Tuesday, November 7, 2006
It's time for a reality check on the search for a new US coach.

Current reports indicate that Sunil Gulati has narrowed the field to five candidates. Other than Jürgen Klinsmann, their identities remain shrouded in mystery, even as their relative merits are the subject of heated debate.

First up is Klinsmann, who would become the most hated man in Germany if he traded that national team for this one. I don't understand how anyone can reasonably expect him to make that decision, but stranger things have happened in the soap opera world of international soccer.

The press and, as of last week, Klinsmann himself would have us believe that he is mulling over an offer. I am skeptical that his candidacy is anything more than a figment of the overactive imaginations of fantasy US soccer enthusiasts, Gulati included.

This type of "wouldn't it be cool if…" selection process is an unnecessary distraction from the serious job of rebuilding a program that requires a steady hand and a clear leader, sooner rather than later.

Recent mentions of Carlos Queiroz as a possible alternative are more intriguing.

The author of the Q-Report on youth development in the US is familiar with the squad and could be an excellent shepherd of young US talent, as he was to Figo and company during their days with the Portuguese youth teams.

Queiroz has experience in top-flight soccer, and is delightfully pear-shaped, bringing laughter to the throats of small children and the easily amused the world over.

I likewise have to question what I can only assume to be Gulati's third choice: José Mourinho. The Chelsea manager and outspoken critic of all non-Mourinhos in the world would bring a flair and a passion to the position that could energize a demoralized squad.

In my mind, though, his personality will overshadow the team, and his ability to draft any player he wants, regardless of cost, will be hamstrung by FIFA eligibility guidelines.

Also, his salary requirements would be far beyond any reasonable US Soccer budget, he has no interest in the job, and no offer would, will or could ever be forthcoming.

Not so in the case of presumed candidate number four: Rinus Michels. The inventor of "Total Football" is as real a possibility as many of the candidates currently under discussion, with the possible exception of Klinsmann and Queiroz.

Michels has a proven track record of success, having led the Dutch to the 1974 World Cup finals and to victory in the 1988 European Championship.

Without a doubt, "The General" would bring more discipline and creativity to the position than Arena exhibited in Germany, although I have to believe that both his day-to-day leadership of the program and his ability to adapt to ongoing changes in the game will be severely hampered by his recent death.

Next, let me just come right out and say it: David Beckham is also the wrong choice to replace Bruce Arena as the US men's national team coach. The current Real Madrid benchwarmer has no coaching experience, has been plagued by an unstable domestic situation for years, and uses hair product indiscriminately.

Beckham defenders will be quick to mention the depth of styling he could bring to a US squad that currently favors buzz-cuts over the more continental, gel-laden spikiness necessary to compete on the international stage.

Point to them. But in the long-run, call me a traditionalist: substance over image will a better soccer team make.

The final candidate, albeit the darkest of horses, would be an android cultivated from the DNA of Pelé, Beckenbauer, Ronaldinho and Sir Bobby Charlton, but with a computer brain programmed with a statistical breakdown of every soccer game ever played, ever.

This human/robot monstrosity, after achieving self-awareness and subsequently weathering an initial period of adaptation to the unending nightmare of it own unnatural existence, might bring some fresh ideas to the decidedly stale US approach to the game.

The good news is, the Democrats just might allow it.

I guess what it boils down to is this: neither I, nor probably, anyone else, has any idea who the next US Men's National Team coach will be.

But the possible, imagined, could-maybe-be, speculative candidates listed above all have their plusses and minuses, and should be debated endlessly even after Gulati's final decision has been made.

My money's on the android.