Breaking Down Contenders to Become USMNT Coach

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportOctober 23, 2017

Breaking Down Contenders to Become USMNT Coach

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    Trinidad and Tobago 2 United States 1. A defeat that sparked despair and embarrassment throughout U.S. Soccer. 

    The result meant the men's national team failed to qualify for World Cup 2018 and led coach Bruce Arena to vacate his role.

    As the anger starts to subside and tears finally dry, attention begins to turn to the search for a new boss to lead the USMNT forward.

    It may not be a quick process, with those at the top of the federation willing to wait until the new year before closely studying names available to them.

    But contenders have begun to emerge, so I decided to take an early look at how the field is shaping up.

    American-based candidates Tab Ramos, Gerardo Martino and Peter Vermes are all worthy of discussion, while Sam Allardyce and Laurent Blanc are big-name candidates in the frame from Europe.

    I can also reveal that Michael O'Neill, the current Northern Ireland manager, is also putting himself in early contention.

Tab Ramos

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    Gero Breloer/Associated Press

    Right now, a respectable figure is certainly needed, so Ramos deserves to be part of the conversation.

    He is well placed due to his role as head coach of the USMNT under-20 side and he is more than capable of getting to grips with the talent pool available for the next era.

    Ramos is one of the men who has been considered to lead the side into their international friendly against Portugal on November 14 in the Algarve, and it will be interesting to discover whether he would be keen on an interim role.

    Figures inside the game are convinced that Ramos likes the prospect of taking this job permanently, in which case he would prefer to be considered on the same basis as every other coach in the world game.

    The outcome of one match versus Portugal is going to have little or no sway on which new coach is chosen.

    Ideally people at the top of the U.S. game would call upon somebody already involved in the setup to take over the reins on a long-term basis. But, in a time of crisis, the indications are that something bigger is needed.

    Ramos should certainly remain in the setup over the coming years, but this is probably not going to be his time to be the main man.

Michael O'Neill

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    Andrew Halseid-Budd/Getty Images

    Of course, names from around the world will also be considered and this is where the options begin to open up.

    One man I understand to be very interested in the job is current Northern Ireland manager O'Neill.

    In terms of UK soccer names, he's certainly not as sexy as David Beckham. But in terms of being ready for a job like this? He fits the bill.

    Northern Ireland have been punching above their weight since O'Neill took the job in 2011. He led them to the European Championship for the first time as they took part at Euro 2016 and O'Neill now has them on the verge of a World Cup spot, with a play-off against Switzerland on November 9 and 12.

    O'Neill, 48, has been on the lookout for a new long-term, higher-profile role, and I'm told the vacant U.S. post is one that he finds extremely intriguing.

    He has proved he is able to get the best from a small talent pool in Northern Ireland and has great ability to identify players who work as part of a team, rather than as individuals.

    Senior figures with U.S. Soccer have been made aware of his interest and are in no rush to appoint a successor to Arena, so they could wait until after the World Cup to appoint him—if necessary.

    Other names from across the world will emerge in the coming months, but this is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Gerardo Martino

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    There is talent in MLS that is also worthy of discussion at the highest level and, on the surface, Tata Martino really fits the bill.

    Currently in charge of Atlanta FC, he has also coached Paraguay and Argentina on the international stage...oh, and spent time at Barcelona too!

    So he's used to dealing with pressure, he knows what U.S. Soccer is all about, and he is a big name in the game.

    The thought of him nurturing talent such as Christian Pulisic is mouthwatering, but is this the time for him to become the country's national coach?

    One significant flaw is that 54-year-old Martino does not speak English fluently. Perhaps more crucial, though, is that his club side have no intention of letting him free on the back of this impressive first season with Atlanta (fourth in the 11-team Eastern Conference).

    While Martino is not likely to become the next USMNT coach, his opinion on the overall situation should certainly be sought by whoever does take charge.

Sam Allardyce

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    It has not been a good year for Big Sam, but that has not curbed his enthusiasm.

    In September last year, he lost his job as England national team manager after 67 days and one match following an undercover sting. He then took charge of Crystal Palace in the Premier League but quit the club in May after just five months in charge.

    Since then Allardyce has said part of the reason the Palace job did not work out was how depressed he was about how his time in charge of England had ended, per Alasdair Hooper of TalkSport.

    Now he is throwing his hat in the ring to become USMNT coach, per Mark Ogden of ESPN FC.

    In terms of experience and nous, Allardyce is more than capable of fulfilling the criteria, but there are other areas that will raise red flags—not least that salary expectation will be high.

    The impression being given from sources likely to be involved in the process of identifying the next manager has made it clear to me they will not be opting for a big name just for the sake of it.

    The USA want a bold, exciting future. Allardyce is not that figurehead.

Peter Vermes

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    And so to more realistic targets and a man whom many within U.S. Soccer would love to see at the helm.

    Vermes is a product of the national team, having played 66 times for the USMNT between 1988 and 1997, and he is now established as coach of Sporting Kansas City.

    His style of play, deep knowledge of the system and respect of players should ensure he is a man that is talked about deep into the recruitment process.

    People within the game have been impressed by the way he has built successful teams and identified talent that others have not recognised. On that front, he seems ideal for leading the next step of rebuilding the national side.

    So far Vermes has been diplomatic when questioned on the issue of taking the job, per Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star, but it would surely be a very exciting prospect for him.

    Of all the men in MLS, Vermes, who turns 51 on November 21, stands out as the most likely candidate.

Laurent Blanc

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    And so we turn to a French legend who is willing to put himself forward as the answer to America's soccer troubles. But you can cross the name of Laurent Blanc off any potential list now. It's not going to happen.

    As soon as Arena left his post, rumours of Blanc as a replacement were fired up. This was led by French Football Magazine (via Sports Illustrated) and stems from the fact Blanc is putting his name in the frame. (Blanc has since distanced himself from the U.S. job, according to Ian Holyman of ESPN FC.)

    It's an interesting option given that he is a big name in the global name and has international experience from two years with the French national side.

    However, the USMNT needs someone with a different set of strengths from his right now, and sources I have spoken to do not believe he would be seriously considered as a good way to move forward.