15 November 2006

US MNT Update

Well, it's been almost five months since the US lost to Ghana to crash out of the World Cup finals, and four months since Bruce Arena was canned. And there's been little news out of South Prairie Avenue. So what's going on?

Well, I had some good news in my email inbox this morning. The US Men are close to taking action again. They'll begin with a friendly, taking on Denmark on January 20 at the Home Depot Center. I'm pretty darn jealous, given that the other Dave has just relocated to the greater Los Angeles area. (You'd better be getting tickets, boyo.) It's not a bad way to begin the recovery. Denmark are a quality opponent, yet also reasonable, and if you want a January match, southern California's not a bad place to be. (I expect a lot of sunburned Danes.) It's good to see that things are taking off again.

The US men have also recently announced their next competitions. Of course, the Gold Cup is coming up in 2007. CONCACAF is once again hosting the tournament in the US, which makes things easier for the hosts (and defending champions). However, there's a significant change in that no non-CONCACAF teams will participate. It's pitched as a move that shows the strength of the region, but it has to lower the quality of the teams in the tournament. Replacing Colombia with Haiti, or South Africa with Grenada, is a simple loss of talent. The region's teams need to face top-quality opposition if they want to improve, and so the news is a bit disappointing.

Yet that news isn't as hard to take given the other US tournament news: the Nats will participate in the 2007 Copa America, the top COMNEBOL tournament. There's nothing better for our national team than to play top-quality opponents, and they don't get better than Brazil and Argentina (not to mention the other fine teams in the region). Plus, playing in the surely hostile stadiums of Venezuela will provide a useful preparation for other harsh international venues. The US hasn't played in the Copa America since 1995, so it's great to see them get involved once again. A solid performance in Venezuela will be a good first step to taking the sour taste of Germany 2006 from the mouths of fans.

All in all, there will be plenty of Nats soccer to see next year. And that's great... but who's going to coach the team? Well, that news may only be a few weeks away. US Soccer President Sunil Gulati said "I am still very hopeful and expect that we will announce a coach in November" or early December. And who will that be? Gulati of course wouldn't say, but he did indicate that five candidates are in serious consideration, and specifically mentioned that Juergen Klinsmann (the perennial DavesOnSoccer favorite) was one of the five.

There were a few hints in the conversation about other possibilities. It sounds like a few of the candidates may be currently coaching in Europe, and there's probably an MLS coach or two in there as well. He did specifically rule out Arsene Wenger (whew!), Felipe Scolari, and Guus Hiddink. Scolari and Hiddink have been mentioned as candidates before so that does clear the picture a bit. There was no mention of Sven Goran-Eriksson, so he may still be on the list. (Oh, please please, not Sven!)

There are plenty of possibilities but hopefully we'll know the answer in a few weeks. That will really mark the transition; we can then move past Germany 06 and start thinking about the upcoming cup competitions. It's been a while since I've been eager to discuss the Nats, but that era is coming to a close. I can't wait.

You comment "please not Sven"??
After taking the England soccer team from being the laughing stock of the world in Euro 2000 to qualifying easily for every international tournament and loosing only 4 COMPETITIVE matches in five and a half years I would have thought even more soccer clubs would be begging him to similarly turn them around than already are!
Well. I don't think Sven would be a disaster. But I don't think he's the right answer for the US. Tactically speaking, he'd probably be fine. But here's three quick reasons why I think he's the wrong choice:

- Sven uses a low-key dispassionate style to manage the team. After Bruce Arena's low-key, dispassionate style, the Nats need a change of pace.

- Sven has serious issues with team selection, and usually (aside from Theo) he tends to choose the big names over the best performers. That's not a disaster when your big names are Beckham or Owen, but when it's Landon Donovan, you need to be more ruthless.

- The US MNT needs a manager who can represent the game and the team to the US public. I don't think putting Sven on ESPN is going to bring in any new fans.

If US Soccer picks him, I'll give him a chance. I back the Nats. But if they ask my advice, I'd say to look elsewhere.
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