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Will the USSF fool us again?

Sunday 30th September 2018

The Who released ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again on their 1971 album Who’s Next? It's a cynical summation of the era's civil rights and anti-war movements. People who lived through it often look back with pride, thinking change was wrought. How much when the Vietnam War raged and Richard Nixon, the US president behind it, cameoed on Laugh-In, the comedy-variety show featuring Goldie Hawn dancing in a bikini with flowers and peace signs painted on her body?

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

More wars came and went. We still fight for liberty. Despite all the new bells and whistles, the world looks much the same. The USSF is no different than any governing body in this regard; its boardroom no different from any corporation.

Soccer in the United States is a microcosm of the nation’s diverse population. The game’s popularity has taken hold in every demographic but it represents different things to each. It’s still a niche sport among Anglo-Americans [black and white] despite more children participating in youth soccer than traditional American competitions. Latinos and other minorities hold it in greater esteem. Even so, each group's treated in the same manner they experience in other walks of life.

Past president Sunil Gulati served as USSF head for 12 years. Born in India, he emigrated to America. Successor Carlos Cordeiro was also born in India, to Colombian parents who brought him to the US. While the pair offers some pigmentation to the federation’s white power base, neither's done much beyond symbolic gestures to serve the browner demographics who support the game.

Most notably, no coach of colour, Hispanic or Latin American heritage managed a senior US squad, men or women’s. Not a one from 36 men who've held the USMNT position for any length of time, nor from the nine USWNT bosses. Meanwhile, 12 from the 22 players selected to Dave Sarachan’s most recent squad were black. Three were Latinos, with Kellyn Acosta overlapping.

The US team’s Latino numbers suffer in part because it competes with Mexico for many top prospects. Given a choice between two national sides, with only one interested in hiring a coach who shares your culture, which would you choose?

When the United States reaches beyond its borders for a coach, it looks to Europe. Of the 20 World Cup-winning managers, nine were South American. Of the eight managers who managed teams outside their native continent at Russia2018, four [Juan Carlos Osorio/Mexico, Hernan Dario Gomez/Panama, Hector Cuper/Egypt, Juan Antonio Pizzi/Saudi Arabia] were South American. Something near half the world's best-qualified international managers are Latin American. Somehow, the United States has avoided hiring a single one.

On October 10th, 2017, the US lost to Trinidad, 2-1, dashing its last hope to participate in the 2018 World Cup. Three days later, Bruce Arena resigned. We're two weeks from his abdication's one-year anniversary. The USSF is yet to name a successor.

It has appointed a general manager to conduct the search and oversee the USMNT. Like Gulati and Cordero, Earnie Stewart belongs to a minority demographic. His mother's Dutch. His father was an African-American US serviceman. He’s played and served as a club executive in both countries. To date, he’s indicated no interest in a candidate of colour or Latino heritage.

After the World Cup, tactical maestro Juan Carlos Osorio became available. Media outlets speculated the Colombian might take over the USMNT. The USSF never publicly pursued him. He accepted the manager’s job in Paraguay.

Gerardo Martino boasts extensive experience in club and international football. He once bossed Paraguay, served as the Argentina coach following a season with Barcelona. The Argentine’s built a dominant squad from the ground up in less than two years with Atlanta United. Again, no public interest. Recently, he laughed off reports he's considering returning to Argentina or accepting the vacant Mexico job. Curiously, no rumours link him to the US.

A report emerged last week that USSF officials courted FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja while the Medellin native was in Vancouver to play the Whitecaps. An inside source quickly denied it. So did Pareja.

Earnie Stewart was spotted in Columbus, where Crew manager Gregg Berhalter's the odds-on favourite to be the next national team manager.

David Moyes came in for a shout in August then again in mid-September when he announced his interest.

They have a constantly improving league, you’ve got David Beckham’s team coming into Miami and Nashville as well, so if it came up I would have a real interest.

South Beach and the Music City? Who'd have pegged the Scot as a party animal? A hangover after a night out for salsa or line dancing might explain a few decisions the former Everton boss made at his later stops.

Seriously, though. At this point, it seems obvious. Despite Gulati, Cordeiro and Stewart’s window dressing, when we meet the new US boss, he’ll be the same as the old boss. 

Football Results
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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