Raphael Wicky

Chicago Fire hire new coach Raphael Wicky
Photo by Martin Rose - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Wicky leaves U.S. U-17 side for Chicago Fire job

Leave a comment

The Chicago Fire have landed their new coach, and he has a decent pedigree.

Raphael Wicky will take the helm of the Illinois set, leaving the U.S. U-17 national team. He’s the second coach to leave the USYNT set-up for MLS this season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The former Basel manager, 42, played for Werder Bremen, Atletico Madrid, and Hamburg over a 15-year playing career that ended with a short stint with MLS side Chivas USA.

Wicky was most recently with the U.S. U-17 national team, where he led the side an impressive run to World Cup qualification. Unfortunately, that ended with a spectacular disappointment at the tournament proper in Brazil.

“I am honored and proud to be named the head coach of Chicago Fire FC,” said Wicky. “This is a position that comes with a lot of responsibility and I can promise the fans and everyone at the Club that I will work hard and give my all. During conversations with Joe Mansueto and Georg Heitz, I felt that we all shared a similar vision for the Club and how to move it forward. That was important to me. Chicago is a world-class sports city and this Club has a bright future, both on and off the field. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Fire have had an interesting offseason that included an eyebrow-raising rebrand and a return to Soldier Field.

Nemanja Nikolic is gone and Bastian Schweinsteiger has retired, with 25-year-old Real Madrid product Alvaro Medran a new addition to the squad.

What rumored Wicky departure could mean for U.S. Soccer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

On the recommendation of highly-rated soccer organization company Double Pass, U.S. Soccer created five new youth national team programs to address gaps between the Under-17s, Under-20s and Under-23s. With eight national team programs, it put U.S. Soccer in line with the rest of the world’s soccer powers as far as being on a level playing field for youth development.

And yet, if the rumors about Raphael Wicky are true, U.S. Soccer will have eight full-time youth coaching vacancies.

[READ: American investment firm unlikely to purchase Newcastle]

With the Chicago Fire hiring Swiss national and former FC Basel sporting director Georg Heitz to the same role, there’s been talk that Wicky could follow Heitz back to MLS, and across town, after a short stint with U.S. Soccer. In one sense, Wicky’s departure wouldn’t be that surprising. In his first cycle as the head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team, he led the U.S. to the final of the 2019 CONCACAF U-17 Championship, but his squad flamed out at the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup, getting bounced in the group stage. It could make sense that the former FC Basel manager would look forward to coaching adults again after working back with the youth players.

But if Wicky leaves, it would leave U.S. Soccer without a single full-time coach in their youth programs, which is a further gut punch to USMNT fans who see the USMNT program in an atmosphere of total negativity. Jason Kreis, who works full-time with Inter Miami CF in an undefined role in the technical department, is the U.S. Under-23 MNT coach. Steve Klein, an academy director for PA Classics, has been stepping in to be the Under-15 Boys National Team coach.

It’s all just incredibly sad for an organization that has slipped down, both in terms of on-field performance and administrative efforts since the summer of 2014. Say what you want about Sunil Gulati, but – even if it wasn’t his authority – he wouldn’t have let roles go unfilled for so long. Under current president Carlos Cordeiro, we’ve seen the U-19, U-16, and U-15 coaches stay open for vast amounts of time, while the long-time U.S. U-20 coach, Tab Ramos, left for his first MLS head coaching job.

Even worse, Dan Flynn, who let U.S. Soccer know for more than a year that he was going to leave the organization, finally stepped down in September of 2019. There still hasn’t been a replacement.

Ultimately, it’s unclear if having full-time coaches really matters in terms of USYNT youth development. Perhaps bringing in different voices can help players get a different perspective, and without the old U.S. Soccer residency program in Bradenton, Fla., the U.S. U-17s don’t necessarily need a steady head coach to constantly train the players.

But on the other hand, it’s the latest sign that dysfunction at the top of U.S. Soccer is making its way down, and it could certainly have harmful effects on U.S. youth development, or at least building chemistry with players who may end up suiting up for the USMNT one day.

It seems unlikely, but hopefully in the first few weeks of 2020, U.S. Soccer will be able to fill many, if not all of these vacancies, as well as work out the internal work environment problems they’re dealing with. Step No. 1? End the mandate to work in Chicago. That could start and help get more candidates excited for the job.

Watch: Dull US fall to Netherlands, crash out of U-17 World Cup

Getty Images
2 Comments

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team has been eliminated from the 2019 U-17 World Cup, after losing to the Netherlands 4-0 at the Estadio da Serrinha.

The Stars and Stripes bottomed Group D with a single point, which came from the team’s scoreless draw against Japan. Gianluca Busio’s goal against Senegal was the team’s first and only goal of the tournament. Throughout the span of the tournament, the U.S. conceded five goals.

On Sunday – more than ever before in this tournament – the deficiencies of the U.S. were on full displayed. The Netherland’s Sontje Hansen ripped the backline apart, scoring twice and assisting on one occasion. Jayden Braaf added a well-earned fourth for the European side. When in the attack, the U.S. relied on their go-to: Giovanni Reyna. The Borussia Dortmund player had a couple of scoring chances, including a close-range header that went inches wide in the seventh minute.

Raphaël Wicky, who boasted a squad with plethora of players playing abroad and for first teams in MLS, like Reyna, Chituru Odunze, Busio, and George Bello, among others, has serious questions to answer following three-and-out showing from a highly-touted American side.

Watch the video highlights of the match below:

 

Lackluster U.S. draws Japan, U-17 World Cup hopes in jeopardy

Photo by Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The United States’ U-17 World Cup hopes are in serious trouble of dying at the group stage.

Raphael Wicky’s Baby Yanks have just one point after two matches following a 0-0 draw with Japan in Cariacica, Brazil, with Leicester City goalkeeper Chituru Odunze saving the point with a magnificent late save.

The point keeps the U.S. above pointless Netherlands, who it faces Saturday in Goiânia. A win would be enough to send the U.S. through as a third-place into the knockout rounds, and a draw could be enough, too.

Senegal is now 2-0 after beating the Dutch, who also lost to Japan.

[ MORE: Chelsea 1-2 Man Utd ]

Ex-Basel manager Wicky stunned many when he left Borussia Dortmund starlet Giovanni Reyna on the bench for the first hour.

Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC) showed first half flashes though perhaps tried to do too much to enliven a lackluster first half for both sides.

Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) had the ball in the net when he was on the spot for a rebound, but his sheepish reaction beat the linesman’s flag to announcing his offside.

Pepi came off in the 55th minute for Giovanni Reyna, a surprise scratch from the Starting XI.

All of the action in the first hour belonged to the Baby Yanks, but Japan awoke and took hold of the match.

Jun Nishikawa just missed the bar with an inspired effort, then later turned and fired but missed the near post as Japan threatened to take all three points.

[ MORE: Liverpool 5-5 (5-4 pens) Arsenal ]

Reyna tried his luck at catching the keeper off his line in the 72nd minute, but a long free kick effort sailed over the cross bar.

The U.S. then needed a bail out when Odunze made an incredible close range save in the 74th.

Joe Scally (NYCFC) had some good moments and redirected an 84th minute free kick away from danger.

Reyna nearly dribbled the entire left side of the Japan defense to score in the 85th, but saw his shot partially blocked.

Odunze made a fantastic save in stoppage time on Yamato Wakatsuki to preserve the point.

Watch: U.S. U-17 MNT fall to Senegal in World Cup opener

Getty Images
1 Comment

The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team came out firing in their 2019 World Cup opener against Senegal, as Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio put the Stars and Stripes up a goal only three minutes into Sunday’s bout.

That spark, the hunger and, most importantly, the lead wouldn’t hold up until the final whistle, however. With three goals in the second half, Senegal stunned Raphaël Wicky’s side 4-1 at the Estádio Kléber Andrade.

Whether it was due to the U.S. resting on their laurels or lacking luck, the second half was shockingly poor from the Concacaf side, especially when defending. Two of final three goals scored by Senegal came from second-chance opportunities. Senegal’s fourth came via a direct free-kick, highlighting the U.S.’ inability to keep the opposing side at bay.

Up next for Giovanni Reyna and company is Japan midweek in what will be a must-win for the Americans.

Watch the video highlights of the match below: