U.S. Soccer: Search for women's coach is down to six

DiCicco backs Lauren Gregg over Hoffman, Charles, Heinrichs, Ellinger and Howe

Six weeks after Tony DiCicco resigned, U.S. Soccer is still without a women's national team coach, and DiCicco's successor may not named until the New Year.

U.S. Soccer will choose from six candidates to replace Tony DiCicco: U.S. women's assistant coaches Lauren Gregg and Jay Hoffman, Portland men's and women's coach Clive Charles, Virginia women's coach April Heinrichs, U.S. under-17 boys coach John Ellinger and U.S. Soccer director of coaching education Bobby Howe.

North Carolina's Anson Dorrance was briefly considered. But since he stepped away from the national team in 1994, Dorrance has maintained he just wants to coach his Tar Heels and spend time with his family. He is a defendant in a pending lawsuit filed against Dorrance by former UNC players Debbie Keller and Melissa Jennings.

"I think Anson Dorrance is one of best women's coaches in the world, but he is not available for women's duty," U.S. Soccer Secretary General Hank Steinbrecher said.

U.S. Soccer hopes to have the coach in place by the New Year, but it won't rush. If no coach is in place by Jan. 2, when the U.S. is slated to leave for the Australia Cup, Gregg and Hoffman will probably take the team.

"We'd like to get it over as quickly as possible," said U.S. Soccer President Bob Contiguglia of the search. But, he added, "we want to make the right decision. That's what's most important."

Criteria includes international experience

The Federation asked each of the candidates to send in a résumé and a five-to six-page vision statement on how they see the program. They will be interviewed by a committee that will include U.S. co-captain Carla Overbeck.

The candidates will be judged on (1) their international experience, (2) their ability to manage a senior group of players, and (3) their ability to work within the Federation. That last criterion is important because the Federation may make the new coach the technical director for all the women's national teams.

Contiguglia will choose the coach, although the U.S. Soccer Executive Committee has to OK the appointment.

Here is a look at the candidates:

Lauren Gregg. A U.S. assistant since 1989, the 39-year-old Gregg has the most international women's experience of any of the candidates. She has also been the head coach of the U.S. under-21 national team since 1997. She got her only U.S. cap in 1986.

The former Virginia coach is familiar with the U.S. Soccer structure and the national player pool through her national team and U-21 jobs.

The U-21s won two of the last three Nordic Cup titles under Gregg.

"Lauren has to be the No. 1 candidate for this position," DiCicco said. "What have we been grooming her for?"

Contiguglia says he is not being pressured to hire a female coach, though there is a strong campaign in favor of Gregg and against the two British candidates, Charles and Howe, being waged within the women's soccer community.

Steinbrecher says the Federation won't hire someone solely based on length of service.

"I've often told Lauren, and I believe it, that she's one of the best employees the Federation has," Steinbrecher said. "But I don't believe in the primo genitive position that because I'm the oldest person, I'm going to get it."

Jay Hoffman. The 48-year-old, who joined the women's staff in 1997, has just two years of experience in the women's game. He coached the U-18 girls team to the Pan Am Games gold medal last summer.

He's been a U.S. Soccer coaching coordinator since 1992. He was the head coach of the U.S. U-20 men's team in 1997. He previously served as an assistant on the U-20 team and U-17 team.

Speculation about men's coaching change dismissed

Clive Charles. The 48-year-old Englishman certainly has experience at the international level - and that's not even counting his playing days in England and in the NASL.

Charles coached the U.S. U-21 women's team for four years (1993-96). He moved on to become the men's national team's assistant coach under Steve Sampson through the '98 World Cup.

He is currently the men's Olympic coach, but speculation about his future in that job has persisted since Bruce Arena was named men's national team coach and technical director in October 1998. One scenario has had Arena moving Chicago Fire head coach Bob Bradley, his former D.C. United assistant, into Charles' job, and Charles, under contract with U.S. Soccer, moving into the women's job.

Steinbrecher dismissed that speculation.

"That's absolute utter nonsense and rubbish," he said.

Charles' Portland program produced World Cup champions Tiffeny Milbrett and Shannon MacMillan.

Besides Milbrett and MacMillan, Charles is believed to have the support of some younger players on the national team. Older players are apparently concerned that a coach from outside the current staff might make changes before the Olympics.

"Any kind of change you have, sure it would shake it up a little bit," Milbrett said. "But it's exciting, like a breath of fresh air. ... I think Clive would be a very good coach. I might be a little biased."

DiCicco, on the other hand, wants a coach with recent experience at the international level.

"To be honest, Clive has to get up to speed on the women's game because it's changed a lot," he said. "He's been on the men's side of things for a while now."

April Heinrichs. The former U.S. national team captain has plenty of international experience as a player and a coach. Heinrichs scored 37 goals in 47 appearances for the U.S. in 1984-91 and won the '91 World Cup with the U.S. She was an assistant coach on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team and is currently the head coach of the U.S. U-16 girls. Heinrichs has also coached collegiately for 10 years (four at Virginia, five at Maryland and one at Princeton).

The 35-year-old is the youngest of the candidates.

Bobby Howe. The 54-year-old Englishman is considered the inside candidate.

Howe has spent the last two years as U.S. Soccer's director of coaching education and works out of U.S. Soccer House in Chicago, so he is familiar with the ins and outs of U.S. Soccer.

Working against him is that he hasn't coached women at the international level. His last U.S. coaching job was in 1993, when he led the U-20 men to eighth place in the World Youth Championship in Australia.

John Ellinger. The 48-year-old Ellinger has emerged as a late candidate, following the impressive job he did with the U.S. U-17 boys this fall.

He led them to fourth place, their best finish ever, in the U-17 World Cup in New Zealand.

He hasn't coached women, however. He is the only coach with experience in MLS (assistant coach on the Columbus Crew in 1996).

bySoccer America associate editor Dean Caparaz

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications