One of the issues getting plenty of mileage deals around US soccer circles is the number of American players in major European leagues. That number is alarmingly low, especially when compared to the number of Mexican players playing at the same level. But one area where Americans have made considerable headway in just the last week is on the coaching front, with two new appointments giving American soccer fans reason to smile.
David Wagner was born in Germany to an American father and German mother (sounds familiar) and earned eight caps for the national team between 1996 and 1998. He didn’t leave a major imprint on the team then, although he started the trend the German-American contingent continues today.
In 2011, Wagner became the head coach of Borussia Dortmund’s reserve team and immediately earned promotion to the third tier of German football. While doing so, he also coached American youth internationals like Joe Gyau and Junior Flores and probably saw a fair few training sessions of the next great American soccer hope, Christian Pulisic. After suddenly leaving the post, many speculated he would join up with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. The speculation got the country right, but little else.
Wagner is now managing Huddersfield Town, a club whose last appearance in the top flight of English soccer was in 1970. His job as the first person not born in the British Isles to manage the club is to keep them in the second tier, a difficult task considering the enormous gulf in budgets between the Terriers and the rest of their Championship competitors. This will also be the first time he has managed a senior team. If he succeeds, the doors to English soccer will open quickly, and he will attract many new and fresh pairs of eyes.
Bob Bradley’s managerial CV is already well known. After managing a Egyptian national team wrought with turmoil and strife to the brink of a World Cup, Bradley took his talents to Baerum in Norway to manage tiny Stabaek, a club with a budget barely big enough to cover their own costs. A surefire relegation candidate last season, Bradley navigated his new club to ninth in the table, an incredible accomplishment in its own right. After losing a majority of his team last offseason, Bradley re-invigorated his club even more, and despite selling his best player again this summer, he’s assured Stabaek of Europa League qualification while guiding them to the semifinals of the Norwegian Cup for the second year in a row.
Now, Bradley’s moved on to French Ligue 2 side Le Havre to see if he can work miracles there, too. Currently, Le Havre are six points off second place, a position that would return the club to the top flight for the first time since 2009. They have also opened a brand new stadium, which should help Bradley’s transfer budgets, but considering what he was worked with before, money is probably not an obstacle for success.
Wagner and Bradley have a chance to achieve something special with their new clubs and further enhance the resume of the American manager in Europe. And while the success of US players has been limited recently, these two men can change perceptions quickly and swiftly, creating a new breakthrough for other Americans in Europe.
Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattsMusings1.
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