The 4 Leading Candidates To Be Named USMNT Manager In The Coming Weeks

With the 2018 MLS season drawing to a close, the appointment of the next USMNT manager is nearly upon us.

Earnie Stewart’s search for the next USMNT manager hit the news wires this week after the U.S. General Manager was spotted at MAPFRE Stadium to watch Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus Crew defeat Colorado 2-1, and the flames of the fire were further fanned with the rumor that Stewart had held talks with FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja — a rumor that was later quashed by Yahoo! Sports.

But there’s no denying that the slow-burning search is finally reaching a crescendo within Stewart’s own timeline — the man with 101 USMNT caps to his name previously said that a decision will be made by the end of the year; it could actually come as soon as November.

And the timing of the hire, to go along with the “profile” of the coach that Stewart has outlined, makes it an almost certainty that the next USMNT manager will come from MLS ranks. So for all of those waiting with bated breath for Pep Guardiola to be parachuted in to instill a possession-oriented, counter-press style led by Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes, well, thank god Earnie Stewart is leading the search.

“It’s important that you first have a set profile of what kind of characteristics the head coach needs to have, and that starts with the values of the American player and what U.S. Soccer is about,” Stewart said. “Because it’s not about Earnie’s coach or anything like that. It’s about having a coach that’s good for U.S. Soccer and where we stand right now and where we want to go to.

“When we look at our style of play and the things that are in there, we believe in the United States that we are a country that are aggressive in the right sense of the word and a little bit in your face. You can imagine that if you say that, there’s also a way that could be implemented in a system and a formation by a coach. Then you can actually look at the coaches: Do they have that style? Some are not that way. Others are.”

Although Stewart has reportedly spoken with “six or seven” coaches or their agents, it’s believed that the actual pool of candidates has already been narrowed to a smaller sect.

Here are the four leading candidates for the USMNT job.

USMNT Coach Search: 4 Of The Leading Candidates

#1. Gregg Berhalter | 45, Columbus Crew SC

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Playing days: Berhalter is low-key one of the greatest American defenders of all time. Displaying a desire to prove himself abroad that’s still rarely matched amongst today’s Americans, the New Jersey native left the University of North Carolina following his junior year to sign with Dutch club Zwolle. He spent a few more seasons in the Netherlands with Sparta Rotterdam and SC Cambuur before heading to London to join Crystal Palace.

He then had a prolonged stint in Germany with Energie Cottbus (111 appearances) and 1860 Munich (73 appearances), turning out as captain for both clubs. 

His exceptional ability at the back was further outlined by a move back to MLS with the LA Galaxy in 2009. Despite now being 35, Berhalter transformed the club’s defense and helped the team to back-to-back Supporters’ Shield triumphs (2010, 2011) and one MLS Cup (2011).

At the international level, Berhalter made 44 appearances for the USMNT. Perhaps most famously, he started America’s famous 2-0 Round of 16 victory over Mexico at the 2002 World Cup. He also went the full 90 in the narrow defeat to Germany in the quarterfinals.

Management career: Berhalter’s international playing experience made him a rarity among American coaches, and his unique perspective on the game saw him named manager of Sweden’s Hammarby IF back in 2011. His appointment made him the first American to ever manage a professional team in Europe. However, he was fired after 46 games in charge after compiling a record of 18 wins, 17 draws and 11 losses.

Hammarby only conceded 44 goals during his 46 matches in charge, but the attack only produced 53 goals over that time.

Berhalter was appointed manager of the Columbus Crew before the 2014 season and immediately guided the club to the playoffs, finishing third in the Eastern Conference. 

In 2015, Berhalter again led the Crew to the playoffs, this time finishing second in the East, and ultimately to the MLS Cup final, where they were defeated by Portland.

The club took a massive step back in 2016, missing the playoffs entirely, but returned in 2017 — going on a memorable run to the Eastern Conference final while the drama of #SaveTheCrew played out — and his side will certainly again be in the postseason in 2018.

#2. Peter Vermes | 51, Sporting Kansas City

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Playing days: Like Berhalter, Vermes had an extensive playing career and was fearless in chasing his dream across Europe. After leading Rutgers to an NCAA title in 1987, the New Jersey native went across the pond to play for Hungary’s Gyor and the Eredivisie’s Volendam. He also spent time in Spain with Figueres. 

Stateside, he played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, New York Fever and his MLS career included stops with the MetroStars, Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards. He was capped 66 times by the USMNT and appeared at the 1988 Olympics, 1990 World Cup and 1991 Gold Cup (scoring goals against Costa Rica and Mexico at that competition).

Management career: After hanging up his boots in 2002, Vermes was appointed technical director for Kansas City in 2006. In 2009, he stepped in for the fired Curt Onalfo as interim manager and he’s been there ever since, leading the club to one MLS Cup (2013), three U.S. Open Cups (2012, ’15 and ’17) and to the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons in charge. For the parity of MLS, that’s a truly stunning achievement.   

#3. Gerardo “Tata” Martino | 55, Atlanta United  

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Playing days: As an attacking midfielder, the Argentine is a club legend at Newell’s Old Boys (the boyhood club of Lionel Messi), playing a total of 505 matches with the club and winning three titles. The club’s Estadio Marcelo Bielsa now has a stand named after him.

Martino also played briefly in Spain with Tenerife and also appeared for Lanus. He appeared for Argentina at the U-20 level and was capped by the senior side once.

Management career: There’s a lot. But what Martino’s best known for is his success with Libertad, which led to him being named Paraguay’s national team coach between 2007 and 2011. With Paraguay, he led the side to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup and the final of the 2011 Copa America.

From there, Martino made a romantic return to Old Boys as manager, and his success was again phenomenal. He quickly turned the side from relegation candidates to semifinalists of the 2013 Copa Libertadores, a resounding success which led to a two-year deal at Barcelona.

However, his only year in Catalonia ended without any silverware, and a run of three straight draws to end the LaLiga season (giving the title to Atletico) and a Copa del Rey final defeat to Real Madrid effectively ended his time there.

Martino was then appointed Argentina’s manager, with La Albiceleste fresh off a runners-up finish at the 2014 World Cup. The Rosario native guided Argentina to consecutive finals in the Copa America, but both occasions ended with penalty defeats to Chile.

He was then hired by Atlanta United, guiding the team to the playoffs in its inaugural season and currently steering the club to the 2018 MLS Supporters’ Shield. 

#4. Oscar Pareja | 50, FC Dallas

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Playing days: Capped 11 times by Colombia and a representative at the 1991 Copa America, Pareja made a name for himself as a midfielder on two of Colombia’s biggest club sides: Independiente Medellin and Deportivo Cali (he won two Liga Aguila titles with Cali).

He then moved to MLS with the New England Revolution in 1998 before playing 189 regular season matches for FC Dallas between ’98 and 2005, including being named to the MLS Best XI in 2002. 

Management career: After hanging up his boots in 2005, Pareja worked as an assistant in Dallas for two years before working as a U.S. U-17 assistant in 2007-08. Pareja returned to Dallas as an assistant between 2008 and 2011, helping build the club’s reputation as having the finest academy in America while working as the director of the youth system. 

The Medellin native was then given a head coaching shot with the Colorado Rapids, but after guiding the club to the playoffs in 2013, he jumped at the opportunity to return to Dallas as the head coach.

He’s now been in the role since 2014, leading the club to a Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double in 2016 while reaching the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. 

The club advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 CONCACAF Champions League, but failed to qualify for the MLS playoffs. But Pareja and Dallas have rebounded nicely this season and are currently on top of the Western Conference and a lock for the playoffs. 

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