3 candidates to replace Jurgen Klinsmann as USMNT manager


USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann was fired Monday after a disastrous start to the Hex, but who should replace him?

After losses to Mexico and Costa Rica, the USMNT is off to its worst start in 20 years of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Jurgen Klinsmann’s job was under serious threat from the moment the final whistle sounded against Costa Rica, and now, almost a week later, US Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced that Klinsmann has been relieved of his duties. The question is who will replace him. In no particular order, here are our three top candidates.

Oscar Pareja  

This would be a bold but refreshing choice, the equivalent of a fresh cup of joe for the US Soccer program. “El Papi” Pareja is relatively young for a national team coach (48 years old), brings a wealth of international experience as a player and, most importantly, is well in tune with the youth grassroots movement in the US. His FC Dallas squad won the Supporters’ Shield with a squad built on FC Dallas academy talent — players Pareja has groomed and coached over the last seven years.

His team plays a high tempo, high energy, vibrant style of soccer well suited to the American player pool. Having Pareja at the helm would reinstate the belief in American-bred talent and re-energize the team. With the vast majority of the USMNT’s players plying their trade in MLS, it would make sense to hand the reigns over to the manager who has had the most success navigating the league as of late. The fact Pareja has enjoyed that success without an influx of foreign, over-the-hill talent only makes him a more attractive option.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images) /

Manuel Pellegrini 

The 62-year-old Chilean journeyman is currently coaching the Hebei China Fortune in the Chinese Super League. He has now coached in three different continents, winning titles in four different countries. He has a wealth of experience, having managed Real Madrid, Villarreal, River Plate and Manchester City. A man with such a wealth of experience — with proven success in the more technical leagues of Argentina and Spain as well the more physical, intense and cosmopolitan Premier League — would be a man well suited to groom present and future American talents.

Pellegrini would immediately garner the respect of the locker room due to both his experience and his reputation as a dignified figure who never throws players under the bus (unlike the man currently in charge) and isn’t afraid to take responsibility for slip-ups. In many ways, Pellegrini would be the opposite of Klinsmann. A man willing to coach in China is a man who would love to make his home in, say, Southern California, rub elbows with soccer elites from the South American diaspora and help jump-start the game in North America.

CARSON, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Head coach Bruce Arena of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on prior to a game against the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center on April 10, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
CARSON, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 10: Head coach Bruce Arena of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on prior to a game against the Portland Timbers at StubHub Center on April 10, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Bruce Arena

The candidate most expect to replace Klinsmann, at least in a short term role, is Bruce Arena. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl has already reported that Arena could be announced as Klinsmann’s successor as early as Tuesday.

The choice is, at very least, a low risk one. Uncle Bruce has done this job before, he’s more familiar with the American player pool than any other candidate and he has his hand on the pulse of American soccer. Arena may not be the tactical visionary to lead the team in the long run, but time and time again he’s shown the ability to get the most out of his players, and he has a solid record as a coach, winning five MLS Cups and leading the USMNT to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2002.

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The safe choice, Arena would end the experimental, dilettante approach that has plagued the USMNT under Klinsmann. He would bring back his no-nonsense style, and would embrace the lost art of lighting a fire under the players’ behinds. Just as importantly, Arena has a proven record of rebuilding and retooling a program following a rough, pseudo-experimental patch (see the Steve Sampson 3-6-1 era, circa 1998). Although not the sexiest hire, this move would address the need to stabilize the USMNT and return some measure of identity to a program evidently lacking direction.