Jurgen Klinsmann's time as United States manager may be coming to an end. With the Americans laying an egg at the 2015 Gold Cup, struggling throughout World Cup qualifying and now having suffered two losses to start the Hex, putting their World Cup chances in real danger, U.S. Soccer may have to make a change.
If the U.S. does sack Klinsmann, who could they tab to replace him?
Arena will be at the top of pretty much everyone's list. Yes, he's "more of the same" because he's another American who made his bones in MLS, but you're also talking about the best American manager ever. He led the U.S. to the World Cup quarterfinals, their best showing in the modern era, and has proven himself to be adept in CONCACAF qualifying. That's nothing to sneeze at, period, but especially when the U.S. are in need of a turnaround to qualifying for the World Cup. If you're looking for someone best equipped to turn things around from Day 1, you can't do better than Arena.
Arena does have a pretty cushy gig with the LA Galaxy, his contract expires next month and he's always been very proud of representing his country so luring him away is far from impossible.
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"El Loco" would certainly be an interesting choice and one that would make things entertaining. He's proven that he can be brilliant and he just so happens to be out of contract. But things with Bielsa sometimes go sideways and that's not exactly what you want to flirt with when you've already dug yourself a hole in World Cup qualifying.
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Berhalter checks most every box for U.S. Soccer. He played for the national team, had a successful European club career, managed abroad and took the Columbus Crew to MLS Cup a year ago. He's even schooled in analytics to go along with his traditional soccer background. It can't hurt that his brother Jay is U.S. Soccer's chief commercial director either.
You could probably bet on Berhalter managing the national team one day, but now? He's had an up and down career, at Hammarby and with the Crew. He may need some more experience.
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Hiring Kinnear would be the ultimate in old school, just-get-results thinking. It wouldn't be sexy and, with the way the San Jose Earthquakes have struggled since his arrival, there would definitely be some backlash. But Kinnear's long career shows that he generally gets results and a 4-4-2 where players know their responsibilities with slight tweaks for their opponents isn't the worst approach for a national team manager. As far as safe choices go, he's pretty high up on the list.
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When Kreis turned Real Salt Lake from MLS also-ran to champions, it looked like it would only be a matter of time before he was the U.S. manager. But Kreis struggled in NYCFC's expansion season and couldn't turn Orlando City around after being hired midseason. That's not to say he's a bad manager by any stretch -- they were both extremely difficult situations -- but the shine is off. He also only took the OCSC job a few months ago. Kreis may very well manage the U.S. one day, but it's probably further down the road.
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Marsch went straight from a successful playing career in MLS to coaching. He started as an assistant on Bob Bradley's national team staff before taking over the Montreal Impact and then New York Red Bulls. He's been great in New York, winning the Supporters' Shield last season and leading them to the top of the East this season. The question is how much of it is the Red Bulls' system, which is installed from the top down. Is Marsch capable of thriving elsewhere? If so, the Red Bulls' press could be pretty effective internationally considering the U.S. talent.
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Pareja would be a way to make a change, bring in someone who has proven he can succeed and still make good on some of the promises Klinsmann made. The FC Dallas manager has built the club into one of the best in MLS and he hasn't done it with money -- it's been talent identification and youth development. His players love him, he's instilled a style and he's shown that he has no problem developing the next generation while winning immediately. That he always says he believes in the American player would be a nice change of direction for the program.
The question is whether Pareja would take the job if offered. He has a great thing going in Dallas and probably wants a chance at MLS Cup after falling short of the treble this season when Mauro Diaz got hurt. At the start of a World Cup cycle, this might be more appealing to Pareja, but it's a tough ask of someone who has a great job already and would have to turn around the U.S. mid-qualifying.
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There was a time when Porter was the American soccer golden boy. He was turning Akron into a powerhouse, tapped to manage the Olympic team and had MLS teams lining up to hiring him. He doesn't look quite as perfect now. His Olympic team failed to qualify for the Games and his time with the Portland includes an MLS Cup, but also two missed playoffs and a lot of underwhelming play. You can make an easy case for Porter and an easy case against him.
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Schmid is unemployed after being let go by the Seattle Sounders midseason. His time in Seattle didn't end well, and he didn't win an MLS Cup, but he also turned the Sounders into one of the best teams in the league on Day 1 and kept an expansion team among the tops in MLS for seven years. Not bad for someone with two MLS Cups, three Supporters' Shields and five U.S. Open Cups to his name. He is also familiar with the national team, having managed two U-20 World Cup teams.
Schmid has flaws, but it's easy to get caught up in them and forget his many strengths. He's not the best choice for the national team right now, but it's tough to imagine him not turning it around and at least getting them into the World Cup.
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Sporting Kansas City weren't very good when Vermes showed up in 2009. It took him a couple years to right the ship, but he's helped turn Sporting into an institution in the city and one of the better teams in MLS. He's shown he can manage difficult personalities as well as develop young players. He has a clear vision for how he wants his teams to play and they generally buy into his high intensity style. The team's inability to get past the knockout round since winning MLS Cup in 2013 has taken some of the shine off of Vermes, and there are questions about his tactical accumen, but you don't have to worry about commitment. From him or his players.