Who Will Coach The Philadelphia Union?
It's been a relatively calm week for the newest franchise in Major League Soccer. Think of it as the calm before the storm, as the team continues to build its front office.
The big question facing CEO Nick Sakiewicz and team President Tom Veit is who to hire as the team's first head coach. Sakiewicz spoke with Glenn Davis on The Soccer Hour radio show last week and gave some insight on how they plan on setting up the organization:
"We're going to set up a little bit differently than the other MLS clubs. We're going to take a page out of a team like Manchester United or Arsenal," Sakiewicz told Davis. "We're hiring a team manager slash head coach. This is a very experienced, very high profile individual which I cannot talk about. We're going to make that hire because that model is the best model in the world."
Sakiewicz also indicated on Fox Soccer Channel the night before this interview that the process is just one or two weeks away from being completed. That means they have spoken to this individual, and perhaps the decision is a lot closer to being made. When pressed if their candidate had MLS experience, Sakiewicz wouldn't reveal much:
"I really can't say, because I'm under a confidentiality and if I started talking about if he was in Major League Soccer, I don't believe there's a lot of people like this, so you wise public relations guys and media guys would figure it out," Sakiewicz said.
The insight that Sakiewicz brings implies that whomever they are considering, this person is an obvious choice. That leads me to believe that this person has not spent time within MLS—something made even more obvious because the regular season is in full swing.
Might that someone be Sven-Govan Eriksson? It's pure speculation on my part, but worth considering. It's no secret that the Swede is looking for work, and claims to have a number of offers on the table. But would he consider coming to work in MLS? That's a big question that may be answered over the next week or two. It's all based off pure speculation, but Eriksson is a high-profile coach with the European experience that the Union is hoping to model.
There are a number of other well-qualified coaching candidates that the Union are surely considering. One of those is Piotr Nowak, assistant to Bob Bradley with the U.S. Men's National Team. Nowak's biggest project, coaching the U-23's in the 2008 Olympics, is long in the past, and he could be in position to step into a role with the Union. Nowak has the kind of championship experience that Philadelphia would be hoping to bring to the area.
Top tier collegiate coaches, such as the University of Maryland's Sacho Cirovski or Wake Forest's Vidovich might be considered. Both have built a solid University program, with Cirovski's Terrapins winning the College Cup in 2008. However, because they've both recently brought in new recruits, and I don't think either would take the new position.
Other names that are out there include ESPN broadcaster John Harkes, who has experience as an assistant coach with the New York Red Bull a couple years ago. Another overseas coach with MLS experience is Octavio Zambrano, who spent time as an assistant and head coach with the L.A. Galaxy and the New York Metrostars. He's been at the helm of FC Tatabanya, a club in Hungary.
Whoever becomes the head of the Union, he'll have his work cut out for him. While a number of the pieces in place, building a team is no easy task.
UPDATE: Ives is reporting that the coach has been hired. We'll see who it is shortly.
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