Overall, the hiring process to find the next US Men’s National Team manager has been completely in-line with what US Soccer has become known for - it seems like it has been less the result of an in-depth search where a set of criteria for the ideal coach that has been painstakingly outlined and then vigorously pursued than a foregone conclusion that has the potential for at least a conflict of interest, if not outright nepotism, in the man chosen for the job from a field candidates that seemingly always numbered one.
This raises some questions: what is different about the process for hiring a coach between this and the last times a manager was chosen in what seemed like a more or less unilateral decision with perhaps some input with one other executive at Soccer Mansion? Why will this be any kind of step forward for US Soccer? What is the criteria for picking a new manager? Who ultimately will make this decision? Why hasn’t there been more transparency out of the organization in this process?
Rather than an ambitious hire that could bring something new to the team, and entice dual-nationals to play for the Stars and Stripes perhaps, the federation seems to be going with a safe and known quantity. But it doesn’t have to - even at this late hour there are incredible choices that the federation could make in selecting a new manager.
Jurgen Klinsmann - Many will scoff, after all it was Klinsmann who searched in vain for players to make a difference for the USMNT and could only come up with Bobby Wood and Michael Bradley or doing wacky things like assuming Alejandro Bedoya could play more than one position. Ironically, were he manager today Klinsmann would have the pool of players testing themselves at the highest level that he always wanted.
Really, as long as Klinsmann is still cashing in on his time as the USMNT manager as his contract runs until the end of the year, he might as well do the job he’s being paid to so that the federation can pretend to interview candidates and do a thorough job of finding the next coach.
His contract no doubt hung like an albatross around the neck of US Soccer and added another variable to contend with for an organization with little vision, terrible planning, and somehow worse implementation. The length of his contract also meant that it made more financial sense for US Soccer to wait until after the managerial hiring window that saw other potential fits like Tata Martino go to Mexico and Juan Carlos-Osorio go to Paraguay had slammed shut.
Gritty - The Philadelphia Fliers mascot has everything that a USMNT coach needs: nobody has heard of him, he has a job he is dubiously qualified for, he’s 7 foot 1 and has googly eyes, and he is from a city with a deep-seeded inferiority complex that nobody would remember existed if they didn’t pass through it on their way either to or from Washington, DC or New York. Plus, hockey and soccer are basically the same thing and surely if Bruce Arena could manage to fail to qualify for the World Cup, so could Gritty.
Sigi Schmid - No, having Gritty and Sigi Schmid on the same list is not redundant, though I am not sure that they are not the same life-form. The former LA Galaxy manager has a key attribute that would make him attractive for the USMNT job: he’s currently available. Schmid also has somethings going for him that would make him a surprisingly good manager, he knows the MLS American player pool. Plus, he wouldn’t need to worry about managing the big egos of world class soccer stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or trying to get Giovani dos Santos motivated enough to do anything other than collect a paycheck. And surely if Bruce Arena could manage to fail to qualify for the World Cup, so could Sigi.
Gregg Berhalter- Just because he’s going to be the next manager doesn’t mean it was likely to happen. USSF Chief Commercial Director Jay Berhalter’s brother has spent the last season and a half working for someone who was trying to make the case that so few people wanted to watch his team that they should be moved to Austin, Texas by doing things like trading for Gyasi Zardes and making it difficult to get through security to attend games. Truly, Berhalter may be uniquely qualified to manage the USMNT, he’s already had to contend with working in a dysfunctional organization concerned more with narrow self-interests than soccer while also having severe limitations in terms of the talent and funding needed to compete at a decent level.
Caleb Porter - And you didn’t think it could get any more unambitious than Berhalter.
American Manager Dave Sarachan - And you didn’t think it could get any more unambitious than Porter (don’t tell me he’s number 6, it’s my list and 5 makes for a better headline, nobody has time to read about six managers anyway).
OK, look, I didn’t say it would be an impressive list or even a good one. Tata Martino is going to Mexico, JCO is going to South America, Thierry Henry is actually wealthy enough to live in Monaco and enjoy himself - for big name available coaches there’s Zinedine Zidane, who somehow managed to get one of the best players to ever play the game to win the Champions League three times in a row. Surely, he could get the best out of Wil Trapp. Then there’s Arsene Wenger who could probably implement the style, tactics, and mentality to be one of the most successful teams in the world in 2006. Frankly, it would be a massive success for the USMNT to only be 12 years behind the best teams in the world so stop making Arsenal jokes.