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Inter Miami CF hires former Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson

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Henderson becomes club’s Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director

Sounders win Supporters’ Shield

After 13 years in Seattle, Chris Henderson is heading to the East Coast.

Specifically, Henderson is heading to Miami, Florida. After 13 years with the Seattle Sounders organization as its sporting director, Henderson was hired as the Chief Soccer Officer (CSO) and sporting director for Inter Miami CF. David Beckham’s club has tasked Henderson to “lead the strategic vision” of the club, per an Inter Miami press release.

Rumors of Henderson’s departure to Miami flamed last week. The move was made official on Monday morning.

A former midfielder and U.S. men’s national team player from 1990-2001, Henderson is heading back to Miami after featuring for the Miami Fusion in 2001. The Fusion were based on Fort Lauderdale and lasted from 1998-2001.

“This is an incredible opportunity for me to take the next step in my career, return back to South Florida and solidify my mark on this league,” Henderson said. “I have always believed in the Inter Miami project and the club’s ability to become a powerhouse not only in MLS but across the global soccer industry.

“My goal is to work with the technical staff to ensure we have a roster that fits the style of soccer we want while maintaining a healthy pipeline of youth, league wide and international players who could contribute to the team’s success on and off the field. I’m looking forward to joining Inter Miami’s journey and reconnecting with the fanbase in South Florida.”

Jorge Mas, managing owner of Inter Miami, said that Henderson brings a “successful and winning” MLS track record to the club. Henderson was with the Sounders throughout the club’s entire existence, since it began MLS competition in 2009.

“The fabric of our club is unique, it reflects the passion of our community,” Mas said. “We as owners are committed to giving Chris the tools he needs to develop a sustainable winning soccer culture that delivers consistent performance on the field. As we enter the 2021 season, Chris is an integral part of the vision that drives us.”

Henderson’s track record with the Sounders includes plenty of hardware.

The Sounders won two MLS Cup titles in 2016 and 2019 under Henderson, general manager Garth Lagerwey and head coach Brian Schmetzer. Also, Henderson was part of four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles, in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014. The Sounders also won the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2014.

Seattle’s wave of dominance includes four Western Conference titles in the last five years — save the 2018 season. In every year of the Sounders’ existence, the club has punched its ticket to the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Henderson wrote an open letter to the Sounders community, reminiscing on the last 13 years in Washington.

Sounders react to Henderson’s departure

Adrian Hanauer, one of the Seattle Sounders owners, said that Henderson has been a “massive” part of the organization.

“Chris Henderson was the first person I hired to help build our soccer organization. He has been a massive part of Sounders FC since our club’s MLS inception and has been critical to our ongoing success,” Hanauer said. “Chris will be missed for his contributions and for what he added to the culture of our club. But I am so happy and excited about the opportunity that awaits him in Miami. Chris deserves this chance, and we all wish him enormous success.”

Meanwhile, Lagerwey said that Henderson’s opportunity was “long overdue.”

“Sounders FC’s track record of success over 12 years is due to Chris as much as any other person in the organization,” Lagerwey said. “He picked so many outstanding players it is impossible to recount them all here. Chris was vital to the culture that we have built in Seattle, exhibiting kindness to his coworkers and standing resolute in his determination to carry out his duties at an extremely high level. He will not only be missed, but he is impossible to replace.”

Schmetzer said that Henderson’s role with the Sounders has been “crucial” to the organization.

“He is a pillar of this franchise and the Seattle soccer community, and while we are sad to see him, go we wish him the best in his next venture in Miami,” Schmetzer said.

Finally, Henderson gave his own parting words, extending his gratefulness to the city of Seattle and the organization.

“It has been great winning with you and sharing in the amazing success we have accomplished together,” Henderson said. “I am humbled to have had the opportunity to be a part of the esteemed Sounders FC legacy, working alongside some of the most talented and creative minds in Major League Soccer. To have this experience in my hometown has been an unbelievable blessing.”

The Henderson and Neville show in Miami

Henderson’s hire comes on the same day as another hire. On Monday, Phil Neville stepped down as head coach of the England women’s national team. Hours later, he was officially named the head coach of Inter Miami CF.

Rumors have been swirling that Neville is going to Miami to reunite with Beckham, becoming the club’s second manager in two years. Neville and Beckham were teammates at Manchester United.

“I am incredibly delighted for this opportunity to coach Inter Miami and to work with Chris and the entire ownership group. This is a very young club with a lot of promise and upside, and I am committed to challenging myself, my players and everyone around me to grow and build a competitive soccer culture we can all be proud of,” Neville said. “This fantastic soccer-loving market deserves consistent performances and a winning mentality, and I look forward to getting to work.”

Meanwhile, David Beckham said he’s excited to work with Neville and Henderson together.

“I am very happy with the leadership group we have established to lead the team as we turn the page following our inaugural season and look forward to having Chris and Phil join us soon,” Beckham said.