “He wanted to do things the right way and that made my decision to get involved very easy.”

Another thing for Rudland that was very easy was landing the job, as owner and CEO Jeremy Sampson saw the decision as a simple one.

As head coach and general manager, Rudland will have full control to build and develop Lansing United's summer roster.

As head coach and general manager, Rudland will have full control to build and develop Lansing United’s summer roster.

“I’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions when it comes to this team, when it comes to this organization, but hiring Eric is by far the easiest decision I’ve had to make,” Sampson said.

“When I began this journey I knew that I would need the right leader for this team on the field and early on it was clear to me that person was Eric Rudland,” Sampson said at the team’s unveiling. “His track record is superb in bringing guys together from different backgrounds and molding them together and creating a winning team, and I know that Eric is going to do that for us this upcoming season.”

Rudland began his playing career at Western High School in Parma, Mich. and continued his playing career at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Wash. After college, Rudland continued to play and coach for teams in Kalamazoo, Mich. and in England. In his late twenties, Rudland joined Michigan Rush where he coached for and directed the youth soccer organization. Rudland then transitioned to the college game where he coached at Albion College, Spring Arbor University and most recently, Madonna University.

“I heard that an NPSL team was possibly coming to Lansing this past summer, but never talked to anybody, never chased an opportunity or tried to touch base with Jeremy.” Rudland said. “(Jeremy), through the local soccer community here, started asking, ‘Hey, who should coach this team? Do you guys have any recommendations?’ and apparently my name had been brought up by three or four different people. We ended up sitting down and literally two weeks later he offered me the job and it’s really not something I could turn down.”

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Rudland’s Story: The Road to Lansing United

* * *

Early Life and College

Throughout his high school career, Rudland also participated in the Michigan Olympic Development Program (1994-1996) and attended the Tahuichi Way Soccer Club in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (1995).

After his senior season Rudland would go on to have a successful career as a Falcon earning team Most Improved twice. During Rudland’s time in Washington, Seattle Pacific became NCAA Division II Regional Champions in 1998 and Pacific West Conference Champions from 1998-2000.

* * *

After College and the Beginning of Coaching

Rudland returned to Michigan after his college career to play for the Kalamazoo Kingdom (USL Premier Development League) in 2002.

Rudland’s urge to play the game carried him away from Michigan across the Atlantic Ocean to Biddulph, England. Rudland played for Biddulph Victoria F.C. from 2004-2005 where he competed in F.A Cup and F.A. Vase competitions.

During Rudland’s time overseas, he began to get a feel for professional coaching. Rudland joined Crewe Alexandra FC (Crewe, England) from 2004-05, where he coached under Dario Gradi and was on the sidelines for a Carling Cup match against Manchester United in 2004.

Rudland returned to the United States and continued working as part of the Michigan Olympic Development Program staff and became the Director of Coaching for the Ann Arbor Arsenal Youth Soccer program. In 2007, he became the Director of Coaching of Michigan Rush, and in 2011 was the head coach of the Rush Select U16 Boys National Team.

* * *

Rebuilding Spring Arbor

In 2011, Rudland took over a 2-16-1 Spring Arbor University (Spring Arbor, Mich.) men’s soccer program.

In his first season, Rudland led the Cougars to an 11-8-3 season that ended with a conference tournament final.

The next season, Rudland and the Cougars went to the NAIA National Championship with a 16-4-2 record. The coach was awarded with the NSCAA/NAIA Mid-East Region Coach of the Year and was nominated for the NAIA National Coach of the Year.

The miraculous program turnaround from a two-win team into a National Championship berth only two seasons later and was captured in a full-length documentary:

Give it All: The Spring Arbor University Men’s Soccer Team 2012

* * *

Michigan Bucks and Madonna

This past summer, Rudland was an assistant coach with the Michigan Bucks of the USL Premier Development League. Rudland coached local players from Michigan State University (Kevin Cope, Ryan Keener and Adam Montague) and the University of Michigan (Adam Grinwis).

“He’s young, he’s very smart, he knows the game, he loves the game,” Michigan State defender Ryan Keener said. “If there’s anybody who really just kind of donated his life to the game, it’s Eric and I think that’s just what Lansing (United) needed as a new exciting team, was a new exciting leader and someone who can kind of be everything that they need and a new inspiration.”

Currently, Rudland is on both the men’s and women’s coaching staff at Madonna University (Livonia, Mich.) as an assistant coach. Madonna’s men’s program ended their season with a loss in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament Semi-final and finished their season 8-6-4. Madonna’s women’s program also ended their season with a loss in the semi-finals of their conference tournament and finished their season 10-9-1.

“Some of the best coaches I’ve played for are coaches that you can relate to and are fun to play for,” Michigan State forward Adam Montague said. “The most successful coaches are the ones you want to go to battle for. I’d say he’s a guy that can relate to players and I’m sure he’ll be successful because guys are going to want to play for him.”

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Special Report on Lansing United: Part 3 – The Franchise’s First Signing

Special Report on Lansing United: Part 1 – A New Team, a New Era of Soccer in Lansing

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Jonathan Yales is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports

Photo: Jonathan Yales

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