The Diagnosis: Why an American Coach Is a Handicap for USMNT
While manager Bob Bradley is being held under fire by the United States' fans, many are already discussing who could be the next national team coach.
The biggest problem is that Bradley's potential replacement will probably be American.
Many big footballing nations prefer to hire some of their own, instead of looking for foreign coaches. Brazil has never been coached by a foreigner and the same stands for Argentina, Germany and Italy, for example.
If we look at the 2010 World Cup, except for Ghana, every team coached by a foreigner has not been truly impressive.
So, saying that a foreigner is the best option for the place might sound crazy, especially after such arguments.
Still, the US are in a very different situation.
The US started their professional football decades away from what happened in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Not to mention the fact that, unlike African countries, which have also started their programs quite late, football is not that popular among average Americans.
You might tell me that the US have 4.3 million players, only second to Germany, officially speaking.
You might tell me that US football has grown dramatically over the years.
And I will tell you that the common fan's, be it an average spectator or a coach, ignorance is US football's problem.
In America, football does not generate a lot of media coverage. A report on the Premier League standings, focusing on the top four, and maybe a quick report on the Spanish League's standings and a quick roundup of the Champions League, is the extent of the country's coverage.
There's always the report on the MLS, but in times where US "soccer" screams for development, some news from the world's top leagues is more useful for the sport.
Now, imagine if the United States hire a European coach.
Football is king in Europe. Even if you are more dedicated to another sport, you will still accompany football. It is hard, or nearly impossible, to find any European who does not have a favorite football team.
This coach would probably have grown in such a football fanatic environment. This alone provides a huge head start in comparison to an American manager.
When taking a look from the outside into US football, we easily see that one of the problems is the youth system.
America has a huge talent pool, but the way it is managed is just awful.
An average football player starts to train for a professional club at an early age. Of course, this depends on the country.
Many German teams dedicate themselves only to youth squads. In Italy, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Portugal, kids as young as six can already train within the structure of a professional football club.
In the US, a player who is 18 could see himself trapped by the NCAA system. A younger player has almost no alternative but to play for his high school's team.
The problem is, where does football rank in a college sports program or in a high school program?
A foreign manager would bring a fresh and yet experienced perspective to the youth program, which has clearly failed in the United States.
The national team is growing without its natural base, the youth system.
Have you ever heard of any success from a US u-21, u-20, or u-17 team?
The success of the USMNT is not based in a higher number of players, but in a higher number of overseas based players.
As of now, the USMNT has a number of young players who are starting their actual development in foreign clubs. The problem is, they might develop years later than they actually should.
Now, the development of youth players is not the only problem. The estimation of an opponent is very important, too.
For example, as I wandered through the articles written by American fans on B/R, I noticed that many thought the US would go through, since they were much better than Ghana.
Ghana, a country which has dominated the youth system and recently won the U-20 World Cup, features some of the world's biggest talents. Come 2014, Ghana will probably show itself as one of the world's best squads.
Saying that the United States have a better team than that African side was a sign of clear underestimation, which derives from a clear lack of knowledge.
This underestimation would never happen in Europe, since the players are known and the media know how talented they are.
My point being, a European coach has a better knowledge of the game overall, which could definitely help out the United States.
If you look at Portugal, you will find out it only has five participations in a World Cup, although it has provided football with some of the most talented players in almost each and every generation.
The explanation is simple. Portugal lacked a good national team manager.
Until Humberto Coelho's arrival, where led Portugal to the semis in the Euro 2000, the team had never posed a real threat.
The following manager was a disaster and Portugal crashed out of the World Cup.
It was Luiz Felipe Scolari who carried the team to its current reputation. The foreign coach brought a new attitude and had a leadership, which was not found in any high profile Portuguese coach, except for Mourinho.
Ireland also posed a serious threat, almost qualifying for the 2010 World Cup after it was lifted by Trappatoni.
England also trusted Sven Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello to lead their national team and although the achievements were not as expected, I sustain the argument that the English are overhyped.
Chile has grown incredibly after it was picked up by Nelson Acosta and, most recently, Marcelo Bielsa.
The list of teams who improved under foreign coaches would go on forever.
Maybe it is about time for the United States to trust a foreign coach and, trust me, if they tempt Klinsmann or another experienced manager, they will bloom in a dramatic fashion.
Now, do not get me wrong, the US will not be a World Cup contender in the near future. But being a recognized football power would already mean a giant leap for a nation which only accepts a win as a good result.
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