The Sudden Upheaval At NASL Club Rayo OKC, Explained

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Want a bit of American soccer drama to cap off the week? Of course you do.

Rayo OKC is one of the latest start-up clubs to burst onto the non-MLS American soccer landscape. They were set to join the NASL as Oklahoma City FC before Raúl Martín Presa, the owner of Spanish club Rayo Vallecano, bought a controlling stake in the nascent club and rebranded it in Vallecano’s image. They started play earlier this year in the Spring half of the 2016 NASL season— they use an Apertura/Clausura format— and finished 8th. That disappointing performance in Spring led Vallecano to announce they would be trying to offload some of its shares in OKC.

But things were starting to get better! So far in the Fall half Rayo OKC have stayed competitive at the top end of the table, currently sitting in 3rd place, one point behind Indy 11 and the New York Cosmos.

You know that saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it?” Apparently Presa has never heard it before.

Sometime this week Presa and the rest of the ownership group laid out some major organizational changes to the coaching staff and to the club front office, staffed by former Oklahoma City owners Sold Out Strategies. It’s unclear what, exactly, the owners proposed for the club’s new direction. What is clear is that the front office and the coaching staff, headed up by manager Alen Marcina, were having none of it.

Last night, Marcina resigned as head coach of Rayo OKC. He refused to say why but hinted at some intractable conflict behind the scenes.

“Recent changes in administration have resulted in vast differences of opinion which could not be reconciled.”

Around the same time, SOS announced they were leaving the organization. In his statement to the press, SOS part-owner Brad Lund similarly refused to specify why his group was leaving Rayo OKC.

“I’m not going to go into a lot of details. It is time for SOS to focus its attention on other client portfolios.”

Presa and the ownership group immediately released a statement in an attempt to get out in front of the PR hit. In the statement, the club announced that Gerard Nus, formerly an assistant technical director at Vallecano, would take over as head coach.

”Our ownership group introduced a new vision for the club this week, and it was presented to Alen and his staff. In the end, Alen decided that it was best to move in a different direction, and we respect his decision and wish him well moving forward. On the other hand, we’re thrilled to welcome a coach of Gerard’s caliber to the club, and we’re looking forward to seeing the team flourish under his guidance and expertise.”

No one knows exactly what’s going on— although some speculate that the ownership group may be freaking out a little following Vallecano’s relegation from La Liga at the end of last season— and details from the people who were in the room when it happened haven’t been entirely forthcoming. But the folks who run the fan podcast Scissortail Pod have their suspicions.

Questionable immigration policy commentary aside, the situation in OKC sounds like a dumpster fire. And there’s a very good chance this is going to get worse before it gets better.