Is Sam Allardyce a good choice for USMNT boss?

Getty Images
7 Comments

Sam Allardyce isn’t so much throwing his hat into the ring to become the next U.S. national team manager.

He’s launched it in there with extreme velocity on multiple occasions, just like he has done whenever the vacant Everton job has come up in discussion.

The latest such occasion came on Thursday as a guest of Alan Brazil on talkSPORT’s breakfast show. Just take a listen to this from Big Sam when he was asked if he’d take charge of the USA.

For a man who “retired” after leading Crystal Palace to safety last season, Big Sam is quite keen to get a new job.

“Yes I would go, I think. I think there’s a presidential election in January which has stalled the process. If I got the opportunity to speak to the U.S. then I would look forward to it,” Allardyce said. “International football is totally different to Premier League football. It’s 10 games a year. There’s a huge amount of down time, to go and watch the players and all that. It’s not the same day-to-day pressures as you get in the Premier League. I’ve always loved the States. I’ve been going for many, many years. I played there for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and had a terrific time by the way.”

Pro Soccer Talk understands that some current U.S. national team players would not be opposed to Allardyce taking charge of the USA as he would likely go back to basics, give experienced players a final chance to prove themselves and would be a good fit for the defensive style of play most of the USMNT players are comfortable playing with.

Yet Allardyce having an interest in the USMNT job appears to be dividing opinion among U.S. fans. Take a look at any mention of him taking charge of the U.S. on social media.

Responses range from “please God, no” to “this is exactly what the USA needs” and quite a lot of “we could do a lot worse than him” comments.

Well, would the 63-year-old fit the bill for the Stars and Stripes? It’s a difficult one to unravel, especially given the current messy situation with the U.S. Soccer Federation and their leadership.

His managerial experience in England is unquestioned and his ability to overachieve with unfashionable teams is undoubted. But isn’t that what the U.S. are on the international stage?

Worldwide the USMNT are seen as an unfancied squad who can upset the odds by having a simple, team first approach. Look at the USA’s most successful periods in recent tournaments — the quarterfinal run at the 2002 World Cup, the 2009 Confederations Cup final and to some extent the 2016 Copa American Centenario last four berth — and try to tell me that individual talent wasn’t secondary when it came to those successes.

There were some incredible individual displays during those runs but the team came first and the U.S. were incredibly tough to beat. We talk about creating a new identity for the U.S. national team but a defensive, efficient team saw many nations not wanting to play the U.S. at the last two World Cups. What’s wrong with that?

If Allardyce was handed the reins I think the actual U.S. national team squad, to a man, would know exactly what was expected of them and his tactics may actually get the best out of the type of players the USMNT has. I can already hear you yelling “what about Christian Pulisic’s development?” and I get that. But Big Sam got the best out of mercurial players like Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff during the twilight of their careers and there are countless other examples of mavericks performing for him. There is room for a little style among his multitude of substance. Honest.

Yet, in a broader sense, would Allardyce help the U.S. kick on across all levels of the national team program?

He only had a brief few months in charge of the English national team — the issues surrounding that are worrying enough and perhaps reason enough for him not to be interviewed for the USMNT job at all — and that is his only previous experience at the international level. Plus, his comments on talkSPORT could come across as someone who fancies a paid vacation in the USA for a few years rather than helping the country fulfill its vast potential as a soccer nation. So the jury is out as to how invested he is when it comes to how young U.S. players are developed.

But, hang on, does he need to worry about that?

Simply put the USMNT head coach should worry about one thing: coaching the U.S. national team players. Don’t let Jurgen Klinsmann’s position as both the head coach and technical director of U.S. Soccer at the same time cloud your judgement. That was a bizarre situation and one which shouldn’t be replicated. Let a coach, coach. There are plenty of other top-class candidates who can work behind-the-scenes to solve the pay-to-play issues and the myriad of problems involving youth development in U.S. Soccer.

I’m not saying U.S. Soccer should hire Sam Allardyce. Far from it. There will be dozens of viable and talented candidates for the job and, in truth, nobody should be appointed until February 2018 at the earliest when we know who the next president of U.S. Soccer is and what their vision is for the future.

Allardyce being in charge of the USMNT wouldn’t be the worst appointment in the world but I’m sure that many U.S. fans would rather see a younger manager with vast MLS and USMNT experience (from a playing and coaching experience) appointed. Those same fans would also want to see a “big name” a la Klinsmann take charge and believe the U.S. is above appointing a manager whose expertise is leading struggling Premier League clubs to safety from relegation.

When you think about it, a failure to reach the 2018 World Cup is a relegation of sorts and the U.S. has reached rock bottom.

It is in those kind of situations where Allardyce usually does his best work. At least in the short-term. The only problem is the U.S. is two years away from actual competitive games.

I can see it now. Fans in the American Outlaws section dressed up in an Uncle Sam costume with an Allardyce mask over their face…