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Stewart: ‘Process over speed’ as search for USMNT head coach begins

The process of hiring the U.S. Men’s National Team’s first general manager was just that: a process. There were a variety of candidates, a number of details to shake out. It was important to find the right fit, a candidate with a mixture of qualifications and the willingness to step into a role unlike any the federation has had before.

That process ended on Wednesday with the announcement of Earnie Stewart. Now, a new one begins as he approaches his first big decision, one which will all but define his tenure within the first several months of his time on the job.

As general manager, Stewart’s first order of business will be leading the search for a new USMNT head coach. Stewart will also be charged with helping to manage the player pool, establishing a style of play and helping define a culture for the men’s program throughout all levels.

That will take time. Stewart is set to begin his time on the job on Aug. 1 as he wraps up his time with the Philadelphia Union. As a result of that timeline, it remains to be seen if a coach would be appointed in time for a pair of September friendlies against Mexico and Brazil.

“Part of the interview process was making sure there was a candidate based on a style of play that we discussed with each other,” Stewart said on a conference call. “Yes, there is a list of candidates. It’s a wide list. It’s not based on a geographical part of anything. It’s a wide list of candidates that will come up with that… It’s already in place that we’ve been talking about a candidates list and we will continue that search process.

“The friendlies aren’t the most important. Making the right choice is the most important thing. It’s process over speed, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to look a lot like the interview process that went on before the general manager role. that will also happen for the head coach. Once again, it will be process over speed.”

That process will be done in several parts, and Stewart is the driver of that process. He does not have final say, though. Any candidate chosen must be approved by the board, but the board is expected to be keyed in on the process throughout. By the time Stewart comes to make a recommendation, it’s expected that a candidate will be all but agreed upon throughout U.S. Soccer. No one person has autonomy and no one person will make the call.

Once that call is made, though, that head coach will have to work closely with Stewart who, in turn, answers to U.S. Soccer CEO Dan Flynn. Stewart’s role is to lay out groundwork and expectations for the head coach when it comes to style, and the coach’s job is to execute that style at a high level.

The question then arises: what if a coach isn’t interested in answering to a GM? What if a high-profile coach desires more power? Stewart doesn’t expect that to be an issue.

“One thing that is unique that we have with the United States is that everybody wants to work here,” he said. “I see it as a great opportunity. I don’t think there  are many coaches that would say no because the U.S. has values in the way they want to step on the field and what they want to see on the players that all of a sudden the job would not interest them. I don’t believe that at all. I think, if you come with a plan, a lot of people will jump on board for that, because there is a plan, there is a vision and there is an identity that we want to see.

“They have the autonomy within the style of play to play in different formations,” he added. “That’s something that belongs to the head coach. I don’t think that will ever be a problem. When you sit down and have conversations with each other, you have an understanding. It’s a great point that a coach knows what we want to see on the field, and then it comes down to a formation and that’s something that you discuss with each other.”

Overall, Stewart’s job is long-term. He has the responsibility of sculpting the national team program on the senior level and instituting some new changes throughout. He will not, however, have absolute power. There are a number of checks and balances in place and various other people involved each with their own areas.

Still, the next few months will be crucial to any plan the U.S. has in place. Stewart’s views are beyond the 2022 World Cup but the style implemented and the coach hired to execute it will be crucial for a USMNT program looking to rebuild following the World Cup qualifying failure.

“How do you get to a style of play? Not that we’ve already came to the conclusion that this is it, but how you get there,” he said. “A lot has to do with the values that we deem very important for players on the U.S. Men’s National Team. You think about some of those with the team chemistry, with pride, with passion, and that leads to a style of play.

“It’s not set in stone what that will be, but that has started somewhere with the values we think are important for players that step on the field and represent our country. “

Comments

  1. Donovan was gold cup MVP the prior summer and he was voted to be a top 11 player in the MLS in 14. I know these are the best awards, but he still should have been ahead of Davis and Green. And don’t forget the coach’s son’s tweet. No way it was not personal. But, I still think the coach should be able to pick the team as long as it is reasonable.

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  2. i’m lovin’ it. all of it. let’s bind the new head coach with the chains of a game plan dictated to him from ernie stewart and the ussoccer board.

    “The question then arises: what if a coach isn’t interested in answering to a GM? What if a high-profile coach desires more power?”

    oh, that’s a softball, ryan. then you
    FIRE THE COACH and replace him with someone who follows orders. just be sure the contract says the coach must listen to the gm or else he can be fired.

    WHY? just as the supporters’s shield doesn’t belong to toronto fc, IT BELONGS TO THE TORONTO SUPPORTERS, our national team doesn’t belong to one person. IT BELONGS TO US ALL. and we really need more of a “group think”/bee hive mentality about making decisions about it.

    after watching one person leaving our captain landon donovan off our wc roster for brazil in 2014, i was so deeply sickened and insulted and i never, ever want anything like that to happen again. I WANT THE COACH BOUND IN CHAINS. he can’t act alone anymore. he has to answer to someone. IT ISN’T HIS TEAM. IT’S OUR TEAM. he can’t just do whatever he wants with it.

    any more.

    i trust ernie and the ussoccer leaders. they understand how important this is. they won’t let these terrible mistakes happen again.

    i believe.

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    • “Groupthink: a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”

      Not sure if this term really applies to the program they’re hoping to build.

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    • yes, our style will come naturally and evolve and grow from our values as a people. that’s right. and our soccer culture, too, as ernie said. and these things will be bigger than any one person. the new coach did not create it. and he can’t destroy it. he is only the caretaker of it for a limited time. then another person will take care of it, and so on.

      now we will institutionalize our core values and not let one person act alone to change it anymore.

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    • stayinskool, i didn’t mean that. i just meant we need to talk about things together and make decisions together.

      christoph: hmmm. well, i don’t care if i’m the only person in the world who felt hurt and angry when ld was omitted from the wc roster in 2014. i think the coach had NO RIGHT. because i feel in my heart that IT ISN’T HIS TEAM. IT’S OUR TEAM. and he has NO RIGHT to not include someone like our captain. and i hope that ernie stewart and the leaders at ussoccer also feel the same way. i hope that they will never, ever allow one person just do whatever they want with our national treasure, our world cup dreams. our national pride. our one feeling of togetherness that maybe we have in this world after a hard day’s work. it shouldn’t be one person’s toy to play with. it’s too big and too important. to a whole nation of people.

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    • right now, mls fans are voting for the fan 11 (10 by traditional voting, 1 forward by video game voting). that’s 11.. i think the commissioner, don garber, adds his 2 picks. that’s 13 players. and then i think the coach of the all-star team this year, gerardo “tata” martino of atlanta united will pick the remaining 11 players for a total of 24 players. tata will then choose from among those 24 players for his gameday roster. yes?

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      • Do you know why fans vote for the all-star team? Because its an exhibition. Fans voting for the USMNT is the worst idea I have ever seen on SBI comments section. And we, myself included post some pretty stupid ideas.

    • right now, mls fans are voting for the fan 11 (10 by traditional voting, 1 forward by video game voting). that’s 11.. i think the commissioner, don garber, adds his 2 picks. that’s 13 players. and then i think the coach of the all-star team this year, gerardo “tata” martino of atlanta united will pick the remaining 11 players for a total of 24 players. tata will then choose from among those 24 players for his game day roster. yes?

      well, that’s basically what i think should happen every four years with our world cup team. (yes, i’m serious. i really mean it.) some variation of this process. let the fans directly choose 11 players (10 by traditional voting and one by video game, that’s fine). let ernie stewart get his two gm’s picks and let the head coach choose the rest. (i think for the wc there are 23 players, totally, so then the coach picks 10 more players.) so then all 23 players travel to the wc and suit up for the game and the head coach chooses his game day roster from anyone he wants from among those 23 players.

      my two cents: WHY? because it’s OUR TEAM. it belongs to all of us, and so, like the all-star team, we should participate, have a voice in the roster creation process. our hearts go out onto the field with our team when they play for us, and we feel good when they win and we feel bad when they lose. we are connected to each other in a very real way. i just think it can’t be all about one person. no, no. it’s much too big, much too important. i simply cannot be about one person. that just won’t do at all.

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    • in this fan-voted world cup roster, landon donovan would have CERTAINLY (meaning with 100% absolute certainty) been on that roster. landon donovan would have been on that plane to brazil in 2014. landon donovan would have been suited up for every game we played in brazil. it would have been the coach’s RIGHT to decide A) does he play and if so B) start? or come on in which minute of the game? but the coach’s rights would go NO FURTHER THAN THAT. because the fans and/or the gm had spoken and they are entitled to their voice and their voice said OUR CAPTAIN IS ON THE ROSTER. my two cents: a suited up landon donovan on wc day is a powerful force to be reckoned with. you’d have to be a powerful man to not play him. the awesome force of his presence would command you to play him. he would have been a nightmare for other teams in brazil in 2014.

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      • Sorry, man, I watched Landon Donovan with my own two eyes after he got cut from that WC squad…he was with the LA Galaxy when they lost to the Carolina Railhawks 1-0…and looked awful doing it. And LD…wow. He was out of shape, uninspired, and completely did not look himself…I dunno if he was nursing some kind of injury but whatever, his form was DREADFUL. IMHO Klinsmann struck him for one reason: he knew Donovan couldn’t help help him and his presence would be a constant distraction.

        LD was pretty much nonexistent for the Galaxy in that time frame as well. He finally looked (better) a few months later but even then he rarely looked like the Donovan of old except for a few flashes.

    • quozzel, please correct me if i’m wrong. i’m assuming you’re american like me. well, this matter is an INTERNAL AFFAIR. this is a matter that we american soccer fans can discuss. i accept criticism of our captain from you, quozzel. as americans, it is our right to discuss this (and how else to choose our captain?). because we are american. that’s our team. and that’s our captain. so of course, quozzel, you and i can share our opinions about it, even being critical. but what i will not accept is a FOREIGNER entering into this debate. it is not any concern for a foreigner. this is only a matter for american people to discuss and debate and resolve.

      we should not be angry with mr. klinnsman. the opposite, we should apologize to him. i guess somebody must have lied to him and told him that it was his team. IT WAS NEVER HIS TEAM.

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    • to say it another way, if an american coach benches our captain, it’s still shocking but it’s easier to accept because at least the coach is american. we feel instinctively that this man is more qualified to make this change because he was born here, was raised here, his family is here, he loves this country and he feels the same types of emotions about it that you and i as americans also feel. that’s quite different than being told that a foreigner just benched the captain. the focus immediately shifts to well who is this foreigner and what right does he have to bench our captain? whether it’s right or wrong, if the announcement comes from a foreigner, it loses all sense of legitimacy. we only will accept this news from an american.

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    • Earnie Stewart hasn’t won anything and made the playoffs once at Philly. If you’re drinking the kool-aid that his process is a lock, it’s not justified from his CV. It’s more of this Klinsmann Hope. I believe in results. The results he has do not scream, I get say-so over some big coach.

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      • I really do not want to add “I was squabbling with the GM and unable to implement my desired style and player pool” to the existing question of if that style and pool will work if we leave the coach alone. You think you’re solving an issue but you’re instead double-stacking. And many name coaches are not going to tolerate second guessing or backseat driving. “Give me the keys and let me drive.”

  3. I really hope we don’t pick a coach who only has MLS experience. Maybe that makes me a Eurosnob but I don’t care. I believe in economics and I think the job market speaks volumes. People may trash and blame Klinsmann, but just watch who ends up interested in offering him a job. Compare that to the clubs or countries that would offer good ole’ Bruce Arena a job. Kinsmann had his flaws, but can’t say his team underperformed when it counted most and can’t blame him for failing to qualify (maybe just a tiny bit- but I still think we qualify if he stays on as coach).

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    • Misleading, compare to who would offer Bradley a job, who was also a MLS product. Also, it begs the question of whether we get an equal playing field, which I don’t buy. Swansea fans tried to run off Bradley, and there is no way objectively our coaches are so bad they can’t compete with your average Brit.

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      • I like Bradley and it speaks volumes that he was ever even offered an EPL coaching job. If hadn’t coached the US Nats team already, he’d be a good candidate. I thought he did great for the NATs, perhaps our best coach ever. But we need someone fresh. No more retreads.

      • I’m not advocating retreading, my point is that MLS resume coaches are not absolutely shunned abroad and thus that his argument about the “market telling us our coaches suck” does not follow. Rather, I think there is a bias against our coaches, like they are treated as complete novices, even if their competition is some English coach with a very mixed bag resume and perhaps an awful last job. Getting relegated is somehow more worthy than winning MLS. THAT says something about Europe, not us.

  4. It’s going to be interesting to see how the timing of all of this shakes out.
    .
    Aug. 1st seems late for Ernie to start looking to interview foreign prospects. The WC coaches will mostly be snapped up, and pro teams will have their men by then.
    .
    Given the number of potential MLS coaches who might be in line (Vermes, Berhalter, Vanney, etc.), I have to wonder when a coach would actually take over. It would have to be at least after post season, if not after the MLS Cup depending on what happens, if the choice goes domestic. Sarachan may be able to claim squatters rights before all this gets determined….

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    • It’s not too late if the “fix is in,” but if the process of posting the job, getting back materials, narrowing candidates, etc. only starts then, then we’re screwed for September, which is a joke, and as you suggest may result in candidates taking other jobs that start this fall for fear of being the loser at musical chairs

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      • I don’t think national team manager probably follows the process that you describe that we would go through for a typical job. It sounds from Earnie’s comments that there is already a list going of possible candidates although he isn’t specific if these people have been in contact with USSF or not. It sounds like Earnie will be doing some work for USSF as he transitions out of Philly but just won’t take on full duties until that Aug. 1 date. I am sure anyone who is remotely interested has already back channeled through agents or emissaries that they would be interested.

  5. the part about the GM recruiting and defining style strikes me as confused. if the HC reports to the GM, but the HC SHOULD have last say to decide who to call and how to play, then don’t you have a conflict where the boss is nominally empowered over similar ground where the coach is supposed to be the decider? usually the “scout” is an assistant reporting to the HC, rather than your boss suggesting a pool.

    I don’t even think it would be a bad idea to have a distinct scouting corp using analytics to assess players and determine what styles and formations certain pool players might be suitable for. but you have a freedom problem if that comes down from the boss you report under rather than up from your staff reports.

    i mean, the GM in pro soccer is different as the team is presented a limited set of slots, a payroll defined by the board, and roster rules on how to fill it all. the board and president tell the GM how much he can spend, and then the roster gets done, likely with significant HC say, but the GM ultimately is over the HC. that’s not the way country soccer works. country you scout live or tape and try and see who is playing well, it can be dumb to restrict yourself, and i don’t necessarily want the GM narrowing down the HC’s pool for him. i would assume the normal function of a GM there is logistical and administrative. airline tickets for the called players, hotels, practice fields. HC and his people scout. what else are they going to do between games?

    last, i think this continued mission statement-y emphasis on a “national style” is also sub-optimal. you put together a pool. the pool likely suits to playing in certain ways. half JK’s problem is wanting to implement some idea that we didn’t have the technical players in sufficient quality and bulk to do. then he figures out we do have the players for negative/counter. but having bet on that horse he neglects that those players got old. our problem, to me, is get away from the “mission” and “coach what we have.”

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    • I think you are saying what i am thinking here too. What exactly does a national team gm do?? The gm role makes plenty of sense at a club where there are many day to day tasks that can overload a single manager. International soccer is completely different.
      the GM will lead the head coach search…but not make the final call…ok why can’t the USSF President do this? The GM institutes style of play…Why cant the manager do this? The GM scouts the player pool …Why can’t the manager/coaching staff/scouts do this?
      It seems like we’re just adding an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the USSF. Maybe this is something we needed, but they have done a terrible job to explain what Earnie will be doing.

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      • Essentially what you are saying plus I see a potential for conflict and/or distortion of decisions in having your boss given some overlapping paper power over tactical concepts and player selection. It’s one thing to have a subordinate on your staff giving suggestions. It’s another thing to have a boss saying why don’t we play x and why don’t you call y. The same one who hired you. Will potential coaches put up with that arrangement? Is the coach the decider and the TD offers input?

    • I’m sure the coach can call in any player he wants, he is not going to be restricted to the GM’s players list. I’m sure there would be a discussion as to why an unknown player is not on the GM list. The keyword I’m hearing is the “Check and balance”.

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    • Maybe this whole check and balance thing is so we don’t have another “LD didn’t make it because there are others just a little than him”.

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      • Landon didn’t go to 2014 and we instead took people like Green, who scored on Belgium. Landon didn’t magically look better after his rest. Landon hasn’t earned his way back in since, even under his LAG coach.

        And your argument is confused. If the GM’s role is to mention forgotten names, I don’t think Landon was forgotten or off the pool completely. Later on he was brought back for a final cap. If the HC has the ultimate power then Landon still never makes it. It’s only if you empower the GM to overrule the coach and force players that Landon makes it. In which case my argument holds, it will potentially become Thunderdome between the boss and the coach. And a lot of good coaches have enough ego they are not going to put up with it happening, or perhaps even being a paper possibility.

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