Barry Pauwels, who arrived from Belgium in 2018 to take charge of U.S. Soccer coaching schools, and former Canadian international Ante Jazic, will be assisting Wicky during the Concacaf U-17 Championship (May 1-16) that serves as qualifying for the 2019 U-17 World Cup, which kicks off in September.
While the U.S. youth national team program still has four head coaching vacancies, PA Classics Director of Coaching Steve Klein has been assigned to head coach the U-15s on a per diem basis at the Torneo Delle Nazioni in Italy April 27-May 4. Klein will be assisted by Christian Gonzalez (New York Soccer Club Academy Director) and goalkeeper coach Russell Payne (West Point head coach). All three have previously served as national team program assistant coaches on a per diem basis.
Pauwels, who served in the Belgian federation’s coaching education department before coming the USA, was as head coach of Belgium’s U-15 boys national team in 2017.
Jazic is a Canada native who represented its national team 36 times. He began his 18-year pro playing career in Croatia, from where his parents hail, and also played in Austria and Russia before finishing his playing career with eight seasons in MLS, with the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA.
Upon retiring after the 2013 MLS season, Jazic worked for the Canadian federation, running identification camps for the U-15 national team. He joined Arkansas’ Little Rock Rangers Soccer Club as a technical advisor in 2016 and became its Director of Soccer Operations and Youth Academy in September of 2017.
Jazic’s time at Chivas USA overlapped with Wicky’s during the preseason of 2009. Wicky, who played five games for Chivas USA during his injury-plagued 2008 season, retired before the start of the 2009 season.
Mike McGinty, the former St. Louis University head coach and frequent YNT assistant, will serve as the U-17s goalkeeper coach.
Assigning Pauwels and Jazic as assistants is a departure from U.S. Soccer’s recent practice of having continuity within the program and having at least one head coach from a younger team serving as an assistant. The latter, however, wasn’t an option because U.S. Soccer no longer has a fully operational youth national team program.
Five head coaches of the seven youth national teams left between November 2017 and February 2019. Only one, U-17 head coach John Hackworth, who left in July of 2018, has been replaced, by Wicky.
The coaching vacancies have led to U-20 head coach Tab Ramos doing double-duty with the U-18s, and a shuffling around of coaches. Shaun Tsakiris (left in December 2018) and Dave van den Bergh had stints as interim U-17 head coaches in the wake of Hackworth’s departure.
For the current U-17s, one of the highest-profile teams in perhaps the USA’s most talented generation of young American talent in history, Wicky became their fourth head coach.
U-15 coach Van den Bergh led U-19 camps when that position became vacant with Brad Friedel’s departure in November 2017. Wicky was hired after U.S. Soccer failed to come to terms with Tsakiris or Van den Bergh for the U-17 head coaching position. (Clint Peay, who coached U-14s and U-15s, left last February and Omid Namazi departed in June of 2018.)
Two years ago, the USA was one of only two nations -- besides England, which won both -- to reach the quarterfinals of the U-17 World Cup (with Hackworth coaching and Tsakiris assisting) and the U-20 World Cup (coached by Ramos).
Despite the unprecedented success during past few years, upheaval ensued because of the Federation’s requirement that YNT coaches live in Chicago and its refusal to trust the leadership of Ramos, the Youth Technical Director.
The team in urgent need of a head coach is the U-16 national team, which will compete at a UEFA Development Tournament in Prague in mid-May. A U.S. Soccer spokesman said that team will, like the U-15s, be handled by a coach from a Development Academy club.
The U-16 squad will comprise of 2003s, while the U-15s headed by Klein are 2004s. This year’s U-17 World Cup is for players born in 2002 or later.
Ramos’ U-20s qualified for the U-20 World Cup that kicks off in Peru in May by winning the Concacaf U-20 Championship last November.