Charles F. Gardner talked with Hall of Fame inductee Bob Gansler, who was born in Hungary during World War II and arrived in Milwaukee from Germany at the age of 10 and went on to become one of the most influential American coaches of the modern era. He led the USA to the 1990 World Cup, its first appearance in 40 years, and coached the Kansas City Wizards to the 2000 MLS championship.
Gansler owes his start in soccer to joining the Bavarian Soccer Club in Milwaukee. "My dad brought us over here for a better life, and he was spot on," he said. "The Bavarian Soccer Club was absolutely essential." He broke into coaching in 9th grade, working with a fifth-grade basketball team at a local Catholic church. "The priest browbeat me into it because I had broken a window in the gym when I was in the eighth grade and I don't think I had ever paid for it," he said. The next year was coaching soccer at a private high school. "The way I coached is I played along with them," he said. "It gave me a little PBR money. These were high school guys. I was the best player, so they listened."
Gansler credits his experience as a catcher in baseball and central defender in soccer for learning to see the game unfold in front of him. "You had to open your mouth," he said. "It was part of the task." After playing pro soccer in 1967 and 1968 and representing the USA in World Cup qualifying in 1969, he returned to Milwaukee to teach and coach. He was one of the first coaching hires by the USSF in the mid-1970s.
Gansler, who continues to work for the NSCAA and do scouting and state licensing, says he owes a lot to his wife, Nancy. "She let me chase my dream, first as a player and then as a coach," he says. Gansler and Nancy were joined by their four sons, Robert, Michael, Peter and Danny, at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in Foxboro, Mass., before the USA-Spain game.