Wednesday night’s Saprissa Massacre has to be considered one of the lowest points for the U.S. National Team since returning to the World Cup in 1990, and instead of dissecting that game and breaking down the various reasons for the loss and the various mistakes made by Bob Bradley and his squad, I want to point out that the U.S. National Team and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) are in a prime position to make a decision that could greatly impact the future of the National Team and its future success at Saprissa and other foreign venues.
It was recently announced that Piotr (Peter) Nowak was leaving his position as assistant coach for the US National Team to become the coach of Philadelphia Union, which will makes its MLS debut next season. This move was somewhat surprising and may have been spurred by several reasons, but that is not the focus of this article. The departure of Nowak has presented the USSF with an opportunity to greatly improve the future of the US National Team, should it chose to take advantage of this opportunity.
We have witnessed a great deal of improvement by the US National Team over the past twenty years; however, it is clear that the US National Team is still lacking in technical skills and creativity (both at the coaching level and on the pitch). The USSF now has the opportunity to hire a new assistant coach with a strong background in youth development, since the position vacated by Nowak is the position within the USSF that has the most influence on youth development. The potential assistant coach hire does not have to be a big name coach, in fact, it might be better if this hire is a relatively obscure youth development coach from Europe or South America or Africa, but it should be an individual with a strong track record in providing younger players with the encouragement and training they need to improve their skills and match fitness. Additionally, the assistant coach will serve as something of a Consigliere to Bob Bradley; therefore, the hire should be a coach with tactical experience and the ability to give Bradley the advice he needs when a game is getting out of hand, like it did in Saprissa this past week.
It’s time for the USSF to take a gamble, to take some time to scout the teaching/coaching talent at academies around the world in order to replace Nowak. A knee-jerk hire for assistant coach is the last and worst thing that the US National Team needs at this time; after all, this hiring could have a long and lasting impact on the future of the US National Team.