The most predictable fallout from the United States men’s national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup arrived Friday morning with coach Bruce Arena’s resignation.
The more uncertain effect — Arena’s replacement — likely won’t follow for several weeks, perhaps even months.
But that won’t halt the speculation.
It has reached Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a logical potential candidate to receive interest from the U.S. Soccer Federation. Moments after Arena’s resignation became public Friday, Vermes responded to a question asking about the possibility.
“That’s not something I would talk about at this time. You guys have heard me in the past — the one thing I’ve always said (is) anybody is going to listen to somebody when they come and talk to you,” Vermes said. “I’m not talking to anybody. I have a team right now that I’m focused on, which is Sporting Kansas City. This is my job. This is what I’m going to do.”
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who said Friday he is not resigning from his post in the wake of this week’s failure to qualify, outlined the procedure for selecting the next coach. The Federation plans to hire an interim coach to guide the senior team through a pair of international friendlies, which it hopes to schedule in Europe next month. The long-term solution will take more time, after a meeting among the Federation’s top brass. It could be February or March before someone is in place.
In a conference call with reporters, Gulati said the final decision ultimately falls to his desk. That’s if he remains in his current position. Gulati is up for re-election in February and would not commit to running for another term.
“It’s not the right day to talk about my personal future plans in terms of the Federation’s presidency,” he said.
Gulati’s conversation with national media shifted back and forth between his own future and the future of U.S. Soccer. He was vague with both, and on the latter, he said, “We will look at everything.”
In his separate meeting with local media, Vermes offered specifics for what envisions as the necessary path forward.
“As much as we’re all devastated by what transpired and not qualifying, it also presents an incredible opportunity,” Vermes said. “And the opportunity is that we can take the time now that we have — knowing we don’t have to get ready for the World Cup — and (put) together a short- and long-term plan by setting out some serious objectives, knowing what those objectives are, laying out your strategy to achieve those objectives and then finding the people that actually can implement that plan to achieve those objectives.
“I’m not talking about just the qualification of the senior team to the World Cup. There’s so many other things in regards to the structure, and I’m talking about from the grassroots all the way up to the senior national team and all the way back down. That whole entire structure needs to be aligned. ...
“If we just think about qualifying the team for the World Cup, I think we come up extremely short, and we lose this incredible opportunity to have a reset in what we’re trying to do.”
Vermes is a product of the national team. He played with the Americans from 1988-97.
His coaching career has included just one stop. During his tenure with Sporting KC, the club has featured two fixtures with the U.S. senior team — defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi. Midfielder Benny Feilhaber was also a call-up for the most recent World Cup qualifiers.
As the debate rages about whether American players should play domestically or overseas, Vermes offered his perspective on MLS’ involvement.
“That relationship (and) partnership between MLS and U.S. Soccer has to be even stronger going forward,” Vermes said. “We have, and we always have had, a good pool of players in this country. We as coaches — and when I say coaches, I mean from the grassroots all the way up to the top — we all have to become better at our jobs to continue to produce better soccer players in this country. That has to be a constant. That should never change. ...
“Don’t get me wrong — a tremendous amount of stuff has been done incredibly well. But we can’t rest on those things. We have to continue to evolve.”
Vermes has relayed some of these ideas to members of U.S. Soccer in the past. He has an ongoing line of communication with the organization.
Asked if those conversations have continued since the United States was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday, Vermes replied, “I mean, I talk to people at the Federation all the time, so I just don’t think now is the time to be talking about those things — not because I’m hiding anything.
“I just don’t think it does anything for Sporting Kansas City, our team or the U.S. and what they’re trying to do. I think those guys need to figure out their plan, and when they do, they can start to tell us all what it is.”