Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.
According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.
Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.
Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.
It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.
Which managers should the USMNT consider to replace Bruce Arena?
PST decided to take a look at five managers worth the USMNT’s attention.
Peter Vermes (Sporting KC)
The former USMNT player is surely one of the names that has been talked about for years now when mentioned in the same breath with the national team job. His resume in MLS speaks for itself, including an MLS Cup title and numerous U.S. Open Cup triumphs.
From bringing out the best in Graham Zusi and Matt Besler to establishing relationships with like young American talents like Erik Palmer-Brown, Vermes has proven that he has the eye for talent, while doing so without spending large amounts of money. His philosophy in MLS has been one of a rarity by not targeting top international talents like Sebastian Giovinco and David Villa.
Tab Ramos (U.S. U-20 national team)
The 51-year-old will likely receive high consideration for the job given his U.S. Soccer standing, and rightfully so. Ramos is widely-considered one of the top midfielders in the USMNT’s history, while playing a role in two World Cups (the first of which came with Vermes in 1990).
The former player knows the inner-workings of the U.S. system and has played an important role in developing some of the country’s top players in the past between the national team academy and even building his own academy based out of New Jersey (NJSA 04).
2017 has been somewhat of an anomaly for Pareja and his FC Dallas side, but make no mistake, this man is highly qualified for the national team job. In fact, he offers something quite useful that could benefit the USMNT greatly if he were to be hired. Not only did Pareja play in MLS for over half-a-decade, but his success in nearly four seasons with FC Dallas, where he also spent the majority of his playing career, is undeniable.
His relationships with hispanic players has helped Dallas become one of the top clubs in MLS on a consistent basis, and he played an influence in goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez making the switch from representing Mexico to playing for the USMNT. Similar to what Jurgen Klinsmann did with dual-nationals, Pareja could do the same.
Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers)
Since 2012, Porter has been one of the foremost targets of the USMNT job among fans and media alike given his relationship with U.S. Soccer and his success since coming out of the ranks of the University of Akron, which has become one of college soccer’s most prevalent schools.
The 42-year-old has already won an MLS Cup with the Timbers and MLS Coach of the Year, making him a prime target for the job because of his ability to find success on multiple levels of the game. Additionally, Porter managed the U-23 national team during 2011 and 2012, however, in the lead up to the Olympics he failed to guide the team to the Summer Games.
Gerardo “Tata” Martino (Atlanta United)
The dark-horse contender on this list for sure, but Martino is realistically the best candidate if you’re strictly looking at his experience and resume. The veteran boss has managed both the Paraguayan and Argentine national teams during his coaching career, leading the former to the quarterfinals in 2010.
He’s managed Spanish giants Barcelona as well, which certainly adds more dazzle to his prior history as a coach, but his short time in Atlanta has already made him one of MLS’ top managers. With the expansion side, he’s not only clinched a playoff spot in the club’s first season, but done so in style with a squad of players that most teams would kill for. There’s no question that Martino has an eye for talent, and perhaps he’ll be able to help grow some of America’s best youth.
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men,”
Captain, “Cool Hand Luke”
(It made us sick typing that headline, too).
So, about qualifying for that 2022 World Cup in Qatar…
It’s difficult to turn our attention beyond the short-term devastation and long-term problems that come from failing to qualify for a World Cup, especially in the forgiving world of CONCACAF qualifying.
For one thing, it’s challenging not to wallow in the disappointment of what is likely a humiliating exclamation point placed on the glittering USMNT careers of Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Geoff Cameron.
The last two will play a bit longer and have some chance of playing a bit part in the next round of World Cup qualifying, but Dempsey and Howard are almost certainly on the verge of their testimonials.
Then there’s the batch of players who won’t get their first taste of the World Cup. Christian Pulisic won’t be able to showcase himself at the age of 19, building up some experience for his prime. Weston McKennie, DeAndre Yedlin (a second for him), Ethan Horvath, and Matt Miazga can’t garner time, either.
Even ignoring that he also coached one of its most embarrassing tournaments (World Cup 2006) in addition to this fiasco, he has to leave the gig. If you want to debate this for some reason, let’s not waste everyone else’s time. Email email@example.com.
Here’s one thing to remember: A lot of desperate people are going to try to tell you everything is okay. It brings us to the lines so famously uttered by Strother Martin and sampled by Axl Rose in “Civil War.” It’s not good when power reaches a point where it dismisses failure as happenstance or bad luck when it so clearly is, well, failure and the product of design.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is a powerbroker and has had some terrific success guiding the American ship, but the worst thing American soccer can do right now is assume “it could be worse.”
Hardly! And, in fact, perhaps some of us should’ve said that when Arena was hired to replace Jurgen Klinsmann. We rely on the familiar far too often when it comes to American soccer.
I mean LISTEN to this guy, as if the side hasn’t been below its own standards and expectations for the majority of play since the end of the Copa America Centenario:
Gulati: “You don’t make wholesale changes on a ball being two inches wide or two inches in…We’ll look at everything.” #usmnt
And we — myself included — are so antsy to celebrate Major League Soccer that we make huge excuses for it. Sure, MLS is improving other players in CONCACAF, but the league is also largely American. And it’s not about those Costa Rican, Jamaican, T&T, or even U.S. kids getting better, it’s more about accepting America’s best talents coming home to play in MLS rather than challenging themselves in much better leagues.
You can love MLS, love the USMNT, and accept that they both need each other to improve but also need to eschew the easy option. Maybe Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya just naturally got a little worse when they came home because of natural career decline, or maybe it was about not playing against better competition. Matt Besler choosing to stay home at Sporting KC instead of trying his hand at Fulham or Sunderland was great for us as MLS fans, but did he reach his potential? Right now, it’s a bit too easy to say no (or yes).
If someone lives to the ripe age of 75, they maybe get 16-17 chances to be cognizant of their nation’s play in a World Cup. We’re set to miss one. RIP.
So, uh, back to the path forward.
Let Arena resign, hire a new coach… And let’s stop with the also-rans. If you need to be an America-first guy, go for Peter Vermes (Sporting KC) or Greg Vanney (Toronto FC). Talk to Tata Martino about leaving Atlanta United, and have a guy who understands MLS but also will work to get his players in great spots. Or find an alum to keep driving the technical bus. What’s Steve Cherundolo doing? Tab Ramos? Claudio Reyna? Yes, you may find a coach who does some things that bother you tactically, but at least you won’t be looking clueless in a must-win match at Trinidad and Tobago.
Build up to Brazil… While the United States is playing friendlies for the next two years, it needs to let its new coach and a bevy of new faces go through their international growing pains ahead of the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.
That team shouldn’t be about a bunch of wily vets trying to manufacture a positive result. It should be about seeing what Miazga, McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Cristian Roldan, Kenny Saief, and Sebastian Lletget can do against top international competition. With loads of love and respect to Besler, I don’t need to see him mark Neymar.
Get over yourself… The road to a World Cup should be a relative cakewalk for the United States given its talent, which regularly qualifies for major tournaments at the youth level. (And for goodness’ sake, can we please stop with the “CONCACAF is hard” lip service and walk around like a team that knows it’s going to work hard enough to maximize its talent and prevail?).
Well, that means recognizing that the U.S. Soccer Academy system has to be nurtured, and the right top-to-bottom focus should be implemented so the concept of an American team missing out on an Olympics or World Cup at any age level is a thing of the past.
Perhaps this is an argument for bringing in an outsider, someone who is going to say, “I’ve seen it all, and you’re not as good as you think you are.” Kid, try your hand on a bigger club. Veteran, here’s a role you might not like. Not on board? Cool, we’ll find someone else.
November 2019… Ugh. That’s a long way away, but shortly after the Copa America, the U.S. will begin World Cup qualifying again with a fourth round against a decent team, a below average team, and an poor team.
How many surefire guys do we know at this point? Here’s a preliminary look, with ages at that time in parentheses.
You’d say Miazga (24) is the front-runner at CB, Carter-Vickers (21) is in the mix too, and Cameron could still be in the fold for that spot or CM2. Bradley isn’t an improbable option there either, nor is Kellyn Acosta. Jordan Morris will hopefully have a claim toward Altidore’s spot, and Haji Wright is one to watch in Europe. Horvath and Bill Hamid are among the goalkeepers who could get looks.
Left back in America is a death spiral. Just assume teams will be ruining Hex matches and World Cup thoughts from that spot (you’ll notice the two goals versus T&T originated from room on that side).
By then the team should be teething several of Tyler Adams (CM), Josh Sargent (FW), Tim Weah (FW), Jonathan Lewis (FW), Matthew Olosunde (DF), and Jonathan Gonzalez (MF).
It doesn’t feel good right now, and it won’t for some time. The interconfederation playoffs are gonna sting, the World Cup draw is gonna be a throat punch, and the tournament itself will carry emotional paper cuts every time you see Alberth freaking Elis dribbling at a world class defense.
But stinging is good if it’s antiseptic. And U.S. Soccer better have some important people ready to flip the script.
Storm had spent the last few days talking to a girl he met on Instagram, setting up their first date — or so he thought. Rather, Dom Dwyer and Soony Saad, Storm’s professional jokester teammates, had enlisted the help of Vermes and were laying the groundwork for the team’s annual April Fools’ Day prank (below video).
The gag was expertly crafted, but flawlessly executed above all. This soccer thing is working out pretty well for Vermes, but a fall-back career in Hollywood, featuring overprotective-father phrases like “[Your parents] would not be pleased with this moment” and “I know everything that’s going on in this city,” is there for the taking.
Sporting KC players and coaches have a history of quality April Fools’ Day pranks, as you can see here, and especiallyhere.
Dwyer’s 22 league goals scored in 2014 set a new club record. With an uncharacteristically shoddy defense down the stretch, Dwyer’s goalscoring exploits were the only thing keep Sporting KC’s hopes of repeating as MLS Cup champions alive. To get back to the promised land in 2015, it’s going to take another boatload of goals and a return of the league’s stingiest defense, as the were in 2012 and 2013. If Dwyer falters, they’ll struggle to score, big time.
Other names to watch: Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber
Perhaps no head coach in MLS has a clearer picture of what he expects from his players and how he wants to play. With Espinoza back in the fold, the options Vermes, who is also the team’s technical director, has at his disposal are endless. Feilhaber was the most unheralded midfielder in 2014, and he’s likely to play a number of different roles this year. Finding the right balance between attack and defense has always been a bit of an issue under Vermes, but this year’s squad looks more balanced and deeper than ever before.
Despite moving to the Western Conference, they’re still a safe bet to make it back to the playoffs, anywhere between the West’s No. 2- and No. 6-seed. Without CONCACAF Champions League to worry about, they should get off to a quicker start to the regular season. Losing Besler and Zusi to the Gold Cup for a month will undoubtedly hurt, but they’re deeper in every area this year, capable of holding down the fort.