Commentary

The U.S. connections of Iran's worldly coach Carlos Queiroz

When Argentina played Mexico, it faced an Argentine coach, Tata Martino. If the Spaniards were to meet Belgium, they'd see a compatriot on the other bench, Roberto Martinez. There's no chance of the USA playing against a team coached by an American. But on Tuesday it will be competing against an Iran team coached by a man who was once U.S. Soccer's technical advisor for its national teams: Carlos Queiroz.

U-20 World Cup 1989

Born in Portuguese Mozambique in 1953, Queiroz moved to Portugal when the African nation became independent in the mid-1970s. He turned to coaching after a short goalkeeping career and became famous for coaching Portugal to U-20 World Cup titles in 1989 and 1991 with teams including players, such as Joao Pinto, Paulo Sousa, Rui Costa and Luis Figo, who would become part of Portugal's Golden Generation.

At was at the 1989 U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia where Queiroz got his first glimpse of American soccer.

“The United States national team was a great surprise,” said Queiroz on the Bob Gansler-coached team that finished fourth. “I had not known much about American soccer before that.”

The MetroStars

In the middle of MLS's inaugural season of 1996, the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) hired Queiroz to replace Eddie Firmani after they came out of the gates with a 3-5-0 record. Queiroz guided the MetroStars to a 12-12-0 record and a first-round playoff appearance.

“MLS was just a baby when I arrived with a lot of hopes and expectations — but as with all babies, some falls, and ups and downs,” Queiroz said in a 2018 interview with Soccer America. “But I realized immediately the great potential of United States soccer. What I found was the beginning of a huge project to create and help develop soccer in the United States.”

After the 1996 MLS season, Queiroz became head coach of Japan's Nagoya Grampus.

Project 2010, aka the Q-Report

In January 1998, U.S. Soccer, led by President Alan Rothenberg, Secretary General Hank Steinbrecher and Sunil Gulati (Executive Committee, VP Professional Division) commissioned Queiroz to research American soccer and make recommendations to help the USA reach a goal of "making the U.S. national team an honest competitor for the championship of World Cup 2010." Queiroz, who took on the title of U.S. Soccer Technical Advisor, was assisted by Portuguese-American coach Don Gasper.

“I'll never forget my first meeting with President Rothenberg,” Queiroz said. “He said, ‘Carlos, my goal is to win the World Cup in 10 years.’ I think he saw something uncomfortable in my face, or my surprise, because he said ‘Oh don’t worry, I know that probably we will not be able to win the world championship in 10 years. But I want to know what we need to do step by step to become world champions.’"

On July 16, 1998, shortly after the USA exited the 1998 World Cup in France, Queiroz delivered the 113-page Project 2010 report that included 20 pages of excerpts from interviews with soccer people from various parts of the American game.

“I did deep research,” Queiroz said. “I went all over the nation. I talked with dozens and dozens of people — coaches and players and officials all over the United States to try and understand what was really the situation.”

Two dozen years later, much of what was recommended in the Queiroz blueprint, which detailed its 11 recommendations, has been replicated in some form, for example, an expansion of coaching education for specific levels and the significant increase in youth national team coaching staffs and scouts. The Development Academy and its successor MLS Next aren't far off from youth league models in the Q Report.

The plan had been that Queiroz be hired to take charge of the national team program, but after Bob Contiguglia became president, U.S. Soccer’s plans changed and Bruce Arena was hired as national team coach.

“MLS and U.S. Soccer have started, step-by-step, to create visions and projects and opportunities," Queiroz said.

Queiroz move to the MetroStars was his first venture abroad. After the Q Report, he became national team head coach of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Iran (two stints), Colombia and Egypt. In between, he served as assistant coach to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United for five years and spent a season at the helm of Real Madrid.

"When you arrive in one place and start a project with a club or national team, the most important thing is to adapt and understand where your starting point is," said Quieroz, who credits his Project 2010 experience and Rothenberg for helping prepare him for coaching in different countries. "You need to adapt your beliefs, your views, your concept to the reality that you have and develop one approach that is genuine and specific for each situation.

"And this exactly something that Rothenberg helped me understand."

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