Los Angeles Soccer: Marcello Lippi
If you've not heard the big news yet, Manhattan Beach's Bob Bradley has been dismissed as U.S. national team coach following the Americans' failure to hold onto a two-goal lead against a superior Mexican side in last month's CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl.
Whether you agree with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati's decision -- we're not as convinced as others are that this was the right move -- everyone knows that it's important to bring in the right coach, rather than the sexiest, as Bradley successor.
Our choice would be Dutchman Guus Hiddink, 64, who has guided the Dutch, South Korean, Australian and Russian national teams (along with several high-profile clubs, Real Madrid and Chelsea among them) and is currently Turkey's national team boss. Given his contract status and the amount of cash that would be required to bring him here, we would be very surprised if he's a candidate.
There's a world filled with options -- former Italy boss Marcello Lippi, 63, who won the 2006 World Cup, is getting a lot of love from some analysts -- but U.S. Soccer could do far worse that staying stateside, and if they do, here are five coaches that should get a look ... and a conversation:
BRUCE ARENA: There's precedent for bringing back a former coach -- all over the world, yes, but it has happened three times with the U.S. national team. (George Burford had two stints in the 1920s, George Meyer in 1957 and 1965, and Bob Gansler guided the Nats at the 1990 World Cup in his second go-round.) The Galaxy boss, 59, is the most successful coach in American history, and the U.S. quarterfinal run at the 2002 World Cup was largely his work. (2006 wasn't nearly as awful as fans seem to remember.)
SIGI SCHMID: The Seattle Sounders' coach, 58, who is from Torrance and won three NCAA titles at UCLA, has done a terrific job with three Major League Soccer clubs (winning MLS Cup titles with the Galaxy and Columbus). He also has a history with U.S. Soccer, starting as an assistant coach for Bora Milutinovic in 1994. He might be the best bet among domestic candidates.
DOMINIC KINNEAR: The former U.S. national-teamer, 44, who missed the 1994 World Cup after an appendicitis attack in Asia during a preparatory trip earlier that year (Milutinovic seemed to lose confidence in the attacking midfielder afterward), has long been considered a future U.S. boss, given his success at San Jose and with the Houston Dynamo, his team-building skills and calm, delightful demeanor. The Dynamo's struggles the last season and a half aren't a plus.
JASON KREIS: Real Salt Lake's manager, just 38, was a top MLS forward who never quite secured a role with the national team -- he made 15 international appearances from 1996 through 2000 -- but it's impossible to discount what he has done in Utah, especially in building a system that works. He's going to get his chance, but it might be a little early right now.
JUERGEN KLINSMANN: The German legend, 46, lives in Huntington Beach, is married to an American and understands our culture and our soccer better than any other foreign candidate possibly can. He also has been offered the job twice before -- when Bradley was hired and, he says, after last year's World Cup -- but turned it down over power issues. If Gulati is finally willing to cede power to the man who took Germany to the World Cup semifinals five years ago, he's the man for the job.