Chris Gbandi, the 2000 Hermann Trophy winner, three-time All-American and 2000 national champion as a student-athlete at Connecticut, and first overall pick during the 2002 MLS SuperDraft, begins his fourth season as the head coach of the Northeastern men’s soccer team during 2019. He was appointed as the program’s sixth head coach on Jan. 11, 2016, by NU athletic director Peter Roby, who lauded Gbandi for being, “a proven winner, a tremendous role model, and a leader who is committed to the student-athlete experience and the success of the program.”
Since arriving at Northeastern, Gbandi has navigated the Huskies through three challenging non-conference campaigns. During the 2017 season, he led Northeastern against three nationally ranked opponents, nearly dethroning the two-time defending national champion, No. 1 Stanford, on Sept. 3 at Cagan Stadium by limiting the Cardinal to a solitary goal. Six days later (Sept. 9) in front of a packed Parsons Field crowd of more than 2,000 strong, Gbandi steered the Huskies to the thrilling upset against No. 12 UMass Lowell, capped by Martin Nygaard’s match-winning penalty kick goal during double overtime (108th minute).
Gbandi’s 2017 Northeastern squad went on to win two more overtime matches as the Huskies sported extra-time victories against College of Charleston during their CAA opener (Sept. 16) and Vermont during their home regular-season finale (Oct. 24).
After debuting on the Northeastern sideline on Aug. 26, 2016, Gbandi collected his first career head coaching victory in style during the Huskies’ next outing (Sept. 2), leading NU to the 1-0, double overtime win at Saint Joseph’s. The result marked the first of five shutout victories that Gbandi would direct Northeastern to during the course of his first season at the helm, while his six total wins during 2016 ultimately went down as the second most by a first-year head coach during program history.
Gbandi is considered by many to be a rising star in the collegiate soccer coaching ranks, having previously assisted for two seasons on the staff at Dartmouth, where he co-led the Big Green to consecutive Ivy League championships and NCAA tournament appearances during 2014 and 2015. An accomplished coach, he also spent two years at Holy Cross as the first assistant and one season at Connecticut as the assistant director of soccer operations.
Through his five seasons as a Division I assistant coach, Gbandi co-led three teams to NCAA tournament berths (2011, 2014, 2015) – including one national quarterfinal appearance (Connecticut, 2011) – and guided 22 student-athletes to all-conference accolades.
During his two seasons at Dartmouth, Gbandi helped the Big Green attain a 24-11-3 mark overall, an 11-2-1 record within the Ivy League, and back-to-back regular-season titles that were paired with automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. After being promoted to associate head coach at the start of the 2015 campaign, he coached Dartmouth’s defense to 11 shutouts and the 11th best goals against average in the nation (0.67) as the Big Green soared to as high as No. 24 in the NSCAA national poll. By season’s end, seven Dartmouth players had earned All-Ivy League honors.
As the first assistant for Dartmouth during 2014, Gbandi was named the NSCAA East Regional Assistant Coach of the Year, having shared in leading the Big Green to their first NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons while witnessing the program peak at No. 20 in the NSCAA national poll.
Off the pitch, Gbandi played a critical role in all facets of the Dartmouth men’s soccer program, including serving as the head recruiting coordinator. He was also in charge of scheduling, opponent scouting, organizing and executing practice plans, fundraising events, and alumni relations.
Before moving on to Dartmouth, Gbandi was the first assistant at Holy Cross – a position he held from 2012 to 2014. There, he helped lead the Crusaders to the 2013 Patriot League championship match and mentor nine student-athletes to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, serving as the program’s interim head coach for six weeks during the spring of 2012.
Gbandi’s start in coaching came as the assistant director of operations at his alma mater, Connecticut, during the 2011 season. With his former UConn head coach at the helm, the legendary Ray Reid, the Huskies claimed the No. 1 spot in the NSCAA poll, secured the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and advanced as far as the national quarterfinals. Along the way, Gbandi helped coach a pair of Connecticut players to NCAA All-American accolades, while also developing the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, and Goalkeeper of the Year, Andrew Blake.
A graduate of Connecticut, Gbandi was a four-year letterwinner (1998-2001) for one of the most prestigious programs in collegiate soccer. While in Storrs, he and the Huskies captured the 2000 national championship, having reached the national semifinals the year before. With Gbandi as a back, Connecticut won four straight BIG EAST regular-season titles in addition to hoisting the 1999 BIG EAST tournament crown.
Individually, Gbandi was the 2000 Hermann Trophy recipient as college soccer’s top male player and was a finalist for the award during both the 1999 and 2001 seasons. He was a three-time All-American (1999, 2000, 2001), a four-time BIG EAST First Team selection (the first during conference history), and a three-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year (1999-2001). Gbandi was also named the 1998 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.
Following his collegiate career, Gbandi entered the 2002 MLS SuperDraft, during which the Dallas Burn (presently FC Dallas) used the first overall pick to select him. From 2002 to 2008, he made 111 MLS appearances for FC Dallas, where he was named the club’s Defender of the Year during 2006. Gbandi’s pro career transitioned to FK Haugesund in the Norwegian First Division during 2008 and to Miami FC in the USL First Division during 2010 as a player/assistant. He also played as a member of the Liberian national team during 2004.
NORTHEASTERN PLAYER ACCOLADES UNDER GBANDI
As of July 12, 2019
• NCAA Division I Men's All-Atlantic Region Third Team (1): ... 2018: Harry Swartz.
• All-CAA Second Team (3): ... 2018: Martin Nygaard, Harry Swartz ... 2017: Harry Swartz.
• All-CAA Third Team (2): ... 2018: Moustapha Samb ... 2016: Ackim Mpofu.
• CAA All-Rookie Team (1): ... 2018: Ryan Massoud.
• CAA All-Academic Team (1): ... 2016: Jonathan Thuresson.
• CAA Institutional Male Scholar-Athlete, Northeastern (1): ... 2017-18: Jonathan Thuresson.