From SAFC to Trinity: Former pro player Michael Lahoud joins men’s soccer team as assistant coach

National champion retired from playing after time in MLS, USL and NASL


Claire Sammons

Coach Lahoud at scrimmage

In January, Trinity’s men’s soccer team announced that they were adding Michael Lahoud, a former national champion and professional soccer player, to their staff as an assistant coach.

Lahoud won the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer National Championship with Wake Forest University before being drafted ninth overall in the 2009 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft by Chivas USA. Lahoud played in the MLS for both Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union, and he also played for his home country on the Sierra Leone National Team. Most recently, Lahoud played for San Antonio FC (SAFC) of the United Soccer League (USL) before retiring from professional soccer.

While Lahoud never attended Trinity, his past relationships still connected him to the University.

“Jay Vidovich, his head coach [at Wake Forest], and I have been good friends for literally 30 years,” said Paul McGinlay, Trinity’s head men’s soccer coach. “I actually was at the convention in 2009 where he was drafted in the first round. Unbelievably, because I was Jay’s friend, I was out to dinner with him that night, not knowing 12 years later he’d be on our staff.”

During the summer, despite the isolation that COVID-19 and the pandemic brought, Lahoud and McGinlay began to connect through their mutual relationship with Vidovich. McGinlay heard Lahoud was considering retiring from playing professional soccer and jumped on the opportunity.

“We met briefly at training when he was with SAFC and I reached out to him over the summer. I said ‘I don’t know if we can make this work, but I want to pursue you as an assistant coach at Trinity,” McGinlay said.

The conversation started with simple phone calls, and then after following COVID-19 safety protocols, Lahoud and McGinlay were able to meet in person. Lahoud explained that after playing soccer his whole life, he never imagined himself as a coach.

“There was part of me that wanted to do anything but coaching because it’s what a lot of [professional players] end up doing,” Lahoud said.

Despite his hesitancy to become a coach at first, Lahoud realized that coaching actually aligns with many of his values and accepted the job as an assistant at Trinity.

“I love mentoring. I believe in young people… I’ve always been inspired to invest in the next generation and so when I met with [McGinlay], and he talked about the next generation and really believing that you guys [students currently in college] are the change-makers in ways that previous generations never been, he spoke to my beliefs and my values, and it opened my eyes that coaching is much more than just setting down cones,” Lahoud said. “You’re investing in young people, so I’m excited to begin this journey that I never thought would be in my path.”

Throughout his career, Lahoud has been involved with various organizations and projects aimed at uplifting youth and historically disadvantaged communities. Community advocacy is a significant part of Lahoud’s life and is informed by his own story. He is from Sierra Leone, and to escape the nation’s Civil War, he left at the age of six on an emergency visa. Despite leaving at a young age, he cares tremendously about his home and the people of Sierra Leone.

In 2015, Lahoud partnered with a teammate on the Sierra Leone National Team to build a school in his hometown.

“It’s called the Education for All school. We built it through Schools for Salone. Education is one of the biggest pathways to change. I wanted to empower the next generation, and young women in particular,” Lahoud said.

Earlier in 2014, Lahoud partnered with Doctors Without Borders for “Kick Ebola In the Butt,” a fundraising campaign in response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Lahoud states that this work was motivated by hearing how scared family and friends in Sierra Leone were during the outbreak.

“I wanted to help family, friends, and citizens of the country. One of the first things I wanted to address was the stigma that comes from a pandemic, so that was really empowering work,” Lahoud said.

Lahoud is also one of the founders of the nonprofit Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) Youth Leadership Program. Lahoud brought his community work to San Antonio as well, where he works with the David Robinson Foundation and the IDEA public school systems. These organizations mentor youth and provide scholarships to help students have access to higher education.

For all his community work, Lahoud earned the title of North American Soccer League (NASL) Humanitarian of the Year in 2016. Lahoud is eager to bring his love of helping the community to Trinity’s men’s soccer team and to instill a desire to serve within the Tigers.

“I want the guys to be invested with the community. I want them to know that they are playing for something bigger than themselves,” Lahoud said. “When you put on that jersey, you are a part of something more. There’s no better way to be a part of something bigger than investing in the community around you and giving back.”

Lahoud arrived at Trinity amid the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in a cancelled Trinity’s soccer season in the fall and forced the Tigers to plan a shortened conference-only schedule this spring. Despite the challenges, Lahoud views the pandemic as a chance to look beyond the game of soccer.

“This is an opportunity for change and evolving the culture and reestablishment of success. Not just success on the field but also off the field. I’m excited to engage in our athletes’ development not just as athletes but as young men. As a coach, I want to do everything I can to set these guys up for success in life, whether that’s furthering their soccer career or any way possible,” Lahoud said.

After his first month at Trinity, Lahoud is already enjoying bonding with the team and getting to know all the players.

“It’s early on, and I love it. It is so incredible to see the desire for the players to learn and want to get better. Our guys are smart guys, and to be at Trinity, you have to be really smart,” Lahoud said. “To see their solution-oriented thinking and to see the quality of players is amazing. I’m astounded by some of the things the guys are able to do.”

For someone who thought coaching was not for him, Lahoud is quickly making a big impression on the Tigers.

“He’s been fantastic. To have someone with his experience and his enthusiasm for the game, it’s been a nice breath of fresh air with the squad,” McGinlay said. “I’ve been here 30 years, [assistant coach] Edward [Cartee’s] been here close to 15. That’s a lot of the same, so the addition of Michael just brings something new and fresh to the table.”

The men’s soccer team has been practicing since early January in preparation for their first game against Centenary College (LA) on Feb. 20, and Lahoud is ready to see the team in action.

“I’m so stoked. It’s amazing being back and being involved in the game I love. I am passionate about the game, and it’s awesome to see almost this sense of relief in the guys in being back with the game,” Lahoud said. “A lot of universities aren’t playing in the spring, so this is such a gift, and we are excited to be back on the field.”