A strange business, this Hugo Perez affair. He is no longer the coach of the U.S. U-15 boys national team. The USSF has -- well, what has it done? Fired him? No, not that. Perez is still a full-time Technical Advisor to the USSF.
What then? We are told -- that is, Tab Ramos, the national U-20 coach, has told us -- that “Hugo is a great coach.” I have no doubt whatever that Ramos believes that to be so. At least, Ramos has told me personally how much he values Perez as an assessor of young talent.
So there are obvious questions. Why is Perez, so highly valued, out as the U-15 coach? And why would it have to be Ramos who told him the bad news? And why did the USSF not issue a press release on the move, explaining the whys and wherefores? That would be normal practice, particularly when dealing with someone who, to quote Ramos again, the USSF is “committed to.”
There are, says Ramos, structural changes afoot in the national youth program, and the Perez move is merely one part of them. Well now. Changes in the national program must mean the involvement of Jurgen Klinsmann. And where I have faith in anything that Ramos tells us about the good of the program, I have no such faith -- in fact, no faith at all -- in anything that Klinsmann might tell us.
Round about the time that the Perez news leaked out, I happened by chance to catch a tape of an earlier interview with Klinsmann. A thoroughly disturbing experience. Here was Klinsmann congratulating his team, but mostly himself, on their World Cup run (no better that what Bob Bradley had achieved, less than Bruce Arena) and gushing out a deluge of motivational cliches, a stream of executive drivel.
The sheer vapidity of what Klinsmann was saying was alarming. This talking head that sounded like a huckster ... this is our national team coach? Nothing here to inspire confidence in sound judgment.
So just what is the meaning of this youth re-organization -- undoubtedly Klinsmann-approved, if not Klinsmann-inspired? Why would Perez be ousted? Was he proving to be lousy coach? Nobody -- least of all Ramos -- is saying that. So why? Consider: only two years ago, Richie Williams became the first coach in history to fail to qualify the USA for the U-17 World Cup. A string of 14 consecutive appearances -- starting with the very first edition of the tournament in 1985 - was broken. But Williams is still the U-17 coach. What on earth can Perez have done to merit dismissal?
The complicating factor here is that Perez is the most Latino of all the USSF coaches, the one who shows the most faith in Latino players. One is entitled to wonder how much support such a coach might get from Klinsmann, who in four years has shown only a lukewarm interest in recruiting Latino players.
We shall, presumably, know all shortly. We are to expect an announcement from the USSF “in the near future” detailing all the changes. Obviously the USSF has made a hash of this. What was the hurry in demoting Perez when the announcement (and, by implication, the changes) were not ready to be announced?
And, however much praise that announcement may heap on Perez, it will be viewed as just so much hypocrisy should Perez receive anything less than an obvious promotion. And it is mighty difficult to see where there might be openings for Perez -- who makes no secret of his desire to become a pro-level coach -- to advance up the USSF coaching ladder.