Omid Namazi has done it all in coaching: indoors, women, Iran, now U.S. U-18s

By Mike Woitalla

Omid Namazi, who took charge of the U.S. U-18 men’s national team in January, started his coaching career in indoor ball, has coached in U.S. women’s pro league, and was Iran’s assistant coach during its successful qualifying campaign for the 2014 men’s World Cup. He continues to assist Tab Ramos with the U.S. men's U-20s, whose staff he joined before their quarterfinal appearance at the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

Omid Namazi on …

His childhood
I was born here in the USA. I was here till I was 6 years old, when my dad graduated from the University of Maryland and our family moved back to Iran, where I spent my school years, from 6 to 18. When I was 18, I came back to go to college, West Virginia University, in 1983.

Youth soccer in Iran
When I was 6 years old I followed my uncle around. He was a top player at the time and played at a good level in Iran. I would go to his games and watch -- and when he had any free time we would play and he would teach me certain technical aspects of the game.

Then I started really getting into it by the age 8 or 9. There were pickup games at every corner on the streets and in parks, etc. Mostly 3-on-3 games. I never played organized soccer till I was 14, but played a ton in school with my school teams, and played a lot on the streets as well. At 14, I joined a first division club's academy and worked my way all the way up to the first team as a reserve, but then I moved to the United States to go to college.

WVU media guide

Playing career highlight
Winning the APSL championship with the Maryland Bays in 1990. Great team, great bunch of guys and we were able to beat the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the final to win the championship!

Coaching history
I was playing indoor late in my career, so that’s where I started my coaching, but I always wanted to coach outdoors. That was my ultimate goal. When that opportunity came, it came with the women and I took a job with the San Diego Spirit of the old WUSA.

Namazi’s Coaching Career: U.S. U-18 men’s head coach (2016-present), U.S. U-20 men’s assistant coach (2014-present), U.S. women assistant (2014), Iran assistant (2011-14), Steel Azin/Iran assistant (2010-11), Chicago Red Stars/WPS head coach (2010), New Jersey Ironmen/MISL head coach 2007-09, St. Louis Steamers/MISL head coach (2005-06) Cleveland Force/MISL head coach (2004-05), San Diego Spirit/WUSA head coach (2003), Philadelphia Kixx/MISL head coach (1999-2002).

Returning to Iran
An old friend, Mohammad Khakpour, a former Iran national team player who played for the MetroStars (1999-2000) asked me if I wanted to be his assistant coach with Steel Azin. While I was there, Carlos Quieroz and [American] Dan Gasper were hired as head coach and goalkeeper coach for the national team. I had some history with the two of them. I had played one game on loan with the MetroStars when Carlos was the coach. We met and decided I’m going to stay and work with the Iranian national team. I did that for three and a half years.

Helping ‘Team Melli’ reach the World Cup
The Iran national team experience was great. I was working with a top-notch coach in Carlos Quieroz, who had been at Manchester United and Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team. I couldn’t be more proud of my work but also more pleased with the fact that I was working with and learning from one of the best. It gave me a lot of insight on international coaching and some of the details you need to be worried about when you work with national teams.

Favorite Players
I was a huge admirer of Johan Cruyff. I was 9 years old when the Netherlands lost in the World Cup final to Germany in 1974 -- and I was devastated. I loved Ajax and Cruyff was my idol. Besides Cruyff, I really liked the German players Bernd Schuster, and Rainer Bonhof (the youngest player on West Germany’s 1974 World Cup-winning team).

Favorite Team
Ajax Amsterdam. Loved their flowing and attacking soccer in the 1970s.

Can’t miss soccer on TV
UEFA Champions League games are ones I try not to miss. I believe those games are the highest level of soccer, and when Bayern or Barca are playing -- I'm not missing those games!

Favorite Soccer Book
“Miracle of Castel Del Sangro”

“Playing soccer is simple, but playing simple soccer is the hardest thing to do.” -- Johan Cruyff

Favorite Soccer Movie

Coaching the U.S. U-18 national team
It's going well. On our trip to Argentina in March we had three good wins [vs. San Lorenzo, Racing Club and Uruguay]. There’s good upside and good quality in the core group. The problem with the age group is it’s not very deep and now my job is to be out there watching players, scouting players and see if there is anyone else we can add to the pool and make it a larger pool of quality players.

U.S. youth soccer progress
Generally speaking, we’re getting better and better across all age groups. The U.S. Development Academy has come a long way from when we started it.

We always felt, 15-20 years ago, that American players were not as technical. Now we’re seeing a lot of technical players. Maybe something that’s lost in the mix is that American grit and fight, but we’re working on that and trying to instill that in our players. And hopefully the two of them mix and the development of our players over the years is going to get us to the top of the world of soccer.

Player development challenges and goals
Still, the technical area remains a priority. They need to be efficient on the ball and more comfortable on ball.

The environment they are in, day-in day-out, has got to be competitive, so it develops that competitive edge and competitive drive. Nations like Germany, France, Spain, some South American teams -- they’re a little more competitive than we are.

We’re are on the right track. It might not always reflect in World Cup results, because even getting out of group play can depend on a lot of factors, like the draw. But you can see that our players are getting better and better by the number of players playing overseas now, opposed to 15 years ago.

3 comments about "Omid Namazi has done it all in coaching: indoors, women, Iran, now U.S. U-18s".
  1. Ric Fonseca, April 26, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.

    Very nice bio. I've a question of a possible coaching colleague of his (and mine) and that is what eer happened to Afsheen Ghotbi? An Iranian american, UCLA grad and a local soccer club coach, he later went on to assist in Korea and Iran, and appeared to be high on some people's list for a possible coaching job in MLS. Yet, anyone know where he is?

  2. Barry Ulrich, April 26, 2016 at 4:47 p.m.

    Ric, Ric, Ric - put your cursor on the URL line and type in Ashen Ghotbi. The Internet is amazing!

  3. Leonardo Perez, April 26, 2016 at 11:52 p.m.

    I would like to ask a question of Mr.Namazi: Sir, you mention that players need to be "be more efficient and comfortable" with the ball; I quess that would include first touch, keeping the ball away from defenders, etc., and I totally agree. But, can a player of 21 or 23 years old, who can't keep the ball or his first touch is very poor--can these players be taught to become more proficient with ball or is it too late for them? I see MNT Zardes, and his first touch is hiting it back 6ft back where it came from and then him attempting to get the ball back. Is it up to him to learn this on his own, or does he need a coach's education to show him how to do it? Can you tell me?

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