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With Anthony Hudson, USMNT whitewash continues

Sunday 12th January 2020
Donald Trump wants to build a wall but the USSF has turned away qualified managers from south of the border since its inception.
Donald Trump wants to build a wall but the USSF has turned away qualified managers from south of the border since its inception.

Background image: Janice Engle USFWS

While some prefer La Liga’s technical style, they can’t deny the Premier League’s ambition. Even in the face of Brexit, the English top flight continues to attract the planet’s top players and managers. It’s a cauldron forging the strongest competitive alloy by melting talent and ideas from around the world. That strength was revealed last season when four Premier League sides made the finals in the Champions and Europa Leagues. This season, the division qualified seven clubs for the knockout rounds, more than any other league.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, there is the United States Men’s National Team. What the Premier League is to excellence and diversity, the USMNT is to mediocrity and whitewashing. Every move the United States Soccer Federation makes confirms this.

In late October, U20 boss Tab Ramos announced his departure from the USMNT setup to replace Wilmer Cabrera at Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo. Before leaving, Ramos delivered the nation’s first two CONCACAF U20 titles in 2017 and ‘18.

This past week, the federation appointed former Colorado Rapids manager Anthony Hudson as the new U20 coach. The best thing to be said for the decision is it took less than three months rather than the 13 spent on hiring first-team boss Gregg Berhalter. The former Columbus Crew boss was heralded by the USSF after an exhaustive search that supposedly left no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored.

I am absolutely convinced Gregg is the right man to lead the national team program moving forward. He ticks all the boxes with his background as a person, a successful coach and an accomplished former international player.--USMNT GM Earnie Stewart

However, Tata Martino, building Atlanta United into an MLS powerhouse right under the federation’s nose, was completely ignored. When he left Atlanta to take the Mexico job, after delivering the Five Stripes’ first MLS Cup in its second year of existence, the Argentine told reporters the USSF never contacted him.

Former Portugal and Iran manager Carlos Queiroz was also on the market, as was ex-El Tri boss Juan Carlos Osorio. With no apparent interest from the USSF, the pair took jobs with Colombia and Paraguay respectively. FC Dallas' Colombian coach Oscar Pareja was at least interviewed before being ruled out. Like Tata, Papi left for Mexico to coach Tijuana FC.

You might detect a commonality among the overlooked quartet. Three of the four are Spanish-speaking South Americans while Queiroz is Portuguese. The American soccer fanbase divides into two distinct demographics, Anglo and Latino, with the latter comprising Spanish and Portuguese-speaking supporters of South and Central American heritage. Although it makes token gestures and pays lip service to the diversity within its fanbase, the USSF caters to its Anglo supporters at the expense of the rest. Throughout USMNT and USWNT history, the federation hasn't hired a first-team manager of Iberian, Central or South American heritage, not once in 47 appointments.

Tab Ramos reflects on 25th anniversary of first MLS contract

Tab Ramos was the closest the federation came to embracing a Spanish-speaking first-team coach. The departed U20 boss was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. His family emigrated to the US and his playing career began at North Carolina State University. After hitching up with New Jersey Eagles and Miami Sharks, two clubs in the 1980s iteration of the American Soccer League, he made his way to Spain to play for third-tier side Figurense and then Real Betis. A spell at Liga MX outfit UANL Tigres followed before his career culminated in MLS.

The first player signed by the fledgeling league, he featured in NY/NJ MetroStars’ initial seven seasons, prior to the franchise rebranding itself as the New York Red Bulls. In 112 matches, the central midfielder registered eight goals and 25 assists. He also earned 82 caps for the USMNT, scoring eight times. His performance in the 1994 World Cup made him an American soccer icon.

Yet, despite the fact he was already in-house and "ticked all the boxes" Berhalter did with a more indelible stroke, USSF president Carlos Cordeiro and USMNT general manager Earnie Stewart [those token gestures mentioned earlier] did not interview him.

In addition to his cultural background, Ramos’ pedigree aligns him with Tata, Papi, Osorio and Queiroz. The quintet‘s past achievements are common knowledge, whether they came at major clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, top international sides such as Mexico or Argentina, through their impact in major tournaments like the World Cup, Euros and Copa America or just their performance in MLS or as part of the USMNT itself. However far afield they've travelled, when any one of them address a clubhouse, the players know who’s speaking. Each commands respect.

The same cannot be said for Berhalter or Hudson. Neither boasts any notable silverware in his cabinet nor sufficient international coaching experience. Hudson did manage New Zealand through the last World Cup cycle, for what that's worth. Without Australia to trouble them in qualifying, the All-Whites bullied Oceania’s Polynesian isles and archipelagos into submission before Jefferson Farfan, Christian Ramos and Peru turned the tables on them in the inter-confederation playoff. While never champions, Berhalter’s Columbus Crew were admittedly perennial playoff participants during his tenure. In 43 games with the Rapids, Hudson won eight, drew nine and lost an entirely unconvincing 26. Whereas impressionable young American players dreaming of World Cup glory could look to Ramos as a legend who’s tasted it, they’ll only question Hudson’s credibility.

Right now, the two most important leaders in the USMNT bring three things to the table: the colour of their skin, their command of the English language and a history of coming up short. You don’t need an Enigma machine to break the code in “Right man for the job”.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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