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The Future is Now: US Soccer’s Future Rests in the Hands of Peter Nowak’s Replacement


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.

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  1. Liverpool Football Club

    June 6, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Ray, if you’re going to follow the 3 Lions, at least, for f***’s sake, call the game by the same name the 3 Lions do— FOOTBALL. It’s more of an insult to us if you claim you’re a fan, but yet you continue to call football by that dinky little word. I’m 100% behind you Americans following a REAL men’s national team, but c’mon, man, at least have some respect while you do it.

  2. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Also, Ray you may want to note the US has gotten as far as the best England finish in the World Cup since 1994. And of course the US has qualified for every world cup since 1990, whereas England missed in 1994.

    ” This will help spur interest in MLS and even USL and PDL among the masses of Americans fans who watch the Premier League. ”

    A large percentage of Americans who watch the Premier League often cannot be bothered with local football. Between MLS and the USL umbrella (USL-1, USL-2, PDL) their is live football close to 90% of the population of this country. Yet so many of those people don’t show up at these games and are busy packing pubs at 6am to watch the EPL. That is their right, but don’t whine about lack of coverage of football when you don’t support the game here.

  3. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 6, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Ray’s comments are completely out of line and part of the reason we are in this situation. Obviously the other contributing factors have been outlined and articulated on this site and our podcast, but what a mentality. Don’t worry about your own county but what someone who speaks the same language and provided the ancestry of less than 20% of our people does? Please.

  4. Brian Zygo

    June 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the comments Ray. But I don’t think promoting the England National Team will grow soccer in this country. When it comes to international football USA is my number 1 team, and Italy is my number 2 team. Among my many friends who enjoy the beautiful game only a handful consider England their 2nd favorite team, and only a couple consider England their favorite team – most of my friends who don’t put US first put Mexico or Brazil or Argentina first. Promoting the England National Team (which is not going to win the World Cup anytime soon, in my opinion) is not, in my opinion, a good way to grow soccer in this country.

  5. T D

    June 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Zdenek Zeman!

    He is known for developing young players. He is attack oriented and some of our best young players would flourish. His skill is developing players, not necessarily winning titles. In the USA we have a gap between our performances at the youth cups (U-17 and U-20) and the World Cup. A guy like Zeman is capable of leaving an indelible stamp on the game here.

    Dear Gulati et al. Please at least call the guy.

  6. Ray

    June 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I am tired of all this nonsense on sites like this and elsewhere that we need the USMNT to be good for MLS to succeed and for the game to grow. It’s the fault of the USSF that MLS stinks with all these American developed players and the national team is a bore to watch.

    England is the team we need to promote here in America to get people into soccer. The common language and common heritage can get Americans to adopt England, an exciting flying team that scores lots of goals and has the skill and strategy the US lacks to grow the game. This will help spur interest in MLS and even USL and PDL among the masses of Americans fans who watch the Premier League.

    American Soccer News had a very compelling piece about aligning MLS more with England earlier in the week. While I think MLS participation is unlikely in the League Cup, we must take our inspiration from England and let the USSF fall flat on their faces.

    What difference does US qualification make? They’ll finish last in their group as they always do anyhow. England and maybe even Australia are countries to follow to grow the game- english speaking, same ethnic makeup and exciting, open soccer.

  7. Brian Zygo

    June 6, 2009 at 11:04 am

    You’re right Larry, the USSF spin is always an issue, but I still hope that one day they’ll get it right . . . sigh. Your points on the National Team/Club Team issue are spot on too. When I talk to players in the MLS, they love their clubs, but there’s something really special to them about playing for the National Team. I feel we need to focus on both Country and club here because we don’t won’t to become England, a country with a great league that ultimately has a negative impact on its National Team.

    Li Matt, you have some good points too. In fact, earlier this week, Greg Lalas was on the afternoon show at 1560 The Game and he reiterated his long held belief that we need to look more to South America for ideas on how to train our youth.

  8. LI Matt

    June 6, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I’ve been thinking about the technical-ability issue since it came up on the podcast. I’m starting to think the British influence on the American system deserves at least part of the blame.

    Between the traditional presence of UK expats in our coaching/teaching setup, and the more recent popularity of the EPL, it seems that the English people’s fetishization of “effort” and “work-rate” at the expense of individual skill has taken hold here.

    Placing someone from a Southern European or Latin American culture in this position won’t change things overnight, but it’s a first step.

  9. Larry

    June 6, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Great write up Brian, but the problem is the USSF is in the culture of spin and won’t see it the way the rest of us see it.

    And for those posters who wanted exclusive MLS/USL coverage on this site, even you should realize the debacle Wednesday night means we must focus entirely on the USMNT for this month: teh truth is in this country unlike Europe and more like Latin America the popularity of clubs and the game itself flows from the national team and truthfully from a certain amount of nationalism. Socer is popular when the national team appears to be doing well and off the radar when we are not. It’s no coincidence the build of US Soccer began in November 1989 when we qualified for the world cup and MLS most troubled years were from rgith after the 1998 world cup until early 2002, when we struggled through qualifying after finishing dead last in the world cup.

    MLS, USL, PDL are essential but are likely to either collapse outright or become further marginalized without a competitive national team that is at the very least qualifying for World Cups.

    Canada obviously is different. They can have a garbage national team and still support the club game. I envy them and wish we were similar, but in fact we are not due to our national psyche and makeup probably never will be.

  10. Jack

    June 6, 2009 at 4:51 am

    I wouldn’t mind seeing an assistant from Holland provided the US does their homework. But I believe that coaching in the US needs some new blood resulting in some new tactics and training techniques couldn’t hurt.

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