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US soccer eyes culture change, with new coach by year's end

September 6, 2018
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Earnie Stewart intends to change the culture of the American national team by having the next coach and his staff work out of the U.S. Soccer Federation's headquarters in Chicago.

In his first public comments since starting the new job of men's national team general manager on Aug. 1, Stewart said the coach will be announced by the end of the year, possibly ahead of November exhibitions against England and Italy.

Stewart said ability to speak English was a requirement and that knowledge of soccer in the region, the U.S. and Major League Soccer a preference. He denied that Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter is a front-runner and said he has no regrets Juan Carlos Osorio took himself out of consideration by agreeing this week to coach Paraguay.

After reaching out to 15 to 20 people in the American soccer community to develop a profile, Stewart knows what he wants.

"We are a country that are aggressive in the right sense of the word, that we're a little bit in your face," Stewart said Thursday. "There's also a way that that could be implemented in a system, in a formation, by a coach."

Stewart spoke a day before the Americans play an exhibition against Brazil, their seventh game under interim coach Dave Sarachan.

The USSF was upended with a 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago last October that ended the Americans' streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. Bruce Arena, who replaced Jurgen Klinsmann in November 2016, quit three days after the defeat. USSF President Sunil Gulati decided not to run for a fourth term, and Gulati confidant Carlos Cordeiro was elected president in February. The federation board established new GM positions for the men's and women's national teams.

While Gulati was the driving force in the hiring of Bob Bradley in 2006, Klinsmann in 2011 and Arena, Cordeiro and longtime Chief Executive Officer Dan Flynn will not participate in coach interviews and delegate the task to Stewart, USSF chief sport development officer Nico Romeijn and chief soccer officer Ryan Mooney.

Stewart, a midfielder who made 101 appearances for the U.S. from 1990-2004, will make a recommendation to the USSF board, which has final say.

The new coach will be the first in USSF history to work primarily at the federation's headquarters in Chicago. All federation men's and women's coaches will be required to work out of Chicago, though an exception is being made for current women's national team coach Jill Ellis, whose team has a World Cup next year and an Olympics in 2020.

"The culture that I believe in is actually sitting face to face and talking about situations and styles and principles and formations and strategies and getting the best out of each other," Stewart said. "It's yin and yang, and the best way is around the table every single day."

Arena, Klinsmann and Bradley all lived in Southern California while coaching the Americans. Stewart doesn't think the requirement will cause any candidates to withdraw.

"I don't think it'd be healthy that somebody sits down at a table ... and he says I want to live on the beach and be there most of my time," he said.

Stewart wouldn't say whether the 64-year-old Sarachan is a candidate. Berhalter, 45, was a defender who made 44 appearances for the U.S. from 1994-2006, often alongside Stewart.

"We played together and we've communicated with each other, but friends? That's a little overboard, I'd want to say," Stewart said. "We have a professional relationship and we played with each other."

Jay Berhalter, Gregg's brother and the USSF chief commercial and strategy officer, is not involved in the hiring process.

Stewart said he has been contacted by six or seven candidates, either directly or through agents. It's possible only one candidate will be interviewed.

"It's somebody that has to have a we mentality, somebody who wants to work together," he said. "I think that's important because in this day and age I don't think one person can do a whole job, especially a country as big as this, as we are."

Notes: Star 19-year-old MF Christian Pulisic will miss the game against Brazil as well as the one against Mexico on Tuesday because of an unspecified injury. He has made just one appearance for the U.S. since the match in Trinidad. "Not having him here is disappointing, but I think the next opportunity he's a part of things, I think he'll jump right in and we won't feel as though he's been disconnected from the group," Sarachan said. "I think it's still a pretty close-knit group of guys of his peers." ... MF Sebastian Lletget left camp because of an abdominal injury. ... Brazil is 17-1 against the U.S., winning 10 straight since a 1-0 loss in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Brazilians have outscored the Americans 39-12. ... The advance sale was just 24,000.

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