The United States men’s national team makeover could take another big step before the end of the year. Newly-hired general manager Earnie Stewart said he hopes to identify a new head coach in 2018.
“October would be pushing it. Could be by November,” Stewart said Thursday during a round table with reporters ahead of two upcoming U.S. friendlies against Brazil and Mexico.
Though the interview process has not yet begun, Stewart has spoken to about six or seven potential coaches who either he reached out to or who reached out to him directly or through their agents. He knows what he’s looking for — he gleaned insight and advice from at least 15 people close to U.S. Soccer while building a candidate profile — and the interview process will not be drawn out, he said.
“I’m not going to sit down with 18 people. That’s not going to happen. I don’t believe in that,” Stewart said, adding that once a candidate interviews, the process has reached a very serious phase. “What I believe in is you sit down with the person that you want and you have discussions with them, long and very hard discussions, and it works or it doesn’t work.”
He can even envision interviewing just one top candidate.
That person will need to be a “people manager,” someone with a “we” mentality who wants to work together to move U.S. Soccer forward.
“I think that’s important because in this day and age, I don’t think one person can do a whole job, especially a country as big as we are,” Stewart said.
Knowledge of American soccer culture is another desired characteristics and speaking English is a requirement, he said. The new coach and technical staff also will be based in Chicago, where U.S. Soccer is headquartered, in order to facilitate daily communication and collaboration.
“I realize you can communicate through computers and on the phone, but it’s not the same as sitting across from each other in a room and having a conversation,” Stewart said. “The culture I believe in is sitting face to face and talking about situations and styles and principles and formations and strategies, and getting the best out of each other.”
Prior to getting to this point, Stewart said there was a lot of talk about style of play, as well as broader discussions on “what soccer is and the values we have in the United States.”
“Who we are, what we want to be,” he explained. “Nothing to do with strategy, formation, systems — it’s overarching. What is the American player? What do we want to see on the field and what do we want to identify with?
“We kind of have that all wrapped up and the next phase is inviting a candidate or candidates and having candid conversations.”
U.S. Soccer’s Chief Soccer Officer, Ryan Mooney, and Chief Sport Development Officer, Nico Romeijn, will also be part of the interview process, according to Stewart, and USSF technical development committee co-chairs Carlos Bocanegra and Angela Hucles will provide input as well. A recommendation will then be made to the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors to make the hire.
While the process continues, interim head coach Dave Sarachan is working with a young group of players called into national team camp this week. They’ll face Brazil at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, then take on Mexico in Nashville at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Stewart praised Sarachan during the round table discussion for pulling in fresh faces to evaluate. The average age of players called up for the last two camps has hovered around 23 years old.
Whether Sarachan will get the opportunity to interview for the permanent coaching job is undecided. It’s a question asked frequently in soccer circles, while other names, such as Columbus Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter and former Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal, float around.
“Is he part of the whole process? Yes,” Stewart said of Sarachan. “But when we get into the interview phase, if he is one of those, then, yeah, it becomes very serious.”
Stewart wouldn’t give any other names, but he did address his relationship with Berhalter, saying that calling the two friends would be an overstatement.
“That part I don’t understand,” he said. “We played together and we’ve communicated with each other, but ‘friends,’ that’s a little overboard I would say. Gregg was always a coach when he was in Sweden, he’d call me for advice and I would do the same. We have a professional relationship and we played with each other.
“Then again, I could say that about a lot of others at the same time.”