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Minnesota United will begin its preseason next month the same way it ended the regular season in October, with longtime assistant Sean McAuley still as its interim coach.

McAuley coached last season's final two games — a 5-2 home victory over L.A. Galaxy and a 3-1 loss at Sporting Kansas City on Decision Day — after Adrian Heath was fired. The loss to Kansas City meant the Loons missed the playoffs after making them four consecutive seasons.

The decision to keep him as interim coach for now will give the team time for a proper search once new Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director Khaled El-Ahmad starts his new job in Minnesota and MLS after the holidays.

Players report to start preseason training in Blaine in early January, about the same time El-Ahmad begins. He leaves his current job for England's third-division Barnsley FC on Dec. 15 by mutual agreement.

McAuley will be starting his sixth season with Minnesota United after eight seasons as a MLS assistant with Orlando City and Portland.

He will be considered in the search for the new coach if he chooses.

The team's release said El-Ahmad will determine the timing and lead the process of hiring the new coach, only the second coach the club has ever had, when he arrives. The team will preseason train briefly in Blaine and then in both Mexico and near Palm Springs, Calif., in the second annual Coachella tournament.

Loons CEO Shari Ballard in a news release called herself "personally grateful" for McAuley's leadership and willingness to continue as interim coach. He and assistant coaches Ian Fuller and Stewart Kerr will remain working during a busy December when the club made contract options on players last Friday and must make decisions on free agents, trades and potential draft picks.

She said she has full confidence in those three coaches and other staff to lead the club through the transition period.