And an outsider emerges…
English commentator Ian Darke says the United States will talk to Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill regarding its vacant managerial spot.
Dave Sarachan is leading the USMNT for Tuesday’s friendly in Portugal, and the lack of competitive international fixtures for more than 600 days means U.S. Soccer needs not rush to find a boss.
[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose vs. Portugal ]
O’Neill, 48, was capped 31 times by Northern Ireland and played club for Newcastle United, Dundee United, Hibernian, and Wigan Athletic during a long and well-traveled playing career.
He managed Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers before taking the NI gig, leading the Norn Iron to an upset of Ukraine at EURO 2016 and a 1-0 knockout round loss to Wales. Northern Ireland finished second in its World Cup qualifying group, but lost an international playoff to highly-favored Switzerland 1-0 on an away goal (one that came from an awful penalty call).
That said, O’Neill still has limited experience in managing, and NI was blessed by favorable draws in EURO and World Cup qualifying. Marquee wins are few and far between, especially away from home, and NI does have some strong players in Steven Davis, Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley, and Jonny Evans.
O’Neill might be a good choice, given his experience in rallying an underdog on the world stage. He’s certainly the right sort of guy to interview, so this is a promising sign. Most important in my book? He’s not Sam Allardyce.