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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The US National Team Coach Search Saga

Since July, the US National Men's Team has not had a head coach. Veteran coach Bruce Arena was not given a contract extension. Thus, the search began. Or perhaps it began before Mr. Arena's last game against Ghana in Germany.

Professor Sunil Gulati, the President of the United States Soccer Federation, should be commended for his global search to find a successor to Mr. Arena, who was our most successful coach of the senior men's program. Mr. Gulati is a dedicated man, and a passionate fan, who will do great things for American soccer. But for the last two months, we have heard rumor after rumor. The Italian word "rumore" means noise. We are starting to hear too much of it regarding the matter of selecting a coach to run our domestic men's program.

When Mr. Lippi resigned two days after his World Cup triumph, the Italian Federation named a coach within a few days: Robert Donadoni, who played a few years here in the MLS. When Jürgen Klinsmann resigned his post as manager of Germany, his assistant, Joachim Löw, was named immediately to succeed him. The only country to take almost as long as the USA to name a new coach had been our eternal rivals, Mexico. But a few weeks ago, on the appointed day, they held a press conference to introduce a Mexican legend and icon, Hugo Sanchez, as their new coach.

Our men's team has not played a friendly or competitive game since last June. Nor have there been any training camps. Other countries are qualifying for the European Nations Cup and other competitions. Those without competitive fixtures on the near horizon are at least playing friendly games per the FIFA schedule. But how can we play a game without a coach? Even an interim one to keep the program moving forward, the player pool engaged, and to give the die-hard supporters something to hang their hats on?

All we hear are unconfirmed press releases from all corners of the globe. Or that a decision will be announced "in the next few weeks." According to Professor Gulati, "The new coach will speak Spanish from day one." Klinsmann has signed a deal. José Pekerman has signed a deal. Carlos Queiroz may be a front runner. Bob Bradley or Peter Nowak may become the interim coach until January. Phil Scolari might have been contacted, along with Sven Goran Eriksson. Marcello Lippi was in Cancun vacationing, and perhaps received a phone call. The Mexican Federation did contact him about their vacancy.

I realize that the soccer environment in this country is very different than others. Contract negotiations can be difficult matters, and courting the above referenced names was no easy endeavor. Finding the right man can be an onerous task. When other footballing countries can turn on a dime in this regard, why didn't the USSF at least name an interim coach last summer during the search process? Our guys play at highly competitive levels in foreign leagues; however, they haven't played a single game as a unit since last June.

Professor Gulati, we need a coach. Please name him. We will give him and you our full support.

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