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Eric Wynalda blasts U.S. soccer coaching in Big Lead interview

Oct 7, 2013, 3:00 PM EST

Eric Wynalda AP

Somebody get Eric Wynalda a coaching job in Major League Soccer. Once again, he seems to be one of the only people willing to speak up against the mediocre status quo of American coaching.

In an interview with The Big Lead sports blog, Wynalda detailed his ideas on why the United States hasn’t produced any world-class players yet, despite its massive population.

“The age group between 16 and 20, we spent a lot of time trying to — almost in a forced way — to turn these soccer players into something we want to be,” he said. “In that process, we don’t let them find themselves.”

Wynalda also detailed several big misses in terms of talent identification and development, such as cutting Neven Subotić from the under-20 national team. It all stems from a revolving door of coaching at the highest levels, as Wynalda was also unafraid to point out.

“Some of these guys have never had soccer shoes on in a locker room that matters,” he said. “There’s a thought [that] you wouldn’t have to play at a high level to be a good coach. That’s an American thing. Sure, José Mourinho went from translator to manager. That’s different. He is a special person, but it’s created a belief it’s possible.”

However, he did say that he sees some progress in the hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann for the U.S. head coaching job. Klinsmann had success on the club and national-team stages in his career, playing for some of the most competitive teams in the world and winning a World Cup with Germany in 1990.

“He’s probably the only guy who has the key to the room we’ve never been in as a soccer nation,” Wynalda said. “I hope it works out.”

In the meantime, Wynalda will continue to look for work as a coach at the higher levels of American soccer. His amateur team, Cal FC, shocked the nation with its 2012 U.S. Open Cup run that saw it defeat the Portland Timbers before falling to Seattle Sounders FC. It’s Wynalda’s outspokenness that has left MLS clubs afraid to take a chance on him.

“At some point, I’d like to stop talking about the people who are involved and actually be involved,” he said. “I’d like to be a person with a direct effect.”

Let’s hope it happens soon.

  1. smgraff4 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    This is ultimately why Wynalda has to be looked at seriously by an MLS team. If there’s promotion and relegation, he might already be in MLS with Atlanta Silverbacks, although Cosmos supporters’ might argue the same things about Giovanni Savarese. Both are good coaches who’ve done well some far outside of MLS and their rules who deserve the chance to use their NASL results to springboard possibly long stays in MLS.

  2. dfstell - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    Heh….one of the biggest boons to pro/rel is for MLS teams to keep ignoring coaches like work in the NASL.

    Seriously….I don’t understand why someone won’t give him a chance. I find I agree with Wynalda a lot more than I disagree with him. And since when did coaches have to be so darn boring? He’d certainly excel at the job of making the media pay attention to him and leave his players alone.

  3. clem1980 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    Wynalda may or may not be top-drawer coaching material. The only way to find out is for him to apply for and win a job. That said, his comments about top coaches having to have played for top teams in top competitions is probably going too far. How many of such players have the desire, will or dedication to undertake a career in coaching and work their way up to the highest levels? Many top players might tinker with the idea but give up on it unless they are plugged right in at a high-level, high-paying job (because they may not need the money after a successful career as a top player). Coaches are teachers and people managers, and playing on a top team does not necessarily qualify one to do that.

  4. ihatetheeffingjets - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    I misunderstood the headline. I was afraid he was referring to the US MNT coaching, after which I would have deemed him nuts. He’s correct in his actual assessment.

  5. tariencole - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Having Peter Vermes in Sporting KC, I can honestly say we have one of the few coaches I wouldn’t prefer Wynalda to. I don’t see how College Coaches with no understanding of the pro game are elevated in MLS over accomplished players who have done what’s necessary to earn their coaching chops.

    • Bill Gardner - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      Peter Vermes is not a great manager, he lacks flexibility in his thinking and almost never makes in game tactical changes. Peter is a good technical director and has an eye for talent, however he rarely trusts his younger players which hinders their growth. Here are some examples of what I mean, Peter is a 4-3-3 guy, even though the 4-3-3 requires two things Sporting have not had and seem not to want, namely two wingers who can go at pace and combine with other player and create 2v1 situations and outside backs who overlap and provide good service. Seth and Chance are great defensively but do not threaten on the attack which means Sporting is always too narrow in the attack and relies too heavily on set pieces to score. Finding Zusi has made up for his poor in game tactics because Zusi is the only US midfielder who sees the game like a Pirlo or Xavi, though not as technical as either of those two greats, he makes Sporting watchable without him in the lineup the team simply does not score and cannot even hold the ball. As for young players where is Mikey Lopez, at the U-20 World Cup he was great outplaying the likes of Pogba of Juventus and Delofeau of Barca (Everton on loan) he moves at pace in the middle on the pitch and really disrupts the other teams attack.In Europe a young player plays, at Sporting he sits behind Benny Fail and Nagamura why? Fail cannot defend and is out of position constantly and Nagamura is old and although he is Brazilian one would never know it watching his first touch and passing which constantly stop attacks.

      Here is the most frustrating thing if Sporting are behind late in the game, unless we get a corner and a header we are not going to score. The stagnant play of Bieler and the square peg into a round hole formation always leave me screaming,,,, try something else try something that your players are suited to. AHHH common another draw, another game of the visitors packing it in and Sportig having no ideas how to score from the run of play against a team who can defend the odd set piece. WTF am I doing no one cares anyway.

      • tariencole - Oct 11, 2013 at 5:18 PM

        Did I say Vermes was a ‘great’ manager? Though I’d say many believed Sir Alex Ferguson lacked tactical acumen as well, and he was only the greatest manager of all time. Could he make better in-game decisions at times? Sure. But he plans for match-day well. He gets the most from his players, and he has established a strong direction for the club.

        Sure, I’d like a good bench coach with him. But that doesn’t change the fact that Vermes is one of the better managers, overall, in MLS.

  6. phillymike13 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Diego Miradana was a great player and a crappy coach. Point made that you don’t need to win the WC to be a good coach.

  7. smgraff4 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Second comment. Wynalda is the technical director at Silverbacks. Bryan Haynes, who I think is someone Wynalda trusts, is coaching Silverbacks now. My earlier error. But either way, Wynalda should be in a position w/ the Silverbacks (or Cal FC) to sign whoever they want and keep some core together should they get promoted to MLS–in an ideal world.

    But ultimately convincing MLS that single-entity is against their larger benefit, and that the league and US Soccer would massively benefit from promotion and relegation, and the pitch becoming a place where ideas–rather than old boys’ networks–defines what is successful and what isn’t. It would mean that guys like Wynalda who can really identify the talents from the U.S. youth system–both in terms of coaches and in terms of players, would go far in establishing a really long, glorious legacy in MLS. And those that cannot, play to survive in MLS, NASL, etc. to survive in that league and avoid relegation.

    That’s the big fight–to move the US Soccer structure towards a promotion/relegation system filled with teams already in the system (with obvious stadium requirements, etc.)

  8. hildezero - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    @ihatetheeffingjets,
    XD Yeah me too, dawg! He’s right though.

  9. danielofthedale - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    If Atlanta gets an MLS expansion team I want Eric to be the manager. I like Brian and what he has done with he Silverbacks but I think Eric has the personality to really light the city up and the knowledge to lead a team.

    • Bill Gardner - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Who would sleep with their International teammate’s wife during World Cup training? A man with a serious character flaw, this is the reason he does not have a pro gig and never will. He would be banging all the players wives. Not a good guy and not the kind of character that you could trust multi million dollar franchise to.

      • reidldavis - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        Whoa whoa whoa. You got the wrong guy. It was John Harkes who slept with Wynalda’s wife. Wynalda was the victim there, not the perp.

        Here in Atlanta we love “coach Eric” and coach Haynes. They have really turned the Silverbacks around, and despite commuting from Cali, Wynalda is a pretty common sight around the Silverbacks Park. He’s even played a few adult-league matches, despite being a total ringer. ;) Outspoken, no doubt, but great for the game. That he’s not coaching in the top flight is ridiculous.

  10. braxtonrob - Oct 8, 2013 at 5:46 AM

    MLS needs to (continue to) break their habit of fearing the same things that the other major US sports fear, like an outspoken coach (who may have to make large public apologies now and again).

    MLS must succeed differently than the other Big 4, and realize Eric would be GREAT for publicity.

    I, personally, would go to more games to see not just the players (who interest me), but some coaches too! (If Bruce Arena is as MLS’s idea of a loose cannon, I think it’s time to give Wynalda a shot.)

  11. midtec2005 - Oct 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Columbus may be looking for a manager… just saying.

    I wouldn’t complain about having an intelligent USMNT legend on the sideline.

  12. The Strange Attractor - Oct 8, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    I admire Eric enough that I’d probably cheer for the team he coaches, even if it’s not my local team.

  13. willkeegan - Oct 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    While I think that Eric Wynalda would be a fantastic coach, I disagree that you have to play at a very high level to be a successful manager. He uses Mourinho as an exception but there are many other top class managers with very little to no high level playing experience such as Arsene Wenger, Andre Villas-Boas, and Gerard Houllier while just because you played at a high level doesn’t guarantee managerial success such as Di Canio or Gareth Southgate. His statements about US Soccer’s development of younger players and US Soccers decision making are accurate but that isn’t because they haven’t played at a high level.

  14. atxnole - Oct 11, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Title 9 preventing most colleges from having a men’s team doesn’t help.

  15. tedro7 - Oct 12, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Wynalda is a candidate for the soon to be coaching vacancy @ FC Dallas.

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