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Named the eighth head coach of the Kickers on November 6, 2019, and later adding the title of Chief Sporting Officer on November 19, 2020, Darren Sawatzky is ushering in a new era for one of the most historic clubs in U.S. Soccer.
Coming into his fourth season with Richmond, Sawatzky looks to build on the success of his first three seasons. In his first season with the club, he led the team to an 8-6-2 record, the first winning record for the club in four years, and had the team into the hunt for the USL League One final heading into the final match of the season. Under his leadership, the club was able to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic without a single positive test. His scouting heading into his first season with Richmond found the 2020 USL League One MVP and Golden Boot winner, Emiliano Terzaghi.
The Kickers made their first postseason appearance since the 2016 season during Sawatzky’s second season at the helm. The club finished with a second-straight winning record in the regular season as Terzaghi and Akira Fitzgerald led the team from either end of the pitch. Terzaghi won his second-straight MVP and Golden Boot award while Fitzgerald was named Goalkeeper of the Year. Both players finished as All-League First Team.
Sawatzky’s third season saw the Kickers earn the 2022 USL League One Players’ Shield for winning the regular season. The Kickers set the single-season goal-scoring record with 54 goals while producing five all-league selections including two MVP candidates in Terzaghi and Jonathan Bolanos. Terzaghi went on to win his third-straight MVP award becoming the first player in American men’s outdoor soccer history to do so.
Sawatzky made the cross-country move to Richmond after a campaign with USL League One side FC Tucson, bringing in experience with coaching in the league. This was the first professional season for Tucson, after serving as a USL League Two club for the previous seven years.
Before joining Tucson, Sawatzky made a name for himself in the coaching ranks within the Seattle Sounders FC system. He led the Seattle Sounders U23 USL League Two squad along with directing the Development Academy, producing talents such as current United States National Team players Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray). During his time with the U23s, Sawatzky coached current Kickers center back Nathan Aune
Serving as an assistant coach in their final two USL seasons, Sawatzky served under current Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. The club claimed the Commissioner’s Cup and the League Championship during his first season in 2007.
The Seattle native also had a stint steering the Guam National Team, coaching former Kickers defender Alex Lee.
He holds a USSF A License and a French Federation Formation license.
Starting his professional playing career in Major League Soccer, Sawatzky was drafted by the New England Revolution in 1996, playing two seasons before moving on to the Dallas Burn in 1998. He went on to sign with the Charleston Battery later that year. Sawatzky was back in MLS the next year with the Colorado Rapids. A year later, Sawatzky found himself back in his hometown, signing with the Seattle Sounders, then a USL Championship side.
Entering his fifth season with the Kickers, Elovaara came to the club after serving as the Commissioner of the Boys Elite Clubs National League (ECNL).
Announced in February 2023, Elovaara accepted a the role as Richmond United’s Technical Director in addition to his role as the Kickers’ Head Assistant Coach and Director of Methodology and Development.
Under Elovaara’s direction, Richmond United’s methodology will match the Kickers’ creating a direct player pathway to professional soccer in the Richmond area.
He was a four-year letter winner at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). A four-year starter in college, he is the all-time leader in games started for the NCAA Division I Seahawks while earning his BA in English.
Elovaara followed his collegiate career with over 150 professional matches in Finland. Receiving his MA of English Philology from the University of Oulu in Finland in 2002, Elovaara continued his studies, earning his Doctor of Philosophy in Cultural Studies in 2007.
Fluent in three languages, Elovaara holds a USSF A Senior License, UEFA B License, and UEFA Football Strength and Conditioning diploma.
Cappelletti joins Sawatzky’s technical staff on the bench for his first season with the club. The 34-year-old from Kent, Wash. brings nearly a decade of experience coaching and developing pre-professional talent as well as playing experience at the collegiate, pre-professional, and national team levels.
As a player, Cappelletti began his collegiate career at Wallace State playing during the 2007 and 2008 seasons and earning NJCAA All-Region honors in both his freshman and sophomore seasons before transferring to Division I school Valparaiso where he played from 2009-10. The defender also simultaneously played at the pre-professional level with the Indiana Invaders in 2009 and Kansas City Brass in 2010 while at Valparaiso. After graduation, Cappelletti played at Rocket City United from 2011-12.
He would move to Eugene, Ore. to join Lane United FC – a former Premier Development League (PDL) side, now, USL League Two – in 2013 when it first formed and played exhibition matches to raise community awareness ahead of its inaugural season in 2014. During that inaugural season, Cappelletti moved into an assistant coach role and honed his style, spending the majority of his young coaching career there before stepping into the head coach role at Lane United for the 2019 season.
It was during this stretch of time that Cappelletti and Sawatzky would begin to build a relationship, first on opposite sides of the touchline as coaches in the PDL when Sawatzky coached Seattle Sounders U23, then, in 2016, Cappelletti earned a call-up to play for the Guam National Team while Sawatzky was the coach.
Fitzgerald returns to the Reds for a fifh season following another record-setting campaign in 2022. Finishing as a Goalkeeper of the Year nominee and a member of the USL League One All-League Second Team, Fitzgerald set the new single-season record with 106 saves while becoming the first player in the league to make 100 appearances.
A historic 2021 campaign saw the veteran keeper set a new single-season record of 89 saves while also leading all goalkeepers with 10 clean sheets. He is the first player in the USL’s modern era encompassing USL League One and USL Championship to lead the league in both saves and clean sheets in the same season. He collected his first end-of-season awards as a member of the Kickers as he was named the Goalkeeper of the Year and to the All-League First Team. He was previously named a finalist for Goalkeeper of the Year in 2019. Fitzgerald was recognized as a member of the league’s team of the week four times as well as earning a nomination for USL League One Player of the Month for his performances during April and May.
Fitzgerald is a versatile, modern goalkeeper. The veteran keeper started all 16 matches for the Kickers in 2020, posting three shutouts, and recording 50 saves — tied for the highest in USL League One. He also recorded 16 clearances throughout the season. After his season-high eight save performance at South Georgia Tormenta FC early in the season, Fitzgerald was honored on the League One Team of the Week.
Joining Richmond in 2019, Fitzgerald took the field 25 times. He finished the season with eight clean sheets behind 72 saves, which was good enough to be tied for second in the league in clean sheets and saves. His strong season saw him named a finalist for the 2019 USL League One Goalkeeper of the Year award.