Reissue: From Spain to Spurs, to Houston, meet Juan Carlos Amoros

From the vault; dive back into an exclusive NWSL interview and profile with Juan Carlos Amoros from 2022.

Reissue: From Spain to Spurs, to Houston, meet Juan Carlos Amoros

NOTE: This article was originally published on the 15th of June 2022, on The Striker. It was the first interview Juan Carlos Amorós gave after joining the NWSL. The Spanish head coach is now in charge of NJ/NY Gotham FC, where he won the league Championship in 2023. His team will kick off the 2024 season with a Challenge Cup match against the San Diego Wave on Friday the 15th of March.

Juan Carlos Amorós is the new interim head coach of the Houston Dash, and he didn’t think twice about taking the job.

“When a club like the Houston Dash calls you, it’s a no brainer, for me and my family,” Amorós told The Striker from Spain on Wednesday morning, via video call.

Amorós is not in Houston quite yet. He's currently waiting for his visa to be approved in Seville, where he's spent the past year and a half as head coach of Real Betis Féminas. The Dash are expecting him to arrive in Houston by the end of June, at which point he will take over from the current acting head coach Sarah Lowdon, who will then become Amorós' first assistant.

“The club has been fantastic trying to support me in every aspect," he said. "I'm very big on taking care of people. I think taking care of people is key to getting the maximum performance of whoever it might be, a coach or a player or even a journalist.”

Amorós’ route to coaching at the elite level has been an interesting one. His coaching journey began at the age of 15 in Madrid, and it's taken him around the world to Scotland, the Netherlands, England and the United States as well as his native Spain. 

In 2011, Amorós was working for a company that educated coaches in the United States when he got a call from the late Glenn Weaver, the then chairman of Tottenham Hotspur women. Weaver initially hired Amorós to lead the U-23s and academy at the North London club. But after being asked to put on one 15-minute coaching session with the first team, his future was sealed. Amorós ended up leading the whole day’s training, and then Karen Hills and Weaver invited him to stick around even longer. 

“‘Carry on, carry on,’ they said. I did the whole session. And then she [Hills] said ‘okay, I want you to please be with me, with the first team.’ The rest is history,” Amorós says.

Amorós and Hills formed something rarely seen in soccer: a dual head coaching partnership. The duo were equal in their stature, but offered different expertise. 

Hills, who had already been the head coach of Tottenham’s first team since 2009, was focused on player welfare, club organization executive decision making and leadership. Amorós was allowed to focus all his time on analysis and coaching. 

Soon, Spurs would enjoy a meteoric rise.

Tottenham’s first major silverware was secured when it won the 2015-16 National League Cup by beating Cardiff City 2-1 in the final. Amorós says his former team’s 1-0 quarter final win over Brighton and Hove Albion was a match that he believes changed everything. 

“It was a horrible game,” Amorós recalled. “It was raining. There was a scrum in the box and Lucia Leon scored and she ran over to the bench, everyone celebrated and that was the moment. Until then, we never were able to beat the top teams. But after that goal, we knew we could. That was the moment where the team started believing.”

At the end of the 2016-2017 season, Tottenham finished top of the FA National League and were promoted into the FA Women’s Championship. In 2018, the club turned fully professional for the first time in its history, and was subsequently promoted to the FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) after finishing second at the end of the 2018-19 campaign. Amorós and Hills were awarded the league’s manager of the year award.

The next season, the club’s first in the top division of English women’s soccer, Spurs would go on to finish in a commendable sixth place. Amorós smiled as he recalled league champions Chelsea wasting time during a corner kick in order to secure a 1-0 win over Spurs in front of 28,000 fans at Stamford Bridge. 

In just a few years, Amorós and Hills had taken semi-professional and amateur players to compete at the pinnacle of the domestic English game. In Amorós’ opinion, the achievement of developing players was more meaningful than all the honors and victories. 

“Ashley Neville was someone who we recruited when she was a teacher. Then five, six years later, she’s nominated for FAWSL player of the year. 

“Some of the development that we've done or I've done with players is something that I really am really proud of. At the end of the day, nothing is as rewarding as seeing people that change their lives forever.”

Moving even further away from its more humble model, Spurs added a slew of big names ahead of the 2020-21 season, including U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan. Amorós says that coaching a big star is no different than coaching any other player: find out what they need. 

“She's a person," he says. "She's just a person like you and me. So just getting that approach of, 'okay, what works for her?' There is no one recipe. You need to try to individualize training and the approach to the players as much as you can."

A poor start to the 2020-21 season meant that the club parted ways with Amorós and Hills in November of that year. Even after nearly a decade at the North London club, Amorós says that he understood the club wanted to move in a different direction and that the results hadn't been good enough either. 

"I was fine with it," said Amorós. "There's a line I really like. It says that the wall of success is built with with bricks of your failure. So I think that's part of of what we do [as head coaches]."

What Amorós and Hills were able to do at Spurs was practically one-of-a-kind. He believes that co-head coaching relationships are not achievable the vast majority of the time. "It was definitely a great time in my career. It's very complicated because we had a unique relationship of 10 years, if that makes sense. I don't think it's possible to do at any club."

Once his time at Spurs had come to a close in November 2020, Amorós had a brief rest before returning to the game. In January 2021, he was called back home to Spain by struggling Spanish Primera Division club Real Betis. 

Betis were on course to be relegated from Spain's top women's league when Amorós arrived in Seville. Sitting 17th out of 18 teams, "Los Verdiblancos" had gone 10 matches without a win.

Amorós failed to win his first two matches but then his team suddenly ignited. Betis quickly started rocketing up the standings. In May 2021, Amorós helped set a new club record of eight matches without defeat. Betis would eventually finish 12th at the end of the 2020-21 season, taking 28 points from the 20 matches that Amorós took charge of. 

"We had to change a lot of things. There was talent in the squad, there was talent on the staff, but there was no direction. I think there was room for improvement in every department. There was room for improvement tactically. Having a direction was key on the football side. I wanted us to be solid defensively," said Amorós. 

The rejuvenated Betis continued to improve overall during Amorós' second season in Seville. "Los Verdiblancos" finished 10th in the 2021-22 season, a club record finish in the Primera Division. That being said, Betis did finish the season on a 10-match winless streak. After a brilliant start, Amorós believes the team ran out of steam for multiple reasons.

"We lost a top player, Rosa Marquez, early on to an injury. We had a very short squad, only about 16 or 17 players. We had only one forward. I had to play Grace Asantewaa — who is a holding midfielder — as a number nine.

"I think it was a positive season. I think that the club did grow. We were stable. I think in the Spanish league, you lose motivation. Once you are safe, there is not really much you play for."

While at Betis, Amorós coached current Dash players Michaela Abam and Natalie Jacobs. Although neither were key contributors during his time in Seville, he is excited to reunite with them in Houston. 

Ultimately, Amorós didn't feel like Betis' overarching goals and investment matched his own ambitions. And in May 2022, at the end of the 2021-22 season, he decided not renew his contract and walked away. 

"I had some ideas. They had a different idea of how we wanted to direct the club. And I decided that for me, it was better to just go find a project that is very committed to women's soccer, and that they will really believe in what we do," he said.

This is the polar opposite of how Amorós feels about Houston and his new role with the Dash. It is the Texas club's goal to set the standard for women's soccer worldwide that is what attracts him to Houston and the NWSL.

"I want to work in a club like Houston, where they really believe in giving the players everything they need. It's not just the money, it is the conditions that you play with — the surfaces, the access to the gym, access to everything around it. I think you can maximize the potential of the players and the staff. And you can have a bigger impact on the community, which is why I want to do [it]."

At this time, it still remains unclear how long Amorós will be in Houston. James Clarkson is suspended indefinitely from the NWSL and his future is unknown. Clarkson's contract will expire at the end of the 2022 NWSL season. 

What is clear is that whether it is just for a short period, until the end of the season or even beyond that, Amorós is eagerly anticipating his time in Texas. Perhaps he can take the Dash to the NWSL playoffs for the first time in club history. 

"It's obviously an honor and a privilege to be chosen to be doing this role," he said. "I'm really, really looking forward to to start in person. I want to make the Houston Dash the best team in the NWSL in the long term."