EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — US men's national team general manager Earnie Stewart would like to have a head coach in place by the end of the year, possibly as early as November, but the GM said he hasn’t interviewed any candidates yet.
In his first interview since taking over the newly formed position, Stewart said he’s had informal discussions with 6-7 coaches who expressed interest, whether directly or through their agents.
“I haven’t interviewed people,” Stewart said. “Have I spoken to people? I’ve spoken to people.”
In a nearly hour-long roundtable discussion with reporters ahead of Friday’s international friendly against Brazil at MetLife Stadium (7:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN) Stewart laid out some of the timeline and what he’s looking for in a coach.
The first part is to establish a profile of characteristics a candidate needs to have and the values of the American player. Although he didn’t want to mention names, Stewart said he’s reached out to “about 15-20 people,” including former USMNT coaches, to get their thoughts on the profile.
“I’ve reached out to various people who have meant something in U.S. Soccer of how they look at it, what they see, what they think of our players, what do they think of the characteristics and values of our players,” he said. “I’ve combined those with my thoughts, my views and where we want to go.”
With that stage completed, the second step consists of what Stewart called an overarching philosophy including “What is the American player? What do we want to see on the field and what do we want to identify with?”
With that in the final stages, Stewart said he will be close to identifying candidates and the formal interview process.
Stewart said he isn’t going to have many interviews and has yet to decide if interim coach Dave Sarachan will be chosen for an interview.
“Is he part of the whole process? Yes,” Stewart said. “But when we get into the interview phase if he is one of those, then yeah it becomes very serious.”
Stewart said he’s heard the rumors of candidates, from Columbus Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter to former Dutch and Manchester United coach Louis Van Gaal.
And while he said doesn’t pay much attention to that talk, he did address his relationship with Berhalter when prompted by a reporter.
“We played together and we’ve communicated with each other. But ‘friends,’ that’s a little overboard I would say,” Stewart said. “Gregg was always a coach when he was in Sweden, he’d call me for advice and I would do the same. We have a professional relationship and we played with each other. Then again, I could say that about a lot of others at the same time.”
Stewart laid out a few necessary characteristics for the ideal candidate — they need to have a ‘we mentality,’ be a people manager, speak English and be willing to move to Chicago, where the U.S. Soccer Federation is based.
“One of the things that’s very important is I think you have to communicate every day,” Stewart said. “I realize you can communicate through computers and on the phone, but it’s not the same as sitting across from each other in a room and having a conversation.”
Understanding of the American soccer culture, of Major League Soccer, is desired, knowledge of the region and having previous international coaching experience are pluses, but not required.
Stewart said he, Ryan Mooney, U.S. Soccer’s chief soccer officer, and Nico Romeijn, the chief sport development officer, will conduct the interview or interviews — Stewart said it is possible only one candidate reaches that stage — and they’ll also use analytics to help make their decision.
“We believe in the United States we’re a country that is aggressive in the right sense of the word, we’re a little bit in your face,” Stewart said. “You can imagine that if you say that there’s also a way that can be implemented in a system and a formation by a coach and then you can actually look if the coaches have that style. Some are not that way, others are and that’s the data that would go into it.”
With assistance and feedback along the way from Mooney, Romeijn and the USSF technical development committee, co-chaired by former US players Carlos Bocanegra and Angela Hucles, Stewart will ultimately make his formal recommendation to the US Soccer Board of Directors, who will then be charged with ratifying the selection.