Commentary

Earnie Stewart on the USA's Under-17 disappointment, hiring YNT coaches, and the Latino issue

Earnie Stewart, who as U.S. Soccer Sporting Director oversees the men's and women's national teams and their youth national team programs, on Tuesday addressed the USA's disappointing performance at the Under-17 World Cup, the youth national team head coaching vacancies, and the lack Hispanic representation at U.S. Soccer.

The comments came from a conference call that was mostly dedicated to Stewart addressing the men's national team and the confidence he has in Gregg Berhalter, who took the helm in December 2018 after a hiring process guided by Stewart.

His promotion to Sporting Director in August 2019 put Stewart in charge of a men's youth national team (YNT) program that had not been replacing its head coaches.

YNT head coach departures:
Brad Friedel (November 2017), Omid Namazi (June 2018), John Hackworth (July 2018), Shaun Tsakiris (December 2018), Clint Peay (February 2019), Dave van den Bergh (June 2019), Tab Ramos (October 2019).
YNT head coach hires:
Raphael Wicky (March 2019)

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THE HIRING TIME FRAME? Stewart, upon being asked for a timetable on filling the youth national team head coaching vacancies:

"In the last eight weeks [I have been] putting the organizational chart for myself together. I would say youth national team coaches are something that we need -- so ASAP.

"So there’s a time frame after this camp for myself, and I can say we’re already in the process of already hiring somebody, but we have to go through some processes on that. I’ll say that. But we’re already in the process of hiring at least one coach.

"But right after this camp, all stops are going forward. Without putting a real timetable on it, I’d say, ASAP. And hopefully you get it before Christmas and have at least, one, the conversations, but also have a good idea [of who] the people within those jobs are going to be."

The camp Stewart referred to is the USA's gathering for the Concacaf Nations League games, vs. Canada on Friday and vs. Cuba on Tuesday (Nov. 19). The organizational chart is a reference to Stewart's plan of how the entire national team program setup will be altered under his guidance.

"I’m putting a new organizational chart together for the sports performance side, for the technical side, and then as we go along, it’s filling that in," Stewart said as part of his answer about the U.S. U-17s' World Cup performance. "What does that look like is something that, one -- I need to speak to the Technical Committee about, and two -- it has to go to the Board. They need to make a decision on that.

"But having that, and that’s how I operate and work, one -- it starts with that mission and vision you have, and two -- putting a structure together that I think will be very successful. And then it’s placing all these things in there. And then there are games, and results, and yeah, I would say the under-17s are disappointing, the results that we had ..."

REACTION TO U-17 WORLD CUP? Under Raphael Wicky, the Swiss who was hired in March 2019, the USA had one of its worst performances at the biennial tournament that was launched in 1985.

"One thing I can say about that, and it’s not going to do much good for you, is we’re going to have a debrief of the Under-17 World Cup," Stewart said. "But what I would say in that is the role of under-17s in the future that they need to have -- once again the result was disappointing. Really simple, in the sense going home after the first round, that’s not why you want to go to a World Cup. ... We qualified in a fairly easy manner, but then we go to a world stage, and that wasn’t good enough.

"One, I’m going to have a debrief with Raphael on that, the coach, and the coaching staff, to see what went on there from a technical, from a tactical standpoint, from a team standpoint, and how we can better ourselves."

Timothy Weah, Sergino Dest and Josh Sargent, who played on the Hackworth team that reached the quarterfinals in 2017, have already played for the full national team. The Richie Williams-coached 2015 exited in first round, but Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams went on to play for the full national team.

"But in the overall goal in everything, and yes we want to win, yes we want to become world champions, it’s about the development of the individual player because, and I’ll say this very black and white, you can become world champion, but if there’s not one player that evolves and goes to our men’s national team, we haven’t succeeded in what we want to do," said Stewart. "So that is an important part of the mission and we have players in our under-17 that have gone through this experience now. Once again, disappointing when it comes result-wise, but they at least went through this experience and with the experiences in tournaments in the future will help them get to the men’s national team. Once again, having a recap is one, but two, also, the overall goal from the individual player reaching our men’s national team. That is biggest reason why we have a youth national team."

HISPANIC REPRESENTATION? Stewart addressed the issue of Latino representation at the upper levels as well. He was asked whether it concerned him:

"When it’s voiced, it is a concern in the sense that it’s an opinion that’s on the outside," he said. "What I can say to that is that when we put it together, we’re just looking for the best people. It’s as simple as that. There’s no other stuff that goes on or anything like that. And is the Hispanic community an important part of the United States and U.S. Soccer? Yes. I truly believe that.

"Should there be representation, yeah, I believe that as well. That is hopefully what the future will also entail and what that will look like but it’s also about the quality of the people you bring in and everything. But it is an important part of our heritage, it’s an important part of our community, so that should also be represented within the U.S. Soccer Federation. And I don’t believe anybody within the U.S. Soccer Federation feels differently than that. Not at all."

37 comments about "Earnie Stewart on the USA's Under-17 disappointment, hiring YNT coaches, and the Latino issue".
  1. Kevin Leahy, November 13, 2019 at 9:28 a.m.

    Guess he is the face of the federation now. Is he saying that Hugo Perez & Tab Ramos are not quality? He is just now putting together an organizational chart? Has he been too busy since his hire? Am surprised that anyone from management even felt the need to talk. Of course he supports Greg Berhalter! He hired him. If he fails it, is on him. This is a disfunctional organization and that, is a leadership issue!!

  2. frank schoon, November 13, 2019 at 9:48 a.m.

    You can debrief Raphael Wicky along with his coaching staff all you want but that's not where the problem lies. Good luck with that! Besides if you fire Wicky you'd have to look under rocks in the Arizona desert  to find a coach who wants to live in CHICAGO!!!

    The quote <"   it’s about the development of the individual player ...., but if there’s not one player that evolves...but if there’s not one player that evolves and goes to our men’s national team, we haven’t succeeded"> This quote is the crux to me. "PLAYER EVOLVEMENT", WHO is in CHARGE of player evolvement??....Lets look at who is in charge, what is their BACKROUND and EXPERTISE. WHO are these dingbats ,that parents pay big money to, at your local DA programs who develop our youth that suppose to win the future world cup FOR US.

    Oh, you say, those in charge are the following, Zlatan, Dennis Bergkamp, Pirlo, Frank de Boer, Tata, Xavi, Iniesta, Hugo Sanchez, Van Persie, Maldini, Henri, well I'm satisfied for those are the people who have the expertise to really teach our youth, no doubt...but UNFORTUNATELY, we have only a clown car of licensed coaches, who are excellent, in the classroom , well versed in lap top computer soccer programs and ,mind you, they can even take on a lamp post one on one in the dark....

    Earney is going to talk the USSF Technical Committee, for advice. Well , if this Technical Committee is comprised of people I just mentioned, I'd say ,"good move" for those are types you want to talk to. But unfortunately that is not the case, but at least it is well represented PC wise as far gender equality goes.. WOW!!! that's a biggy......


  3. Ginger Peeler, November 13, 2019 at 11:18 a.m.

    So, Earnie's top priority is creating a flow chart? And he's working on it RIGHT NOW! After he has it set up, he'll just have to fill in the boxes and, ta da! All problems solved!!! Everything will fall into place when he's got that flow chart finished. The really scary part is that he obviously believes that this really is the solution. 
    Just how many concussions did he suffer to get to this mental state? Unbelievable!

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, November 13, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

    I can't wait until he starts talking about "metrics".

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, November 13, 2019 at 7:27 p.m.

    U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E!!!

    As a teacher of college-age students, if this was just happened to be a short essay, I am very sorry to say that it merits a resounding INCOMPLETE if not an F, for lack of fluidity, structure, and making a good ole college try and submit a passable paper.

    Now seriously, I am truly sorry, but Mr. Stewart just doen's cut it nor fills the bill in many fronts, as for having to come up with some metrics, AY DIOS MIO!!!  And as for the lack of "Hispanic presentation, " I do believe the fellow has no clue, just like they said about the emperor has no clothes...  But then again, we sow what we reap...

  6. Bill Dooley replied, November 14, 2019 at 6:31 a.m.

    Ric Fonseca.

    You misspelled "G-O-B-B-L-E-D-Y-G-O-O-K"

    Carry on.

  7. Hat Trick, November 13, 2019 at 11:19 a.m.

    I read the first article about Stewart today and now this one.  He really doesn’t say anything.  Talks in circles.  Not a good attribute for a manager.  I get more concerned every time I I hear something posted by US Soccer

    The problem is the foundation.  Plain and simple.

  8. Robert Wilson, November 13, 2019 at 1:56 p.m.

    Glad you got some questions to him. Other than hopefully we are hiring a bunch of YNT coaches this winter this answers are a bunch of oddly worded platitudes

    Not sure what to take from this..

  9. beautiful game, November 13, 2019 at 2:42 p.m.

    Mr. Stewart is spinning. He fits well with the USSF kahuna culture of incompetence.

  10. Bob Ashpole, November 13, 2019 at 3:12 p.m.

    "'What I can say to that is that when we put it together, we’re just looking for the best people. It’s as simple as that. '"

    Then it is apparent from Stewart's decision that he is a horrible judge of people. Stewart should run for Congress. He has the political doubletalk down perfect.

  11. Kevin Leahy, November 13, 2019 at 4:45 p.m.

    Great comparison Bob! All of these so called leaders do belong in congress because, they are just as disfunctional. He isn't worried about qualifying for the next WC then, he is the only one! I personally feel some what positive about some of the players in MNT pool right now but, if G.B. thinks he get them to play his way with limited time for training, he is kidding himself. This team is a wreck right now. This federation is a wreck right now. How long will it be before they infect the WNT?

  12. Alan Blackledge, November 13, 2019 at 5:24 p.m.

    Wow...I'm more worried now...as Ginger said...he's just now working on this chart! What has he been doing! Between this chart and lack of coaching hires what the hell is going on, if anything!!!

  13. James Madison, November 13, 2019 at 6:32 p.m.

    A disappointing "smoke and mirrors" interview.  Stewart should either do better or be replaced himself.

  14. R2 Dad, November 13, 2019 at 8 p.m.

    I'm not great at reading these tea leaves. But if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say there are three long-term goals of USSF. They've headed down these paths--the paths they've decided are the only acceptable ones to acheive their goals--and can't turn back now. So they're mentally boxed into a corner. 1) MLS must be a top 10 league in 20 years, and 2) our DA system must not be an enormous financial drain on the profitability of MLS teams. Lastly, 3) maintain control of the Nats silo at all costs--see NASL for example of an organization that loses control of the process. I think that explains why they're doing what they're doing, with all the odd decision-making along the way. Anyone else have suggestions? 

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, November 13, 2019 at 8:53 p.m.

    What I suspect is that MLS controls USSF. MLS wants national team players to play in MLS to increase their match attendance and TV broadcast market share.

    I suspect that MLS thinks the average MLS fan doesn't know good soccer from bad. 

    When they say top ten league, they mean in terms of revenue, not in terms of quality of play.

    In business, there is a basic Peter Principle of production. Once a product is successful, management looks for ways to cut production costs per unit, which invarible means reducing quality until it barely passes minimum stardards of acceptability. When the owners of corporations had their own name on the corporation, there was such a thing as pride in their products. Those types of businesses have all but vanished decades ago.

  16. Tony Biscaia, November 14, 2019 at 8:40 a.m.

    Earnie, just go to a brown bar and breathe, breathe in the air.  Don't be afraid to care, look around and choose your own ground.

  17. Tony Biscaia, November 14, 2019 at 8:46 a.m.

    Mr. Ashpole, as to control how do you spell S-U-N-I-L ?  Oh ya, he worked for the Revs for 2 decades, how many trophies did that lead to?  Can you say Z-E-R-O

  18. Tony Biscaia, November 14, 2019 at 8:54 a.m.

    So call me bitter, but the Revs had some of the best crowds in the early days of MLS, but managed somehow to drive most of them away,  I should know, I'm one.  So ironic that the newest teams in MLS draw better crowds now than Kraft ever dreamed of, or could even fit in his Foxboro stadium.

  19. Tony Biscaia, November 14, 2019 at 9:05 a.m.

    It was a running joke in the media covering the Revs in the early days, that the lowest paid Patriots player made more than the entire Revs payroll. House of the rising sun, I should know I'm one.

  20. Tony Biscaia, November 14, 2019 at 9:13 a.m.

    Schaefer, CMGI, etc stadium would not allow ANY flagpoles in, now look at the giant flags and smoke displays.  Ya right, Kraft was a pioneer.   In massage parlor mentoring maybe.  And no, I do not plan on ever having media credentials with the Revs again so sue me.

  21. Gary Levitt, November 14, 2019 at 9:38 a.m.

    I thnk you are taking the path Stewart has set out of context.  When he says he is building an org chart, I assume he is referring to sourcing, recruiting and hiring coaches that fit into the program that he is now responsbile for.  While I am not specifically speaking to the U-!7 issues at the WC, or the MNT perfornance against Canada, I would like to read about suggestions and solutions all of us woiuld have if we were in Stewart's role?  I am not close enough to the youth national team dynamics to comment but I would enjoy reading some of the solutions you may have that would differ from what Stewart has done or is planning on doing.  I will offer up one idea that unfortunately passed by the MNT:  at whatever cost and parameters, I would have hired Tata Martino as our national team manager.  100% I would have made that happen if I was the Federation.  

  22. Peter Bechtold replied, November 14, 2019 at 10:27 a.m.

    Tata would not have accepted. He was here(in Atlanta) for 2 years and saw enough. Remember that ATL wanted to keep him, but all the gold in that organization did not suffice.

  23. Bob Ashpole replied, November 14, 2019 at 11:19 a.m.

    1. Hire the best techncial experts in the world. If you can't afford them full time, hire them as consultants.

    2. USSF managers, CEO, and board needs to stop telling experts what to do. Instead shut up and listen.

    3. Start asking the past NT coaches for advice and pay attention. JK, Arena, Bradley, Dorrance, Heinrichs, and Ellis.

    4. Start asking the persons who left the organization for advice, especially Vasques, Perez and Ramos. 

    5. Drop the requirement that coaches or any employees (except janitors and receptionists) live in Chicago. 

    6. Stop refusing to consider candidates for technical positions based on an imagined lack of proficiency in English. 

    7. Maintain the legal minimum number (20%) of amateur soccer players of voting members of the USSF board.

    Just a reminder, you don't have to wipe out the entire prior NT organization before hiring replacements. Duh.


  24. Ginger Peeler replied, November 14, 2019 at 4:43 p.m.

    Well, first I would reinstate the program and  organization that Tab Ramos had working so well. That old saying still says it all..."If it works, don't fix it". 

  25. Ginger Peeler replied, November 14, 2019 at 4:47 p.m.

    Then follow through with Bob's suggestions. 

  26. Ric Fonseca replied, November 14, 2019 at 10:35 p.m.

    Bob has some very interesting suggestions, from eliminating the Chicago residency to bringing back Ramos.  I'd still tweek-it a bit, as the "old Chicago guard" will be difficult to beat.... having lived in Chicago some decades ago, and having visited and spent a couple of days in Soccer House during and after WC USA, needless to say I got chills running up and down my spine.  What bothers the holy bejeezus outta me is Mrf. Stewart's seemingly complete lack of grasp of the Latino scene, and given that Soccer House is but a few blocks away from one of that city's heavily polulated  neighborhoods, all he needs to do is to go to the Pilsen or 25th Street neighborhoods or go to the "Near North" area of that fair city.   Still, though Bob's comments are indeed interesting!

  27. Derek Mccracken, November 14, 2019 at 12:33 p.m.

    His comment that US Soccer only hires the best people, regardless of race is what really should be happening, but I feel it's a cop-out in this instance and a line that he uses to cover-up some serious deficiencies in USSF. There shouldn't be more Hispanics in US Soccer only to add more of a certain race - That's reverse discrimination. 

    However, I seriously feel that that there are many great Hispanic coaches, administrators, etc., being passed up because th cronyism, the "mafia" that is in that organization. And, until Stewart, and others in positions to make positive difference don't admit it and do something about it, and until they stop hiding behind "hire the best people" type of lines, USSF will continue to stay in the dark ages and be seriously flawed as an organization. 

    GIVE GREAT HISPANIC COACHES AND ADMINISTRATORS AND CHANCE, AND STOP PLAYING LIP-SERVICE TO THIS MAJOR PROBLEM!!!!

  28. Seth Vieux, November 14, 2019 at 2:33 p.m.

    If I were Earnie's boss I would lose complete confidence in him based on this completely incoherent string of non sequiturs and inability to clearly answer simple and important problems. Anyone who has managed managers/leaders has heard something like this before, and it comes when you ask a tough question of someone who has not been focusing on the big picture of their job. No focus, no hint of understanding the problems, and absolutely zero ability to describe concrete solutions or even what anyone is 'doing around here.'

    The only thing in that rambling non-sense that made any sense for a person in his position was the assertion that winning a U-17 WC ,but not producing Impactful USMNT players, would not be a mark of success for a youth program.

  29. David Ruder, November 14, 2019 at 2:44 p.m.

    Start with a clean sheet of paper and hire a Dutch coach. Dutch soccer training programs are considered the best in the world. A coach from Holland with a good track record with youth coaching and training would could start fixing the problem we have in developing world-class youth players.

  30. Ric Fonseca replied, November 14, 2019 at 10:39 p.m.

    Hey good idea, but isn't Mr. ES also of Dutch heritage?  

  31. John Bauman, November 14, 2019 at 3:42 p.m.

    I haven't been folowing too closely but have we quotas for Americans with different backgrounds?  I would have assumed that the best players or managers are the ones who would make the team reqardless of where thier ancestors came from.  I am growing tired of almost every person complaining about the teams saying we don't have enought of this or thay making selections or running the show!

  32. Bob Ashpole replied, November 14, 2019 at 4:13 p.m.

    John, if you look at the players there are minorities included. If you look at the staff, it is pretty much white Europeans. If you look at the very large youth task force there are no Hispanic males at all.

    Much of the criticism regarding player identification is based on the insular nature of USSF which is settling up a system that identifies and selects potential national team players at age 12, which especially for boys is crazy. It favors early bloomers and first quarter birth dates. The insular part is that there is no practical way into the system after age 12 to be seen and scouted. This has been the boys DA system for years, and it is largely pay to play and not national wide. That overlooks large segments of the population as well. Now USSF is setting up an identical system for the highly successful WNT program.

    Some, excuse me, white fans talk about the need to establish a soccer culture as an excuse for our dismal MNT showing. That is a mistake. We have over 60 million Hispanic US citizens, which if a separate country would be the 3rd largest Hispanic country in the world. Other nations are ahead of the US with populations under 10 million. We have the economy and we have population. What we don't have is competence. On the men's side the US underperforms. 

  33. Philip Carragher, November 14, 2019 at 4:31 p.m.

    To not purposely include more latinos in the task force indicates to me that there is little to no  expertise in USSF leadership and management. I'm surrounded by industry professionals/leaders that would get fired if they ignored the well-understood power of diversity by not focusing some aspect of their hiring practices around creating and maintaining a diverse workforce/leadership. Why not admit a mistake here, have a do-over. Go ahead, be a kid again USSF and have a do-over. This was and continues to be a huge mistake. You can fix this. It ain't that hard and you'll only get kudos for fixing this. No risk.

  34. Paul Cuadros, November 14, 2019 at 4:48 p.m.

    A lot of platitudes and round about speak from Stewart. Nothing direct. Nothing designed. No real answers except it's all coming from the outside but the inside is good. That's a laugh. As for Latino coaches, US Soccer often looks overseas for coaches to come in from Europe but rarely do we look south of the border into South America for the same. If we can bring in a Swiss coach, we can bring in an Argentine. But there is institutional bias for those entities and coaches already known who have been a part of the system. Unfortunately, the system has been a good old boy system that has not been diverse, doesn't care about divisity and doesn't recognize where the US talent lies--in its Latino community. Don't expect things to change through this cronyism.

  35. Arnold Ramirez, November 14, 2019 at 4:48 p.m.

    Fire the U17 coach and for that age group hire an American coach. There are many qualified US coaches. 

  36. Ric Fonseca replied, November 14, 2019 at 10:47 p.m.

    Arnie has an excellent point!  Better yet, hire Arnie Ramirez, if anyone knows our communities, it is Arnie!!!

  37. Ron Frechette, November 15, 2019 at 7:38 a.m.

    Is Earnie really putting together a structure for the betterment of US Soccer or just to make sure to meet the cost constraints directed by USSF finance folks. The requirement to have all youth coaches be based in Chicago seems to be a cost cutting (read travel) since there is really no one US Soccer training location. I thought that was going to be in KC around Sporting's facilities and USSF doing their coaches classes there but that seems to not be happening.
    Tab understood the disfunctional approach youth coaches had with training and for better or worse drew a line in the sand and made many coaches conform to small sided training. For those that don't get this - much of small-sided training will allow players to develope dispite bad coaching; i.e. let the game teach!
    Earnie's comments ring of someone who has achived to a level due to being smarter/stronger willed in using office politics vs being the best for the position. Once in at that level - stay in the middle and don't affend anyone and you will keep the job approach.
    If Earnie wants to hire the best and get the most out of US Soccer - then remove the politics and let the good coaches coach. Don't appease everyone put a path in place to allow the best to drive to being the best.
    Tab leaving along with other changes in personal stink of throwing out the baby with the bathwater - why did someone not do a true review and find all of the good points and get rid of the bad to move forward. USSF is great about producing reports - where is that one????

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