Tab Ramos: Hiring freeze has made for 'difficult year' on U.S. men's side

One would have thought that the USA’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup would prompt U.S. Soccer to aggressively support the youth national program that helps prepare players for the full national team. Instead, the boys’ side finds itself with three coaching vacancies.

-- John Hackworth leaving his post as U-17 men’s national team last week marks the third head coach who has departed from the U.S. youth national team program within the last nine months.

-- Brad Friedel left the helm of the U-19s last November to become head coach of MLS’s New England Revolution.

-- In June, Omid Namazi left the U.S. U-18s team to take the helm of top-flight Iranian club Zob Ahan.

Tab Ramos, the U.S. U-20 men’s national team coach, also serves as U.S. Soccer Youth Technical Director, and during his tenure, U.S. Soccer expanded its youth national program by creating teams at each age group, from U-14s to U-20s, with the addition U-16 and U-19 programs.

Tab Ramos

With Namazi’s departure, Ramos has also had to take charge of the U.S. U-18 men’s team, which is headed to the Czech Republic later this month. U-15 coach Dave van den Bergh has filled in with the U-19s since Friedel left for MLS. U-14 coach Clint Peay moved into van den Bergh's U-15 position, creating a vacancy at the U-14 helm.

We asked Ramos why the vacancies haven’t been filled:

“First of all, I am very happy for John, he is an amazing coach and person and will make any professional club better on and off the field," said Ramos. “But our youth national teams have been in a hiring freeze since our men’s senior national team missed qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

“It has been difficult year, having Friedel, Namazi, and now John Hackworth leave, and not replacing them. We all worked very well together as a staff for the success of all of our teams.”

Hackworth is on one more trip, to Costa Rica, with assistants Shaun Tsakiris (the U-16 head coach), John O’Hara and Mike McGinty, before taking the Louisville helm Aug. 13. The next U-17 trip is a four-team tournament in Mexico in October. U.S. Soccer has yet to decide handle that trip.

Ramos is now in his fourth cycle as U-20 boss. He guided the USA to the quarterfinals of 2017 U-20 World Cup after the USA’s first ever Concacaf U-20 Championship title win. Hackworth’s team also reached the quarterfinals of the 2017 U-17 World Cup, making the USA the only nation besides winners England to get that far in each tournament.

On the women’s side, the USA is currently competing at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in France, where it will open play against Japan on Monday. April Heinrichs is the technical director on the women’s side.

“April Heinrichs and I work together to try to advance both the boys and girls youth national teams and be as integrated as possible,” Ramos said. “We are all optimistic that the U-20 girls will have a great World Cup, they are playing really well right now and have very skillful players.

“As part of growing the program, April and I turned in a proposal to hire goalkeeper coaches a year ago and we are hoping that gets looked at soon. We continue to not have any full-time goalkeeper coaches or anyone running a goalkeeper program for the boys or the girls national teams.”

The next men’s U-17 World Cup will be hosted by Peru in October 2019 with the qualifying tournament likely to take place early next year. Poland hosts the U-20 World Cup May 25-June 16 and Concacaf qualifying is slated for November in Florida.

"Our U-20s always rely heavily on our U-19 and U-18 coaches," said Ramos. "The coaches of the various teams working together has been one of the reasons we've been successful."

One expected the 2018 World Cup qualification failure to prompt changes by U.S. Soccer. But putting brakes on the youth national team program is not one we would have recommended.

19 comments about "Tab Ramos: Hiring freeze has made for 'difficult year' on U.S. men's side".
  1. Bob Ashpole, August 5, 2018 at 8:49 p.m.

    Apparently when a wheel comes off a bus at USSF, they deadline the entire fleet. It isn't just a delay in hiring the MNT coach but every coach on the men's side of the game. 

    Can the situation be any better on the women's side? They haven't hired a general manager yet, at least they haven't publicized the hiring if they did it. What a great idea. The senior men's team didn't qualify last fall, so lets not hire any coaches at all. That ought to work out well--not.

  2. Goal Goal, August 5, 2018 at 9:57 p.m.

    How do you institute a hiring freeze for key people?  What has been has not worked.  Now is the time to get rid of dead meat and replace with people that can get the job done.  New blood at the national team levels will improve the entire program.  Don’t shuffle the present staff up the line cut bait and replace with new blood.  It’s time.

  3. R2 Dad, August 5, 2018 at 10:50 p.m.

    Brian Kleiban seems to get results while developing players. But he's not in the Bruce Arena/Bob Bradley mold, so I doubt the Nats silo would welcome him with open arms.

  4. frank schoon, August 6, 2018 at 9:03 a.m.

    Perhaps they are waiting first to hire the new USNT coach and see what influence he might have on the selection of those coaches....Apparantly it won't be van Gaal for he decided to accept an excellent offer of which he won't state what country it was. 
    I would like to see the Atlanta United coach, Tata Martino to be considered as well. He has done a great job with Atlanta and it is the only team that I will watch play and perhaps NYFC....

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, August 6, 2018 at 10:50 a.m.

    Frank, he also reportedly said that he would only take a job from "a big English club" and if he was not in a job by this month, he was retired. The EPL season starts next week, and Chelsea hired someone else last month. 

    I don't like being negative, but I am afraid I must. Under the current structure, van Gaal would be most effective in the long term as an English style MNT general manager, managing all the teams, not just the senior team. My expectation is that USSF wants insiders in control and the conventional, so they would never empower somone like van Gaal (or anyone with new ideas like Cruyff) to improve--they think "change" when they hear "improve"--the program. Managers of bureaucracies typically see change as criticism.

  6. frank schoon replied, August 6, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    Bob, I don't know who offered Van Gaal a job but I don't think it would be in England after he was there previously. I don't know why Chelsea would ever be interested in van Gaal, for they are wanting results right away, whereas van Gaal prefers to build and work with young players. In Holland the rumors was that van Gaal had an offer from the US...who knows....
    Right now, I don't know and I don't care any longer for the election of the current USSF president has a put a big damper on where we are as a nation want to go in soccer.
     Van Gaal leans more towards  running a system and put the necessary changes into effect training and coaching wise. He is an excellent teacher. 

  7. Wallace Wade, August 6, 2018 at 9:17 a.m.

    Wynalda has stated today that he will Coach in one of these vacancies free of charge. If that is indeed true, if the Federation doesn’t take him up on that, well then....there’s no hope. 

  8. Kevin Leahy, August 6, 2018 at 10:14 a.m.

    The whole coaching situation on the men's side is disturbing. It shouldn't be this hard! Sometimes working by committee is not they best way to get things done.

  9. Bob Ashpole, August 6, 2018 at 10:25 a.m.

    I don't see how anyone can correctly judge the effectiveness of any coach without watching them coach. I also don't agree with drawing general conclusions about a large program involving many years and people and then applying them to an individual's job performance.

    A coach's job performance ought to be judged by their own job performance. Unfortunately this is not a common practice in sports where patronage is more important than a coach's performance. (The team's performance usually drives firing decisions in professional sports, not the coach's performance.)

  10. s fatschel, August 6, 2018 at 1:13 p.m.

    They should hire someone younger and familiar with American challenges.  A few the candidates are ready for the retirement home.

  11. Wooden Ships replied, August 7, 2018 at 8:21 a.m.

    S, I’m not so concerned about age as I am passion, knowledge and player management. Your remark regarding American challenges is one that you could expand upon. There’s an inference in that statement that perhaps is the root of our continued struggle. Politics and power within our sport.

  12. s fatschel replied, August 7, 2018 at 9:12 a.m.

    This of course just opinion,  but I think a 40ish something coach can better relate to players in early 20s.  Secondly a coach near retirement could be less hungry.  Lastly the coach needs to be there at least for 2 cycles.  That would put a few candidates into their 70s.

  13. frank schoon replied, August 8, 2018 at 12:40 p.m.

    Ships, you know why Cruyff was never the National Team Coach of Holland....POLITICS.

  14. Ric Fonseca, August 6, 2018 at 6:39 p.m.

    It sure boggles the mind that a so called "hiring freeze" was supposedly implemented, alledgedly to wait the hiring of a new MNT Coach, in the meantime our other national teams wallow in some dispair, and so come on now folks, it ain't rocket science.  As for getting a Euro coach, if I were to grade some of you guys in soccer coaching history in the past 25 years, I'd be bold to tell some of you guys that while I wouldn't flunk you, I'd give you an Incomplete and have you review the history, especially during the past several years and I do believe some of you guys know about that of which I speak!  Jeez, someone in another comment said that a generation of soccer players, yes let's go back to the '70s and thereafter, have grown in and with the sport and ought to now form part of that coaching cadre, i.e. there ought to be enough US coaches, licensed or certificated, or whatever the heck, out there to fill in the positions of those guys that have and will fly the coaching coop.  Lastly, Pancho Schoon, why in heck would you want Tata Martino? PLAY ON!!!

  15. frank schoon replied, August 6, 2018 at 9:39 p.m.

    Ric, that is a good question. As I stated ,I do think that Tata Martino should be considered as one of the applicants for the USMNT job, why wouldn't you. There is nobody in the US coaching brigade that has the experience "Tata" brings with him,and  I mean no one! it's that simple! Whether he would ever get or except the job is another matter, but let us look at his qualifications.
    Compare any US coach to Martino's, level of coaching experience than I would say it is just small potatoes no matter how you slice it. He has coached Barcelona, at that time the greatest team in the world, which a US coach can only dream about; he was the National team coach of Paraguay; he was also the National team coach of Argentina and he was coach of the Argentinian team Newell Old Boys, not to mention other teams....Where can you  find a US coach with that backround, and high level coaching  experience, even having coached the best team in the world..Let me know...And just a little add on ,he played professional ball in Argentina and Spain all his life. This guy has done it all as coach and as a player at a higher level than any US coach.  Look what he has done with Atlanta United.
    He's a latino, and therefore would have more of an eye for latin players in this country, he speaks the language and he is here in America already....
    And you ask me why would I ever choose or consider, rather, a guy like Tata Martino? DUH, I don't know either why would anyone ever think of choosing Tata Martino....who is he?

  16. Mark Landefeld, August 6, 2018 at 6:53 p.m.

    Here's a hard financial reality -- not qualifying for WC 2018 means about $8-9 million less in the U.S. Soccer budget over the next cycle.  Sothe freeze pretty much fiscal prudence to slow-walk the HC hires and let the current staff (which crosses over age groups) monitor and develop the pools until Ernie Stewart finds the right hires. If he is to be successful, this is NOT the time to rush to decisions. The hiring freeze means Ernie is probably taking a long deep look at existing staff before looking outside.

  17. Bob Ashpole replied, August 7, 2018 at 5:31 a.m.

    USSF has almost $200 million cash in the bank. They can afford coaches.

  18. Mark Landefeld replied, August 7, 2018 at 3:40 p.m.

    Bu the statements I see, it's about $130M cash and thats after a "bonus" year with Copa America Centenario revenues.  The coming year will probably see about $10M increase in National Team expenditures because of WWC Qualifications and prep, so the National Teams expenditures (about $90M) will again run ahead of revenues from games and sponsorships (about $80M). So I can understand a slow-walk on the youth team appointments.  This is a Federation that also needs to build reserves specifically for marketing WC 2026. 

    It's just a financial pause that gives Ernie Stewart the time for real due diligence coming into his role.

  19. Bob Ashpole replied, August 7, 2018 at 11:36 p.m.

    Like many, you are ignoring the WNT team. 2019 is a big income year for them.

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