Former Irish Player of the Year, international, and USL veteran will lead Hailstorm FC in its inaugural USL League One campaign in 2022
Nicknamed “Mr. Hat Trick” for his goal-scoring exploits around the world as a player, Ireland-born Éamon Zayed has been named the first head coach of the USL League One expansion side Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC.
Zayed, who holds a UEFA “A” coaching license, joins Hailstorm FC after spending the last two seasons with the Chattanooga Red Wolves SC of USL League One.
“I’m extremely excited to be here and to be a part of what I believe will be one of the most exciting franchises in all of USL, not just League One,” said Zayed. “I think USL League One is the fastest-growing and most exciting league in the United States. I’m here to build something that the community will be proud of, and I’m here to be successful and to win championships. I want to give the area a winning team.”
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Zayed played for Leicester City’s reserve side as a teenager before returning to Ireland in 2002 to play for three-time League of Ireland First Division winners Bray Wanderers FC. In 2003 he scored 19 goals for the Seagulls, a club single-season record that stands to this day and a tally that includes a nine-minute hat-trick scored against Dundalk, the fastest hat-trick in club history. At the end of the 2003 campaign, Zayed was named the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland (PFAI) Players’ Young Player of the Year. In all, Zayed scored 59 goals in 117 appearances for Bray Wanderers, and is fourth on the club’s all-time scoring list.
In 2006 Zayed signed with Drogheda United, and was the team’s leading scorer in 2007 when the Drogs won their first League of Ireland Premier Division title. He scored 47 goals over three years for the claret and blue, including three goals in the Europa League.
Zayed spent 2008-10 with Sporting Fingal, helping the team qualify for the Europa League twice, before signing with Derry City for the 2011 season. He led Derry to a third-place finish in the Premier Division, and scored the only goal in Derry’s 1-0 win over Cork City in the League of Ireland Cup final. The league’s top scorer that year with 22 goals, Zayed was named PFAI Players’ Player of the Year while also being named to the Premier Division Team of the Year.
Zayed’s 127 goals in the League of Ireland are 23rd-most all time.
At the end of the League of Ireland’s 2011 season, Zayed signed with Iranian Pro League club Persepolis. He made his Persepolis debut against archrivals Esteghlal in the Tehran Derby—the biggest derby in Asia—and after coming on as a substitute with Persepolis down a man and trailing 2-0, scored a hat-trick to win the match. For his efforts, Goal.com named Zayed its World Player of the Week, beating out legendary Chelsea and Ivory Coast forward—and current Phoenix Rising co-owner—Didier Drogba for top honors. The following month, Zayed scored a hat-trick against Al-Shabab in the AFC Champions League, the first Champions League hat-trick in Persepolis history, and two months later scored yet another hat-trick, earning him the nickname of “Mr. Hat-Trick.”
In December 2015, Zayed signed with Indy Eleven, and on the final day of the 2016 season he scored a hat-trick against the Carolina RailHawks to clinch the NASL spring season title for Indy. Zayed led the Eleven in scoring in 2016 and 2017, and is the club’s all-time leading scorer.
Zayed played for Charlotte Independence in 2018, and Chattanooga Red Wolves in 2019 and 2020, before retiring as a player following the 2020 season.
While with the Bray Wanderers, Zayed made six appearances for the Republic of Ireland’s U21 side. With a father from Tunisia and grandparents from Libya he was eligible to represent three different nations at the senior level, and between 2011 and 2015 he made eight appearances for Libya, appearing in the 2011 Pan Arab Games and a number of FIFA Men’s World Cup qualifiers. Zayed scored his lone international goal in 2013 in a 1-1 tie with Equatorial Guinea.
Zayed began his coaching journey in 2015 when he received his UEFA Youth Certificate (now “D” and “C” coaching licenses), and he spent his offseasons coaching in Ireland and India. While playing for Indy Eleven he also served as the volunteer assistant coach of the Ball State University soccer team, helping guide the Cardinals to the 2017 Mid-American Conference West Division title and a berth in the 2017 MAC Tournament semifinals. He spent 2019 and 2020 as a player and assistant coach with the Red Wolves while working toward his UEFA “A” coaching license.
“This is my first head coaching role, but I believe I am 100% ready for this role,” said Zayed. “I think this role is absolutely perfect for me, and I genuinely cannot think of a better coaching role to get into. It’s a perfect marriage between myself and the Hailstorm.”
Hailstorm FC will join the Northern Colorado Owlz professional baseball team in calling Future Legends Complex home when the 2022 USL League One season begins. Future Legends is a 118-acre sports complex in Windsor, Colorado, providing top-level athletic facilities for major tournaments, events, and leagues for players of all ages and skill levels. The complex includes a professional stadium, one collegiate stadium, multiple baseball diamonds, multi-purpose fields, an almost four-acre indoor bubble sports arena, hotel lodging, and retail options.