Five Managers For The USWNT Vacancy
By Simon Allen
I'm a huge fan of Women's soccer. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am concerned about the future of the US National team. It's a pivotal point in the history of the USWNT because the next manager selected will be a position that no other US manager has been in.
The women's game around the world has caught up with the American game. We are no longer feared when we step on the pitch. We have no top tier domestic league. Even though the WPSL and USL W-League are brilliant to watch, the days of the best female players in the world playing in America are gone.
Squad-wise, there are some players that won't be around at the next World Cup due to age or the honest fact that they aren't playing and progressing at the rate foreign opposition is progressing.
Pia Sundhage has done a brilliant job with the US Women's National team. Her record speaks for itself. 91-6-10 with two Olympic Gold Medals. Replacing her as she heads back to coach Sweden will be a difficult task . US Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati has said that the position should be filled possibly in the next month and has put together a committee which includes soccer legend Mia Hamm to find Sundhage's successor. Gulati had the relatively easy job of replacing Greg Ryan with Sundhage back in 2005 but this quest will be a lot harder and the next manager will have to fill some big shoes.
As is the norm with USSoccer, we don't know who's on the list or even if there is a list. We really don't even know if there have been any meetings. The secret world of US Soccer. Some one on my FB page threw out Brandy Chastain as a nominee. To which I thought I was in some sort of Groundhog Day style nightmare. But in honesty who could take the reigns of the US National team in its current state and bring back the World Cup in 2015? So I made a list of the five coaches that I would interview for the job.
Erika Walsh- Assistant USWNT (the obvious successor)- Relatively young 36 year old Walsh has been Sundhage's assistant from 2007. If the USMNT want to move forward with the philosophies set in place by Sunhage then Walsh is an obvious choice
Steve Swanson- Head Coach USWNT U-20 (the not so obvious successor)- Probably not going to hear Swanson's name bandied about like some other coaches but this likable coach came back to the National Team in 2011 after a stint in 2000 and he promptly won The CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championships in May of 2012. In August he led the team to victory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Japan. Swanson knows how to motivate and get the best out young players so much during the CONCACAF Championships the US scored 18 goals in the 3 group stage matches. The task was harder during the WC but Swanson showed that US U-20's were on the right track to becoming World Cup Winners with the Senior team. Perhaps with Swanson's knowledge of the player coming up the ranks, he may have a leg up on other possible candidates who are up for the job. I would also keep on an eye on Albertin Montoya who is the coach of the U-17. Brilliant at the CONCACAF U-17 tournament this year guiding the squad to victory and inspiring with the professionals at star studded FC Gold Pride in WPS. Montoya knows how to manage young talent and established stars.
Christie Rampone- Current US National Team Player (the player you want as coach)- In 2009 I watched Rampone's SkyBlue FC beat The Los Angeles Sol in the Home Depot Center at the WPS Finals. As a Sol fan I was mad but as a US National Team fan I was delighted to see Rampone managing the club. It was exciting to see a player/manager in the women's game. Rampone will be in her 40's during the next World Cup and odds are she won't be playing in the back line. Rampone has lost pace which was evident during the Australia match when Lisa DeVanna out ran her to score a goal. Selecting Rampone would be a gigantic risk in the eyes of some people. But if I were to select a player from the National Team to become its manager it would be her rather than Brandy Chastain. Rampone can easily continue the philosophy of Pia Sundhage. She knows which players need to be replaced to improve the team and she's had experience as a manager at the professional level to make those decisions.
Charlie Naimo- Head Coach W-League Pali Blues (the perfect long shot)- I'm going to be interviewing Charlie Naimo on an upcoming episode of my podcast and I want to ask him point blank “Did you resign from Pali Blues because you're up for the US National team job?” The list of players Naimo has coached/discovered is magnificent. Sarah Walsh, Ali Riley, Alex Morgan, Kara Lang, Tobin Heath, Karen Bardsley and Amy LePeilbet to name just a few. Those players went through the ranks at Pali Blues. During his time with the Los Angeles Sol, Naimo was the General Manager that steadied the team which comprised of Marta, Aya Miyama, Camille Abily, Shannon Box and Karina LeBlanc. Naimo knows how to spot talent early on and knows how to work with superstars. A great team manager, Naimo is no slouch when it comes to coaching either. Last season Pali Blues clinched the Western Conference weeks before the end of the season with record of 13-0-1. Blues let in 3 goals the entire season and scored 36 goals against their opponents. Naimo would be a long shot for the National Team job for a lot of people but if I were Sunil Gulati I would definitely bring him in for an interview.
Leonardo Cuellar- Mexico Women's National Team Coach (the longest of long shots)- In 1998 Cuellar became the Mexican Women's National Team coach and changed women's soccer in Mexico for the better. Go back and watch the team during the World Cup in 1999 and see how far Cuellar has brought El-Tri. In the first two matches of the group stage, Mexico let in 13 goals. Flash forward to the 2010 Gold Cup and Mexico looked dominant going into the finals beating the USA 2 to 1 along the way. Cuellar utilized albeit somewhat reluctantly the American influence on women's soccer by selecting a lot of American players with Mexican heritage. He also understood that Mexico could not count on the American College system to always provide the players he needed so Cuellar placed a lot of emphasis on domestic players vetting them early with the National Team. Leo Cuellar is a Mexican Legend playing at the highest level but he is indeed the longest of long shots for the USA Women's National Team.
So there's my list. What do you think? Who would you interview for the job? And Why?