GM update

Stewart outlines his vision the future of the USMNT and the next coach

Earnie Stewart spoke to the media about his first month on the job as the USMNT GM. He provide key updates on the seach for the team's next coach and his big-picture visions for the team. ASN's Brian Sciaretta was at the roundtable event.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
September 06, 2018
3:00 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – United States national team general manager Earnie Stewart spoke to the media for the first time since starting the job on August 1. At a roundtable interview with reporters, he spoke on a range of topics including the head coaching search and his philosophy.

Stewart, 49, was hired as the national team’s first general manager in June but remained with the Philadelphia Union through August 1. Since then, he has been leading a search to find the team’s next head coach which will replace Dave Sarachan – who has been coaching the team on an interim basis since last November.

As part of the coaching search, Stewart said that the first step has been speaking to 15-20 people close to U.S. Soccer to help create a profile of what he wants for the next head coach. The next step will be then finding candidates who fit that profile.

“I think it's important that you first have a set profile of the head coach,” Stewart explained. “what kind of characteristics he needs to have, and that starts with values of one, the American player and what U.S. Soccer is about because it's not about 'Earnie's coach' or anything like that. It's about what is good for U.S. Soccer and where we stand right now and were we want to go. That profile has been done.”

Stewart said he plans for the interview process to begin soon and he does not plan on interviewing many candidates – maybe just even one. While he has not interviewed any candidate formally yet, he has spoken around six for seven people informally who might become candidates – some of these candidates have contacted him, and he has initiated contact with the others.

The U.S. team has two friendlies slated for October and two slated for November. Stewart said that October is too soon but it is possible to have a coach in place by November.

Stewart is leading the coaching charge but is also working with Nico Romeijn and Ryan Mooney on the search. After the interviewing process, they will make a recommendation to the entire board of U.S. Soccer. Despite ongoing rumors that Columbus Crew manager Greg Berhalter is the fruntrunner, Stewart said that was not the case.

According to Stewart, the interviewing process will be broad and will be about bringing an identity to the team beyond formation and style.

“Once you sit down and talk with coaches going forward, you have to give them an idea of who we are and what we want to be,” Stewart said. “Once again, that has absolutely nothing to do with strategies, formations, systems - it's overarching. What is the American player? What do we want to see on the field? What do we want to identify with?”

“When you look at it, it's more than a style of play/principles of play,” he added. “It's an overarching view of soccer and the values we have in the United States. It's how we want to identify with the players we see on the field.”

When Stewart was the Director of Football operations at AZ Alkmaar, one of his biggest decisions was when he hired Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane as an advisor to help bring an analytical approach to AZ. Beane was groundbreaking in his approach to using data analytics to baseball.

But Stewart wants to use data in evaluating the style that potential candidates have impleted in the past.

“[We want to ] make sure the subjectiveness meets the objectiveness,” Stewart said. “The more information that you have, the better it is. That is important because if I have a view, the way we look at soccer can be very romantic sometimes and you see something in front of you - you have a certain idea about it. Then you find out later on, when you see the data points of it, the eye doesn't really meet what is actually happening on the field because for some reason, you see it in a different way and that's not good. I want to make sure that it’s backed up.”

“We believe in the United States that we're a country that is aggressive - in the right sense of the word,” he continued. “That we're a little bit in your face. You can imagine that if you say that, there is a way where that can be implemented in a system or a formation by a coach. Then you can actually look if the coaches have that style.”

In terms of characteristics, Stewart did say speaking English was a requirement and knowledge of CONCACAF was a plus.

Once the coach is hired, Stewart also spoke about his role with the team compared with the head coach and how he sees the two interacting on a regular basis.

"I don't micromanage,” Stewart said. “His role is to select the players, step out on the field and have a strategy, have a formation, have a system and try to win games. My role is totally different and where it connects with each other is how we evaluate players on a daily basis. Once they leave camp, what are they doing? How can we help them? I think we will make a very good connection in that - going to see our players and four eyes is better than two.”

Stewart also added that he will respect the coach’s role and won’t be on the field during game days but will meet with the coaching staff prior to every camp to talk about what is happening on the field but what is also going on environmentally with the team as well. Stewart will also have responsibilities on the business side of the team involving matters such as scheduling of friendlies.

Since the United States national team failed to qualify for the World Cup last October, Sarachan has used his interim tenure to introduce a wave of new players into the team. But once the next coach comes on board, Stewart wants to see youth continue to be given opportunities on the team – even when the games are important.

“There is always a balance because you do have to win games,” Stewart said. “But the potential the player - that is something you get a good feel about. If you get a player who is close to the same level, and the 21 year old is [just behind] the 29 year old, and you have the feeling the 21 year old will [eventually be at a very high level], then yes - it becomes an easy choice. But not when it is [a big gap between them].. When it's close, I want our coach to feel comfortable with that.”

The overall tone from Stewart was positive who touchingly added that he sacrificed a lot to take the general manager position because after he left the Philadelphia Union, his wife and children moved back to Holland. He will instead live apart from them to run the U.S. team.

“I didn't come here, let me put it this one, to sit here for a couple of years and then on to the next one. This is something I made a lot of sacrifices for in the sense I am apart from my wife and kids. They are in Holland. I am full heartily in this. I want to be in this for a longer period of time because if you want to do what you love and what you have passion for - as I have for this country and our men's national team and soccer in general- yeah, I want to be here for a longer time. I want to make sure we are very, very successful.

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