The U.S. Soccer men’s coaching landscape is a total mess right now. While the senior team has an interim manager and a search for a permanent name is underway, thanks to a recently revealed hiring freeze, several youth teams are without leaders as well. The U-23 team will soon need someone to begin preparations for Olympic qualifying and the federation may not have to look very far for the best candidate for the job.
Qualifying for the Olympic games has been a well-documented nightmare for the U.S. men’s program, having failed to do so in the last two times of trying. If for nothing more than pride, you can bet that a lot of attention and resources will be spent on making sure it doesn’t happen for a third straight tournament.
Current USMNT interim manager Dave Sarachan took over the position from Bruce Arena with very little fanfare and plenty of cynicism. However, the veteran of American soccer has quietly done a very good job transitioning the U.S. player pool from repetitive and tired veterans to new and exciting young prospects.
Tim Weah, one of those new up-and-coming talents, went on record this summer in praise of Sarachan. The PSG forward even went as far as saying that the interim tag should be lifted from his coach’s title.
While it’s highly doubtful that the USSF would ever make the 64-year-old the permanent senior team manager, strictly based on public perception after a bitterly disappointing World Cup qualifying failure, it makes perfect sense to reward him for his good work in the last year.
The hiring freeze has hurt any chance of the U-23 crop getting together early and getting familiar with each other. But what if you didn’t have to hire anyone at all? Sarachan is the best and most logical candidate for the job. And it just so happens that most of the players he’s incorporated to the senior team are eligible for the U-23 team as well, thus solving the issue of familiarity.
Sarachan’s time as interim USMNT manager have brought encouraging results, both on the scoreboard and in figurative terms. A young and hungry crop of prospects are fighting to prove themselves every time they are called upon. In his six friendlies in charge, the inexperienced sides he’s thrown out there have all looked organized and competitive. They’ve only lost once in those matches and even managed a draw against the World Cup champions. Of course it’s irresponsible to put too much credence into friendly results, but that’s all we have to go on at this point. Beyond the scorelines, each team Sarachan has assembled appeared to have a good understanding of tactics and responsibilities.
When peering out into the coaching landscape, there are no obvious candidates to take on this important job. Tab Ramos himself has plenty of Youth National Team coaching experience (with mixed results) but it seems he has plenty on his plate already, including coaching the U-20 team. Georgetown’s Brian Wiese is a logical option if you want to go the college route, although that didn’t go too swimmingly the last time with Caleb Porter. Someone like John Wolyniec of New York Red Bulls II has a reputation for developing young players, but has little experience coaching at this type of level.
Sarachan has a desire to stay on as USMNT manager, but realistically he has slim to no chance of that happening. He’s also shown a willingness to work with young players. This proposition seems like the best compromise for all involved. The players get a coach who they’ll accept as a leader won’t need to adapt quickly to. Sarachan gets a reward for his good work in a difficult time. And U.S. Soccer gets a coach who gives the program a realistic chance of qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 12 years.