NWSL expansion side Bay FC announced it has chosen Albertin Montoya to be the club's first manager.
Montoya, 48, is a long-time San Francisco Bay Area resident who has succeeded at the youth and professional levels. He led FC Gold Pride of the WPS -- the precursor to the NWSL -- to a title in 2010. He most recently served as interim manager of the Washington Spirit in 2022.
"As the inaugural head coach of Bay FC, I'm honored to be a part of the foundation upon which our team's history will be built," Bay FC Head Coach Albertin Montoya said in a statement.
"Together, we'll create a legacy of determination, unity, and excellence. Our journey begins today, and I'm eager to recruit and lead an elite group of athletes towards a future filled with triumphs, and together, we'll write the remarkable story of Bay FC."
In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Bay FC general manager Lucy Rushton said she had a list of about 40 candidates from which to choose, and met with many of them. But in the process of traveling around the league to get a sense of best practices, whenever the topic of Bay FC's first manager came up, Montoya's name was always suggested.
"Every time I say I'd go to Kansas City or I'd go to Washington Spirit or wherever it was, I'd go and people would ask me about Albertin," Rushton said. "'Are you looking for a head coach? I mean, haven't you got Albertin Montoya there?' I swear everybody knows Albertin, and so it was ironic to continually find myself in these places where people were telling me to make this guy the head coach."
Rushton added that Montoya's commitment to a possession-based style, as well as his history of developing players convinced her to make him the team's first manager.
"I think two of the big things were the playing style and identity," she said. "We knew we needed a coach that would commit to playing the brand of football that we want to commit to."
She added: "For us, this is about creating a legacy, and we recognize that we would rather take time to build a brand and build that legacy than have a short-term fix or hit. And so to find a coach that committed to playing football and a possession style that is in the same way that we are willing to commit to, that was the most important thing."
Much of Montoya's coaching career has been in the youth space, especially after the WPS folded following the 2010 season. In the ensuing years he worked at the academy he founded, Montoya Soccer Academy, as well as Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club. He also coached the U.S. U-17 women's national team from 2011-12. But his short stint with the Spirit gave him the hunger to get back in the professional game, and the fact that he can do it close to his Bay Area home made it a perfect fit.
"I definitely missed it," he told ESPN about the professional game. "The competition, the level of play, the professionalism is outstanding. And just because of where my wife, my kids are, I've never been able to really leave California except for that short stint at Washington Spirit. And when I went there for that month and a half, oh, I got the bug. And just as things happen, how this all came about, it was a pretty incredible coincidence. And I said, 'Look, why not?' I love teaching. I love developing players."
Rushton and Montoya can now focus on building the roster ahead of the team's inaugural season in 2024. Rushton has been immersing herself in all things NWSL after having spent the bulk of her career on the men's side of the game. Montoya said that with the NWSL free agency period open, they would start making calls to players on Thursday.
"You get this experience and this opportunity once to build from scratch," Rushton said. "So for us, I think that what that means, especially from the football playing style side of things, is that we can go and recruit exactly the types of players that fit the brand of football that we want to play."
That includes trying to bring some Bay Area natives back home.
"We've got a great list of players that have Bay Area ties on our list, and if things all work out, I think it'd be nice to bring some of them back home," said Montoya. "If we can land some of those, I will be a very happy coach."