The United States Soccer Federation’s chief sport development officer clarified the role of the soon-to-be hired USMNT general manager on Tuesday, and it’s not particularly straight-forward or encouraging.
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Nico Romeijn was tasked with explaining the job description for the GM position, for which Earnie Stewart is the reported front-runner.
But there’s some confusion in the powers of the GM, a newly-created position. Part of the job duties include, according to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, “overseeing the technical side of the senior national team — including specifying the style of play the team will implement — as well as managing the day-to-day operations of the men’s national team, driving the culture of the team, drive the process of hiring/firing the national team coach, building an integrated staff including some national team assistants, incorporating analytics and high performance, monitor the player pool, and increasing and formalizing oversight.”
Specifying the playing style sounds like a real problem, although let’s look at this hopefully: The GM should be hiring the coach, and playing style would be part of the interview process. It’s like a GM would hire Antonio Conte and then wait two weeks before saying, “Play 3 at the back and I’ll fire you.”
Here’s how it was laid out to Carlisle.
In terms of hiring and firing the senior national team manager, Romeijn stated that the GM would research potential candidates, help compile a short list, and be an important part of the interview process, but that the ultimate decision would lie with the USSF Board of Directors.
With regard to staff, Romeijn said he expected that the new manager would bring in some of his own people but that it’s not a given that all of the staff from the previous regime would be fired and thus start over from scratch.
There is a very delicate balance here, and it would be wrong to approach all of these quotes with only skeptical eyes (and yes, we know that’s very difficult given the past eight months or so).
First, keep this in mind: Imagine if U.S. Soccer hired a general manager, especially one respected here and in Europe like Stewart, but the board of directors shot down his first recommended head coaching hire? That would be monumentally embarrassing for everyone. First, for the GM, who just may quit, but also for the board who would be saying the guy they hired picked the wrong coach.
So, yeah, that’s not going to happen. In terms of Romeijn’s comments, it’s fair to assume we’re talking long term in this job description and it would be wrong to look at it in a myopic manner.
And imagine a program is doing quite well but needs a change at the top (as some would say was necessary when Jurgen Klinsmann was fired). In that instance, flipping the script on the whole project wouldn’t make a ton of sense.
All that said, it’s also fair to loathe the idea that the board still has final approval of the coach hire. A federation, like any organization, should be built on trust. If the USSF believes Stewart, or whoever, is the right guy for the job, it shouldn’t say, “Tell us who you like and then we’ll decide whether it’s a good idea.”
This isn’t a parent asking a kid what movie to rent and then deciding “Die Hard” is too profane (Yes, Mom, I’m still harboring a late 1980s VHS grudge, and also you were probably right. Yippee ki-yay, Benny Feilhaber).