Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Stewart the right man at the right time for USMNT

Leave a comment

Earnie Stewart is the new United States men’s national team general manager, the man charged with hiring, er, recommending the hiring of the manager tasked with leading the nation back into international prominence following a horrible World Cup qualifying failure.

On the surface, he ticks a lot of boxes. Domestic success and international acclaim, a sense of the past and present. And, perhaps most importantly, the Dutch-born son of an U.S. Air Force airman and his Dutch wife, he knows that USMNT players can come from anywhere.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

And, unlike anyone in recent memory to hold such a coaching or management position with the team, he’s put on the USMNT shirt more than 100 times.

I reached out to a friend who’s worked alongside Stewart to see if I should be excited, nervous, or both about his hiring. Here’s what I was told:

“I’ll tell you this about Earnie. I’m a really big fan in terms of professionalism, order, hierarchy. Consummate pro. There will be more transparency with him as well.”

Andrew Helms’ and Matt Pentz’s story on the USMNT’s 2018 qualifying failure details how the order wasn’t there with Jurgen Klinsmann, and the professionalism at times was clearly as issue under Bruce Arena (see the Trinidad training field saga).

What the USMNT needs now, more than ever, is a man who can bridge the divide between administration and players, between the team and supporters.

There are so many reasons to be concerned about the status of U.S. Soccer. Whether Stewart understands what it means to grow the American game here and abroad is not one of them.

Stewart scored more than 100 goals in the Netherlands before playing a pair of MLS seasons and building the nascent league’s reputation.

He’s played in three World Cups for three different managers, with three very different results. There was the U.S. based tournament that built MLS in 1994, the disastrous run at France 1998, and the glorious if fortunate run to the quarterfinals (which could’ve met the semifinals, TORSTEN FRINGS) in 2002.

Along the way, he’s dealt with the hype of that first tournament, then monumentally awful intra-squad strife in 1998 before that wonderful ’02 run. He has seen it all.

There’s no guarantee he’ll hire the right guy. There’s no guarantee he’ll win over talented dual citizens.

But there’s little doubt he’ll be a proper sounding board for the man he hires, and that he’ll be invigorated to work with a wealth of talent and resources having been hamstrung in Philadelphia.

For everything that needs to be fixed in American soccer, and the uncertainty over whether anything’s really changed with the men and women who are tasked with fixing it, this hire means U.S. Soccer has taken a step forward with a sound decision.

Stewart appointed USMNT GM

Getty Images
1 Comment

U.S. Soccer named their men’s national team General Manager on Wednesday with former USMNT star Earnie Stewart the new man in charge.

Stewart, 49, will leave his role as the technical director of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

The former VVV Venlo, NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar technical director has been in constant talks with U.S. Soccer in recent days about taking on the newly created role.

He had been with the Philadelphia Union since January 2016.

Stewart, born in the Netherlands, scored 17 goals in 101 appearances for the USA as he played for the Stars and Stripes at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

New U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) President Carlos Cordeiro made appointing GMs for both the USMNT and USWNT a key part of his manifesto when winning the USSF presidential election in January 2018.

Eight months on from the USMNT crashing out of World Cup qualifying, the program can finally start to move on.

Dave Sarachan has been in charge on an interim basis since Bruce Arena stepped down following the USA’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Stewart’s first major decision will be helping U.S. Soccer hire a new permanent USMNT manager.

USSF officer lays out duties of new general manager position

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Leave a comment

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.

[ MORE: Sarachan on Bradley, Altidore ]

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).

Report: Earnie Stewart in negotiations for U.S. Soccer GM job

Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Philadelphia Union sporting director and USMNT centurion Earnie Stewart is reportedly in negotiations to become the United States men’s national team general manager.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

The report, from Metro NY reporter Kristian Dyer, says the Netherlands-born executive has the proverbial ball in his court.

Stewart, 49, racked up 103 caps and 18 goals for the Yanks and had a glittering playing career spent between Willem II, NAC Breda, and DC United.

He later had high-ranking positions with NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar.

Here’s Dyer, quoting a source:

The source, speaking to Metro on the condition of anonymity, said that Stewart is believed to be the frontrunner and is in negotiations for the position following an impressive showing during the interview process.

The club, when asked for a comment, told Metro that “Since Earnie’s first interview with U.S. Soccer, we have respected their process, and as such, we will decline further comment until a final decision has been made.”

Stewart scored against Colombia in the 1994 World Cup and added markers in qualifying for the 1998 and 2002 tournaments.

His familiarity with both MLS and European leagues would be a boon for the U.S., and Stewart’s Union has brought along a number of promising young players including Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry (the latter drafted out of Georgetown).

Back to the U.S.A. — Onyewu finds an MLS home

Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images for Urban Outfitters
Leave a comment

Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart just signed a player who was nearly his USMNT teammate.

Oguchi Onyewu, 35, earned his first U.S. cap in October 2004, just five months after Stewart made the last of his 101 appearances for the national team.

[ MORE: Payet returns to Marseille ]

Now Stewart has signed Onyewu to the Union, where the center back will play his first domestic club matches since leaving Clemson in 2001.

From PhiladelphiaUnion.com:

“Oguchi is a big, physical presence who brings experience and veteran professionalism, important traits that we believe will be an asset for our group of young defenders,” said Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart. “He provides excellent depth at the centerback position and we are pleased that we were able to add him to our squad.”

Onyewu last played with Charlton in 2015, his 11th stop in Europe. He also played for Metz, La Louviere, Standard Liege, Newcastle United, AC Milan, Twente, Sporting CP, Malaga, Queens Park Rangers, and Sheffield Wednesday.

Yep.

He’s made 69 appearances for the U.S., scoring six goals.