There’s no question whether the Italian national team job is a different class than the United States men’s national team.
Aside from the fact that both sides failed to qualify for the World Cup, have a vacant manager’s chair, and decent recent results at youth level, the disparity is striking (and not all in negative ways for American fans).
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Italy has won four World Cups and a EURO, and played in four additional title games. Their domestic league is Top Five, and only six pool players who’ve been called up in the last 12 months come from outside Serie A. Three play in the Premier League, two in La Liga, and one in Ligue 1. It’s qualifying slate meant top Spain or face a home-and-home playoff with another top European team.
On the other hand, the U.S. faces the most forgiving qualifying run this side of Oceania. It’s room for improvement on the international stage is much higher, and its current group is so much further from its potential than the Italian side that it’s hard to find an apt comparison (Consider that, playoff loss aside, Italy has beat the following sides in the last 18 months: Belgium, Spain, Netherlands, and Uruguay).
Differences/similarities aside — and yes, it’s a tad ridiculous to get this deep into what separates Italy from the U.S. in terms of soccer — the USSF could do worse than monitoring how the Italians are handling their World Cup disaster.
1) Accepting responsibility without caveats about their previous successes — Here’s federation president Carlo Tavecchio (who it must be noted has said some reprehensible racist things. We would never gloss over something like that, but we’re talking about the soccer side here). After blasting player selection, he then said, ‘Yeah, but I hired the dude”:
“How can you not play [Lorenzo] Insigne? I told the staff, not him. I can’t intervene [with the coach], there are rules. I have to acknowledge it; I chose the coach. It’s been four days that I haven’t slept. I wake up continuously. We have always played crosses against tall defenders, some almost two meters tall. We had to play around them with the little players, who were on the bench.”
2) Waiting a while to make the correct move — By most accounts, this is very much the plan for the United States (especially with a presidential election looming in February). While most new presidents wouldn’t begrudge the hiring of an highly-qualified name, plenty of prospective bosses would want to wait until the new (or current) man in charge cements his place.
Tavecchio dropped plenty of names, and is especially interested in Chelsea’s Antonio Conte. And he said it’ll be worth the wait.
“We’re looking for the best. They already have commitments until June from a contractual point of view. Then when we get to June, who will be free? The ones are Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, [Claudio] Ranieri and Mancini. This is the truth of those available.”
Granted the U.S. does not have the wealth of elite experience coaches that Italy does, but the Americans are also not limited to hiring an American.
USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan is a respected soccer name who is not going to light the shop on fire while the right hire is made during this upcoming string of friendlies.
It’s a top-bottom failure. It includes nearly every part of the system, but the man in charge is the most important part considering that the USMNT should qualify for every World Cup and somehow managed to bungle it.
America needs a bungle-free hire.