USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not enjoy the best start to the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying last week. With calls for a change at the top and reports of the US Soccer Federation already having been looking for a replacement during the past year, the conversation shifts to who could take over if Klinsmann is removed as US manager.
The US has only eight games remaining in the Hexagonal Round of qualifying to ensure their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Opening matches with Mexico and Costa Rica were always going to be difficult, but it was the way in which they were defeated and how they approached the encounters tactically that has fans and supporters mainly fed up with Klinsmann’s management.
US Soccer does not regularly make decisions like this with great haste, but they also generally do not retain a manager for multiple World Cup cycles. This is a practice worldwide, and except a team that won the World Cup (Spain and Germany for example). Head coaches are not always involved in the buildup to the next tournament.
Since the 1990 competition in Italy, the US has only kept on Bruce Arena for multiple World Cups (2002 & 2006).
While the timing is not necessarily ideal for the change, now is a unique moment that could see immediate action for the Stars and Stripes. The next qualifiers are in late March. Along with the traditional January camp, a new manager would have ample time to assess the situation and get players up to speed with what they want to see.
Perhaps for the long term or perhaps just on an interim basis, we take a look at three candidates who could help get the US back on the road to Russia in place of Jurgen Klinsmann.
Sometimes in soccer, as is the case in real life, one must go back to go forward. In that regard, bringing in one of the most successful American soccer coaches in history may be just what the US needs to rediscover their form.
Five MLS Cup titles and three MLS Coach of the Year honors highlight the Brooklyn native’s resume. On the international stage, Arena led the USMNT to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup with a resounding 2-0 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16. Arena and the US fell flat at the 2006 tournament in Germany, but with hindsight, it seems a change should have been made earlier at that time.
Bruce Arena’s successful record and knowledge of the American game would be a tremendous asset in the final stage of qualifying.
Three College Cup championships at UCLA and two MLS Cup titles (LA Galaxy & Columbus Crew) are just part of what Sigi Schmid can bring to the US national team. Inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015, Schmid also captured four US Open Cup titles with the Seattle Sounders.
Schmid departed Seattle this summer after eight seasons in charge and would likely be available immediately. He has often been linked with the position in the past and, similar to Bruce Arena, has seen it all throughout the various levels of American soccer.
He would command the respect of the players and may be able to jumpstart an attack that has not been as potent recently.
A member of the USMNT at the 1990 World Cup and 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes may be one of the best possible options to take over for Klinsmann. An MLS player for seven years, Vermes took over the Kansas City franchise in 2009 and had turned them into a consistent title contender.
Vermes and Sporting KC captured the 2013 MLS Cup with a victory over Real Salt Lake, and his tactics have proven to be a winning formula year after year. A high-press 4-3-3 formation is preferred and often takes away the opposition’s gameplan through constant pressure and fast movement.
A switch to this type of lineup could see the US move forward into the attack in a more proactive and efficient manner. Peter Vermes, Sigi Schmid, and Bruce Arena are all successful head coaches who could be contenders for the USMNT position. However, it is ultimately the decision of US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati if time is up on Jurgen Klinsmann.