Rumba Munthali: who is Nashville SC’s interim manager?

For the first time in club history, Nashville SC will have a new manager on the touchline when Rumbani “Rumba” Munthali takes charge against Atlanta United on Saturday.

Munthali was named Nashville’s interim manager after Gary Smith was fired Thursday morning. The 45-year-old will take charge of his first senior professional match on Saturday as Nashville begin the search for their next permanent manager. Who is Munthali?

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Former player

Born in Zambia, Munthali moved to Canada at a young age and was raised in Etobicoke, Ontario, beginning his soccer development in local youth teams. A standout defender, he played four years of collegiate soccer at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he played 57 games (all-starts) en route to an All-American selection as a senior.

Following his time at UAB, Munthali was drafted by the Montreal Impact (then playing in the American Professional Soccer League, the second tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid) but wasn’t signed. Instead, he signed with fellow A-League side Richmond Kickers, logging 29 appearances and two assists on either side of a loan to D3 outfit Carolina Dynamo.

Following his time with Richmond, Munthali returned to Canada, first with the Oakville Winstars and then with the Toronto Lynx, where he made 47 appearances in the A-Leaugue and USL-1. Munthali then made a significant leap, signing with Nanchang Bayi Hengyuan FC in the Chinese third tier. He made 82 appearances with the club, contributing to their 2005 Yi League championship and promotion to the Jia League. After the 2009 season, in which Nanchang Bayi finished second in the second tier and earned promotion to the Chinese Super League, Munthali stayed in the second tier with Shenyang Dongjin FC, making 16 appearances in the 2010 season before ending his playing career.

Experienced youth coach

After retiring, Munthali moved back to Toronto, coaching at the Glen Shields youth academy before joining Sporting Kansas City in 2016 as a youth coach, taking charge of the U17 and U19 teams. It was there that Munthali overlapped with Mike Jacobs, who was served as Sporting KC’s Assistant General Manager before taking over as Nashville SC’s CSO in 2017. During Munthali’s time in Kansas City, Sporting signed 12 players from the academy to Homegrown deals and were honored as the MLS Academy of the Year in 2019.

In 2023, Jacobs hired Munthali as Nashville’s Director of Player Development. Munthali’s role has been overseeing the start to finish of Nashville’s youth development, working with players from the youth levels to Huntsville all the way to the first team to build a cohesive pipeline, as well as to identify talent.

Managerial style

Not much is known about Munthali’s managerial style or tactics. Details from his youth teams with Kansas City are scarce, and with only two days between Smith’s last match and Munthali’s first, it’s unlikely that he’ll make sweeping changes, either to the lineup or Nashville’s usual personnel.

With a full week after Nashville’s match against Atlanta, though, he’ll have more time to make tweaks ahead of their trip to CF Montreal. Whether or not he attempts to begin overhauling and correcting the issues with Nashville’s structure or merely keep the ship pointing the right way while Nashville search for a full-time option remains to be seen.

Author: Ben Wrightis the Director of Soccer Content and a Senior MLS Contributor for Broadway Sports covering Nashville SC and the US National Team. Previously Ben was the editor and a founder of Speedway Soccer, where he has covered Nashville SC and their time in USL before journeying to Major League Soccer since 2018. Raised in Louisville, KY Ben grew up playing before a knee injury ended his competitive career. When he is not talking soccer he is probably producing music, drinking coffee or hanging out with his wife and kids. Mastodon

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