With many in the U.S. soccer community calling for USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired following the two World Cup qualifying defeats in the past week, the next logical question is simply: who next?
That’s a tough one to answer, and probably the main reason why Klinsmann is still in a job despite a steady decline in results and performances over the past 12 months.
[ MORE: State of the USMNT ]
Klinsmann took the majority of the flak as the U.S. lost to Mexico and Costa Rica to leave them bottom of the Hexagonal after the opening two games of the final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region. The latter defeat was the more disappointing result as the USMNT lost 4-0 in San Jose and some players seemed to down tools in the second half with shambolic defending ruthlessly exploited by Los Ticos.
Now that Klinsmann has had five years in the job, the calls for him to be fired are louder and clearer than ever. Many suggest that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati (who stated last week that Klinsmann will be in charge throughout the Hex campaign) doesn’t need to have a ready-made replacement lined up with the U.S. not having another World Cup qualifier until March 2017.
What if Gulati is on the lookout for a new man to take charge of the USMNT? Who would be a good fit?
Here’s a look at the contenders…
With Arena out of contract at the LA Galaxy, the former U.S. national team head coach from 1998-2006 expects to sign a new deal and be in charge of LA next season. That said, with his vast experience and knowledge of the U.S. player pool, could Arena help steady the ship and sign a two-year contract to lead the USMNT to World Cup qualification and then in Russia in 2018?
He is no nonsense and although some may question his tactics, his success in LA over the past eight years (three MLS Cups) suggests he knows exactly what he’s doing with a group of talented individuals. Arena has a knack of getting extremely talented players to buy into a team-first ethos. The U.S. needs that in abundance. He wouldn’t be a long-term option but if U.S. Soccer cares about solely making the World Cup (from a financial and prestige standpoint it should be at the front of the queue) then hiring Arena makes sense. He has that quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup on his resume too. Very handy.
Similar to Arena, Hiddink would be a short-term solution but he’s shown he can re-energize squads lacking in confidence. The veteran Dutch coach has done that twice successfully at Chelsea, most recently last season, and he’s had success in the international game with South Korea, Australia and with Russia (well, if you look at EURO 2008 at least). He would again be someone who wouldn’t change the infrastructure but would instead focus solely on coaching the team. His lack of CONCACAF knowledge could be an issue but his vast experience at club and international level prove he’s no stranger to adapting to new situations.
Highly regarded in MLS circles, the former U.S. national team player has developed a winning culture and strong identity at Sporting Kansas City. He is seen by many as in a cluster of more experienced MLS coaches who could make the step up to the national team job. Vermes has criticized Jurgen Klinsmann at times, especially for the way he’s handled Sporting KC’s skipper Matt Besler, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He has previously been involved with the U.S. as a U-20 coach but with SKC ticking along nicely but failing to truly compete for MLS Cup in each of the last three seasons since winning it in 2013, perhaps now is a good time for Vermes to step up and move on.
Out of work following his firing from the Seattle Sounders, Schmid is a vastly experienced and respected coach in U.S. soccer circles. He has helped nurture so many talented young players from his days with UCLA and then with the U.S. youth national teams and as an assistant of the USMNT. The identity he built at the Seattle Sounders when they entered MLS in 2008 and over the past eight years is to be admired. Could he replicate that direct, incisive style with the U.S.?
There’s a sense that there’s unfinished business for Bradley and U.S. Soccer. The former has of course only just taken over at Swansea City in the Premier League but the New Jersey native is not happy with the way he and his coaching staff were treated back in 2011 when Gulati replaced them with Klinsmann and his staff. Many fans of USMNT are now hankering for a return to the Bradley era, one which almost delivered the Confederations Cup in 2009 and was steady and dependable. The USMNT is anything but that right now.
Again, another candidate who has just taken on a new job, Kreis will be busy trying to turn Orlando City into a force in Major League Soccer. An impressively calm individual who has past experience of shaping the entire philosophy and culture of a club when he started off the Real Salt Lake project. Kreis turned RSL into MLS Cup champs and their playing style was admired across North America. It didn’t work out for him at New York City FC for many reasons out of his control (DP players, lofty expectations from the hierarchy etc.) but he still has one of the most thoughtful soccer brains among American coaches. Maybe not his time yet, but in the future he’ll be in the discussion as long he can turn Orlando into a regular playoff contender in MLS.