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Five logical candidates for USMNT coach not interviewed

U.S. Soccer can’t claim a thorough search process when these names were not even contacted.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As the United States Men’s National Team coaching search continues, people have been focusing on the coach that has been rumored to be the front runner for the position. But, what about the ones that were never adequately considered (at least publicly) by U.S. Soccer? There were, at minimum, five coaches that U.S. Soccer were confirmed to not have interviewed for the head coach position that have left most people scratching their heads.

Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today that USSF never reached out to Atlanta United coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who is set to leave the club at the end of the season after declining a contract extension. Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes, FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja, former New York Red Bulls head coach and current RB Leipzig assistant coach Jesse Marsch, and former Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio were supposedly also not considered for the position. If it’s true that the others weren’t contacted, that would be quite shocking.

The five men mentioned represented some of the best realistically available options for the USMNT. Unless U.S. Soccer announces that it has selected a world-class manager such as Zinedine Zidane, fans will have every right to be upset with the eventual hire.

As SB Nation’s Kim McCauley suggested, Earnie Stewart and U.S. Soccer higher-ups are either totally incompetent and did not conduct a legitimate coaching search or they decided on the coach months ago. Assuming that Stewart has known who he would like to hire for a while, then it does not make much sense that he has waited so long to make it public.

One possible conclusion would be that Stewart is waiting for the MLS season to end before announcing the hiring of a coach from the league, like Columbus Crew SC’s Gregg Berhalter. If this is the case, it would be hard to justify the lengthy search as an MLS coach could have been easily hired before the 2018 season (especially given that Bruce Arena resigned in October 2017). The MLS season did not stop the aforementioned Marsch or former New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira from moving to positions in Europe.

There are plausible, but not necessarily good, explanations for why several of these men weren’t interviewed. Tata Martino seemed unlikely to get the job after it emerged that U.S. Soccer wanted a candidate who was fluent in English. The merits of this requirement can be debated, but it supposedly eliminated Martino. Jesse Marsch was hired in July as an RB Leipzig assistant and it seemed somewhat improbable that he would take a new coaching job, after working for Leipzig for just a few months. Peter Vermes signed a contract extension in May that tied him to Sporting KC until 2023, but this shouldn’t have prevented U.S. Soccer from merely contacting him.

In the cases of Juan Carlos Osorio and Oscar Pareja, I cannot think of a good reason they were not interviewed. Perhaps Earnie Stewart didn’t rate Juan Carlos Osorio highly, but Osorio has MLS experience and success in CONCACAF with El Tri. He was named manager of Paraguay in September. The lack of contact with Oscar Pareja is perhaps the most inexplicable. There does not seem to be a plausible reason that Pareja would have rejected the position, if offered. He has an excellent record with FC Dallas and is fluent in English and Spanish, which would certainly be assets in the region.

The news that none of these five were considered will only increase the scrutiny on whoever is ultimately chosen to lead the USMNT. If Columbus Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter is hired, as some reports have indicated, cries of nepotism will be loud (Berhalter’s brother Jay is U.S. Soccer’s chief commercial director and a potential candidate to replace outgoing chief executive officer Dan Flynn). Berhalter is hardly the only candidate with connections to U.S. Soccer, but he is the only one with substantial current ties. Peter Vermes is a former USMNT player, Oscar Pareja is a former U-17 USMNT assistant coach, and Jesse Marsch is a former USMNT player and assistant coach.

Tab Ramos has also been mentioned as the next coach, but this would quite shocking as he has only ever served as head coach of the U-20 USMNT and an assistant coach for the senior side. It would be hard to justify hiring Ramos over the many other coaches with better resumes, but if he was the top candidate, he likely would already be in charge given that he’s already in the U.S. Soccer coaching system.

Regardless of who is appointed coach, it makes no sense that so many of the top options were not interviewed, and that should be incredibly aggravating for American soccer fans.