A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Top 5 candidates for USMNT new head coach

Courtesy James Williamson
Former USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter consoles star forward Christian Pulisic after crashing out of the World Cup at the hands of the Netherlands on Dec. 3 2022 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar.

After deciding not to renew the contract of former head coach Gregg Berhalter, the powers that be within the U.S. Soccer Federation are faced with the imperative task of choosing a new head coach for the Men’s National Team. This is arguably the most important appointment they have had to make to date, as not only will the new manager lead the team into the fast-approaching Copa America, but also the looming 2026 World Cup, of which they are one of the hosts.


The team had a mixed bag of a World Cup in December. Berhalter’s young side produced impressive performances against England and Iran, while disappointing fans in their displays against Wales and the Netherlands. The team and fans had lofty expectations going into this World Cup, with the team entering somewhat of a golden era for talent. Whether those expectations were lived up to with their round of 16 exit is still up for debate. Their World Cup showing was soon compounded by the domestic violence controversy surrounding Berhalter and the Reyna family. Berhalter’s contract was not extended in January, with the Reyna family debacle seemingly playing a factor in the decision.


Here are the five candidates that new USMNT director of soccer, Matt Crocker, should consider in the ongoing hiring process:


5. Thierry Henry


This Premier League hall-of-famer is one of the most decorated footballers of all time. Very few can match his trophy cabinet; he has won two Premier League titles, two La Liga titles, one Champions League as well as a World Cup and European Championship with France. Henry simply has an obsession with success as well as an intriguing approach to management, citing his former coach Pep Guardiola as his tactical inspiration, and seems to have an ambition to bring this combination with him to the USMNT.


He has flirted with the idea on a few occasions, in particular while working in his role as a pundit with CBS. Henry has an intimate knowledge of the MLS, having spent five seasons playing with the New York Red Bulls and three years as head coach of CF Montreal. He also has experience in national team coaching, having worked on two separate occasions alongside Roberto Martinez with Belgium in an assistant role.


While Henry clearly has higher ambitions to take the reins of a national side of his own, I would have serious reservations in hiring him given his underwhelming record as a head coach in the past. He was dismissed just over halfway through his first season as a head coach at Monaco. He then left his next job at CF Montreal after two years, with mixed success. His results with Belgium are the most underwhelming, albeit not as head coach. His Belgium side failed to even reach a final with arguably the best squad on paper of the last 10 years. I would not rule out Thierry Henry, but I would prioritize others.


4. Herve Renard


Renard’s managerial career path has been unique, to say the least. His lengthy 24-year coaching career has taken him far and wide. Despite not staying at any of his 14 jobs during that time for more than four years, he achieved quite a bit of success, especially during his time coaching in Africa. Renard remains the only coach to ever win the African Cup of Nations with two different countries, winning the competition both with Zambia and the Ivory Coast. He has additional extensive experience coaching national teams as well, having also coached Ghana, Angola, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and now the French women’s team.


Renard also led Saudi Arabia to arguably the biggest upset in World Cup history last December, when his team came back to beat the eventual champions, Argentina. He has only recently taken the French women’s head coach position, however his CV shows that he has no issue chopping and changing jobs. This may be a red flag in and of itself, but overall Renard’s resume makes him a name worth considering. With the money and resources that the U.S. has to offer, he may well be tempted away from France after the women’s World Cup this summer.


3. Steve Cherundolo


The current LAFC boss has taken Major League Soccer by storm since his appointment in January 2022. During his first year in Los Angeles, “Dolo” led the franchise to its first-ever MLS Cup title. That same year he broke the record for wins with a first-year head coach. In his playing career, Cherundolo spent his entire 15-year career in Germany playing for Hannover 96, even becoming club captain. He also played in three World Cups with the Men’s National Team and was a mainstay at right back across the 13 years he played for his country.


My concern with Cherundolo is his relative inexperience in head-coaching roles, with his only gig coming with the richest club in the MLS and predominantly only coaching youth teams in Germany prior to this. With LAFC, he took charge of a team on the incline, where he added European legends like Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini to an already strong squad which included former league MVP Carlos Vela. However, the results speak for themselves, and his implementation of a style and winning culture in LA should excite USMNT fans if he were to be chosen. He has previously expressed a willingness to eventually coach the national team, and I would imagine he would jump at the opportunity if given the chance.


2. Patrick Vieira


The Arsenal legend and 1998 World Cup winner was wrongly fired as head coach of Crystal Palace this past March. He turned a stale and aging Palace team into an exciting, attacking side with lots of pace and flair, using a combination of experience and youth to do so. Sadly, he was not afforded the chance to turn around the bad run of form Palace suffered this season.


Vieira also gained valuable experience working in America. In 2015, he was appointed manager of NYCFC and spent three impressive seasons in the Big Apple, which included taking NYCFC to its first-ever playoffs and leading the Bronx Blues as far as the MLS Cup semi-finals. His time with French team Nice is the only blemish on his managerial career. After an acceptable first year there, he was unable to make the necessary steps forward the next season, and he was ultimately let go. Vieira’s proven himself to be an adept manager in the U.S. with NYCFC, and at arguably the highest level of club competition, the English Premier League.


The personnel he would have at his disposal with the USMNT would perfectly suit the energetic, daring brand of soccer he likes his teams to play. As one of the best midfielders of his generation, Vieira could also provide invaluable knowledge and guidance to America’s many talented young midfielders, such as Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah. I would be hugely excited, as a USMNT fan, if Vieira were appointed.


1. Jesse Marsch


The Wisconsin native was recently let go from his job as Leeds United head coach, but similarly to Patrick Vieira, his firing was premature. You only have to look at Leeds’ form now and the relegation struggle the team finds itself in since his departure.


After his retirement from playing in 2009, Marsch had a brief spell as assistant coach under Bob Bradley with the USMNT. He then spent a year with Montreal Impact before taking up his first of three jobs within the Red Bull tree of clubs. He was named head coach of the New York Red Bulls, where during his first year there he earned MLS Coach of the Year and won the MLS Supporters’ Shield.


Marsch then relocated to Germany where he took up the role of assistant manager under Ralf Rangnick at RB Leipzig. Marsch impressed in his position, helping Leipzig to a third-place finish in the Bundesliga. He was appointed to the head-coaching position of Leipzig’s Austrian sister-club, Red Bull Salzburg. It was there that he truly rose to prominence as one of Europe’s most dynamic, young managers. He won the league and cup double in his first season in Salzburg, becoming the first American coach ever to win a European top-flight league title. He followed up this outstanding first season with an equally stunning second season, managing to win back-to-back domestic doubles in his first two seasons in Austria.


Marsch then moved back to Leipzig, this time as head coach. In 2022, he was hired as head coach by Leeds United halfway through the season in an attempt to try and achieve Premier League survival. He miraculously escaped relegation in the final gameweek of the season. 


Marsch was let go this past February, despite attracting top-tier young talent and implementing an exciting, attacking brand of football. Marsch would be an excellent choice to take the reins with the USMNT. He has a track record of helping young talent excel and has been lauded for his ability as a communicator and motivator, which is needed more than ever in today’s U.S. men’s squad, considering the recent turmoil and controversy.


There remains a chance that Gregg Berhalter is reinstated as head coach, given that he seems to have won favor in the court of public opinion following the dispute. However, I would still look elsewhere for a new head coach, due to a fear of stagnation in the development of the team should Berhalter stay.

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About the Contributor
Tom Healy
Tom Healy, Reporter
Tom Healy (He/Him) is in his second semester at SRJC and his first semester at the Oak Leaf. He is very passionate about sports, in particular soccer and football, and plans to go into a career in sports journalism. Tom plans to transfer to a 4-year college and get his degree in journalism. In his free time he likes to play soccer and spend time with his friends.

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