The next U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) coach will have an excellent opportunity to set up the team for future success. After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, the next coach will have more than four years to assess players, determine style of play and tweak tactics to their liking before the next World Cup rolls around. Although the CONCACAF Gold Cup and friendlies are important, the World Cup is the major goal for any serious international team.
As I’ve written before, the problems that soccer faces are systemic and deeply rooted — they cannot be solved in just a few years. But that doesn’t mean the right coach cannot vastly improve our national team. So who should steer the USMNT out of the ditch of 2017 and back onto a road to success?
The candidates floating around have been numerous, but only a few are in serious contention for the position. Caleb Porter, the former coach of the Portland Timbers, has experience coaching younger players at Akron College, and his successes as a MLS coach — winning the MLS cup with the Timbers in 2015 — make him an attractive fit. He also has experience in the international setup, coaching the USA U-23 team in 2013.
Tata Martino, currently the coach of Atlanta United, which placed fourth in the Eastern Conference this year, brings a wealth of experience to the table — he coached Barcelona in 2013 and also coached Chile to the Copa America final in 2015. His knowledge of the MLS and international play makes him a great choice for the next USMNT manager.
A logical in-house choice would be Tab Ramos. Ramos has overseen the development of DeAndre Yedlin, Christian Pulisic and Matt Miazga over the course of his tenure as the U-20 coach since 2011 and his role as technical director since 2013. His expertise with young players could prove hugely beneficial considering he would have over four years to continue developing such players. For a team that is only growing older, Ramos would confidently inject much-needed youth into the mix.
But my choice for the next manager is Huddersfield Town’s David Wagner. The German of American descent oversaw Pulisic’s development as a reserves coach at Dortmund; furthermore, he’s familiar with the underdog mentality that the USMNT adopts on the global stage. In the 2016–2017 season, he miraculously saved Huddersfield Town from probable relegation in England’s second division, and in the same season the side achieved promotion. This year, his side faces an uphill battle in the ever competitive Premier League.
Wagner’s ability to unite his teams, illustrated by a 2016 summer bonding trip to the Swedish wilderness where his players were forced to survive with no electricity or technology, would benefit an American side that struggled with identity before. Moreover, with Wagner at the helm, Ramos could continue his invaluable work as technical director of the USMNT.
As this column and this year come to an end, we bid goodbye to a year that American soccer fans will always remember and always will want to forget. A new dynamic, exciting manager to energize the senior group would do well to leave the dark storms of 2017 believed and venture into a brighter tomorrow.