East Rutherford, N.J. – Earnie Stewart wanted to clear something up. “I do want to comment: have I interviewed people? No, I haven’t interviewed people. Have I spoken to people? Absolutely.”
Speaking to a group of a dozen or so reporters during a roundtable discussion at MetLife Stadium Stadium on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Men’s National Team General Manager was keen to make that distinction to the press and perhaps more importantly, to an American soccer fan base that has still not quite gotten over missing out on the 2018 World Cup.
In his new role Stewart is charged with finding a coach that can get the USMNT back on track by qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and he let it be known that he has spoken to people in and around U.S. Soccer in order to help build a profile of the kind of person he wants for the job.
That process, Stewart said, is now complete and while the GM admitted, “the interview process has not begun,” when asked when that next phase would kick off, replied simply, “not too long,” later adding that he expected a coach to be named before the end of the year.
Stewart also said that he has spoken to agents that called to gauge interest, and “six or seven coaches” that picked up the phone and called him. And while he remained mostly tight-lipped when it came to precisely what he is looking for in this important hire, Stewart did let a few nuggets slip.
Characteristics of the “set profile” as Stewart said, “start with the values of the American player and what U.S. Soccer is about because, “it’s not about Earnie’s coach or anything like that, it’s about having a coach that’s good for U.S. Soccer and where we stand right now and where we are going to go to.”
And while the GM mentioned finding a style of play, Stewart stressed that it is more about defining “principles of play. It’s an overarching view of what soccer and the values that we have in the United States, how we want to identify with our team that you see on the field.”
“There are a couple of things that are very important,” Stewart began. “It has to be someone that has a we mentality, someone who wants to work together.” In an apparent corrective to the Jurgen Klinsmann era, which saw Klinsmann consolidate power as both Coach and Technical Director, Stewart added, “I think that’s important because in this day and age I don’t think one person can do the whole job, especially in a country as big as this.”
The former USMNT World Cup player added that the next coach should be “a people manager, and then you have all the technical and tactical things that come with that.”
As part of the “profile” Stewart called some characteristics “requirements and other things are desires.” Understanding the intricacies of the Concacaf region is one that Stewart filed in the desires category.
Speaking English was labeled “ a requirement,” by Stewart, potentially bad news for the potential candidacy of Atlanta United, and former Argentina and Barcelona coach Tata Martino, who speaks limited English.
Although Stewart was loath to mention specific names of coaches under consideration the GM gave an interesting answer when asked about Columbus Crew boss Gregg Berhalter.
“It was brought to my attention that he (Berhalter) was going to get the job because he’s a friend of mine,” Stewart began. “That’s the part I don’t understand,” Stewart said before going on to note that they really aren’t that close.
“We played together and we’ve communicated with each other, but friends is a little overboard, I want to say.”
Stewart called their relationship “professional.”
Stewart, as well as U.S. Soccer officials on hand, also noted that Jay Berhalter, Gregg’s brother, and U.S. Soccer C.O.O. would not be involved in hiring the coach, although he was involved in the hiring process that resulted in Stewart being named as General Manager.