If you assume, like I do, that Bob Bradley’s contract with US Soccer won’t be renewed in December, then you have to start thinking about who the USSF would hire to replace him. Here is my very early and admittedly speculative effort at naming the candidates.
Jurgen Klinsmann. This pick isn’t even about Klinsmann’s merits as much as whether Sunil Gulati feels that he needs to sign him as some sort of act of redemption to diehard US supporters. The reality is, Klinsmann has not won anything as a manager. In 2006, he rode the coattails of a veteran Germany team to the World Cup finals on home turf. Since then, he’s stunk out the joint in Munich and then hung around doing not much of anything. I maintain that we can do better.
Dominic Kinnear. In Houston, he has created as close to a dynasty as the modern MLS will allow. He’s helped develop lots of American talent including Stuart Holden, Brian Ching, and erm.. Ricardo Clark. Does he have the international chops after single seasons playing in Mexico and Scotland? That’s a good question, but I think he’s definitely someone Gulati will interview.
Sigi Schmid. It’s awfully hard to argue with his record in MLS but is that enough to warrant the US job. Does it hurt that he’s never played or coached outside the United States? I suspect, in this process, it might. That said, I think he’d be a good, if safe, pick, and has been at Seattle long enough for it not to be a crime if he leaves.
Peter Nowak. Now, I love this pick, but only if US Soccer commits to going young. He’s not the greatest of manager of older players and he can be staggeringly stubborn sometimes, but I can’t help thinking he’d make US Soccer a better place. Would he bail on the Union so quickly if the USSF came for him? That’s harder to say.
Outsiders US Soccer might talk to:
Fabio Capello. If England cans Capello, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if Gulati at least feigns an interview with Fabio, if only to show fans the seriousness of the search process. He’s contacted Capello before, but I can’t imagine the Italian coming to the US in the wake of a firing by England. (That said, Capello won’t necessarily need that much money from the US, if England are forced to pay him off.)
Gerard Houllier. He’s available, having left Lyon in 2007 and not managed anyone since. I can see his sales points. He would bring all the best French youth development practices to America. That said, his brief record as an international manager was brief for a reason. Remember how France didn’t qualify for World Cup 94? Houllier was in charge then and responsible for icing out stars Eric Cantona and David Ginola before “leading” France to consecutive home losses to Israel and Bulgaria. And, ask any Liverpool fan, the only thing harder to watch than his teams are his press conferences.
People the USSF should talk to, but won’t:
Steve Nicol. You want to fix the defense? Stevie Nicol will fix the defense. Now, his appointment and the subsequent unwatchable US matches would probably set back the popularity of American soccer 15 years, but I suspect they’d get results. He’s got plenty of international experience with Liverpool and Scotland and speaks English about as well as you could hope for a Scot.
Joachim Löw. It’s hard to imagine he’d stick around after coaching Germany in Euro 2008 and this World Cup. If he comes available, I’d make a big, big push after him. He’s like Jurgen Klinsmann only with Moe Howard‘s haircut and an actual record of success. Must admit, I don’t know if he speaks English. If so, I’d love to see him come here.
Raddy Antic. A bit of a flyer pick here. He’s currently the manager of his native country Serbia, but Antic is a hugely experienced manager with stints at Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid and fluent in English after his time at Luton Town. He would be enormous experience and savvy to the US program. That said, he lives in Spain and it might be hard to wedge him out of a comfy situation to come to the US.
Luis Filipe Scolari. Currently managing Palmeiras in Brazil, would he be willing to come north to take over the US? I don’t know, but I think it’d be worth asking. He managed Brazil to a World Cup and after stints in Kuwait, Japan, and Turkey, clearly appreciates a challenge and check that clears.
Javier Aguirre. Other than simply screaming, “BUT HE’S MEXICAN!” can you give me one reason why he wouldn’t be worth at least talking to?
Right for the job, might even say yes under other circumstances, but probably tied up with a better gig:
Roberto Martinez. Spectacularly introduced himself to American soccer fans with his outstanding performance as an ESPN pundit. His performance at Wigan hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but with a budget as limited as Wigan’s is, I don’t know how much to read into it. I really like the fact that he’s young and familiar with some very different soccer cultures including his native Spain but also with less sophisticated areas like England and Scotland. I think he might not be the right manager for the US this time around, but I would love to see him here after another 10 years under his belt
Roy Hodgson. Would be perfect for the US just as he’d be perfect for about a dozen other possible places including England if they whack Capello or Liverpool. Has managed and succeeded all over the world but I think he’ll be tied up with either Liverpool or England by the time Gulati would want to come calling.
Roberto Donadoni. Another figure with both international management experience and links to the US. He’s currently in charge of Napoli, if they were struggling come December, would be bail on them to come to the USA? I doubt it, but still at only 46, a name to remember.
Slaven Bilic. Was being lauded as one of the best young managers around especially after he led Croatia to a comfortable qualification in Euro 2008 despite having England and Russia in the same group. That said, once in the Alps, he was responsible in part for one of the great late game chokes of all time as Croatia fell to Turkey despite an apparent 119th minute winning goal. I’ll admit, he’s even less experienced than Klinsmann, but a 71% win percentage is nothing to shake your head at. At only 41, he might be another name to remember for the future.
Steve McClaren. If I told you that “Manager X” had managed to win sliverware with two different “small unfancied” clubs (in two different countries) after serving as an assistant on a massive club that won a Champions League, FA Cup and three league titles, you’d want to talk to that guy, right? Here’s the problem, that guy is Steve McClaren and the bigger problem is that he just accepted the coaching post at Wolfsburg and unless things go very ugly there, very quickly, won’t be around for Gulati to choose. In the wake of the three weeks, his lack of success with England is starting to look a bit more excusable. Is England to McClaren what the Red Bulls are to almost everyone in American coaching?
People whom the USSF shouldn’t talk to under any circumstances… block their phone #s if required
Sven Goran Eriksson. No one whores themselves out for jobs quite like Eriksson and I hope and pray his name doesn’t at least lurk as a possibility if Gulati wants to go foreign.
Carlos Queiroz. Responsible for much of the USSF’s old Project 2010 program, Queiroz at least has a decent understanding of American soccer. That said, as a head coach, hasn’t won anywhere. His Portugal team only just barely qualified for the 2010 World Cup and he was run out of Real Madrid on the proverbial rail after only one season. I think there may be a role for him in American soccer, but I’d rather it be as the high level development “big thinker” rather than the one actually coaching the national team.