Frank Dell'Apa: American coaches lag behind on the global stage

Though Americans have made their mark at the highest levels on the field, the United States fails to export coaches outside North America.
Unless Bob Bradley can take Egypt to Brazil 2014, there will be no teams led by a U.S.-born coach at the World Cup for the first time since 1994.

Tactical planning and preparation have improved in MLS, and domestic coaches have certainly made progress in recent years. But U.S. coaches still have a way to go.

One way to get to a higher coaching level would be to export U.S. coaches, but this is a rare occurrence. Bradley going to Egypt and Gregg Berhalter to Hammarby IF in Sweden have been exceptions – how they fare could go far in opening doors for others.

The United States has been successfully sending players overseas for many years. So, why not coaches?

It is interesting to note that, of the 15 Western Hemisphere countries still in contention for World Cup qualifying, nine are guided by either an Argentinian, Colombian, or Uruguayan. In the CONCACAF region, two Colombians – Jorge Luis Pinto (Costa Rica) and Luis Fernando Suarez (Honduras) – have taken teams to the Hexagonal.

In South America, Colombian Reinaldo Rueda appears on the way to advancing with Ecuador. Curiously, the Colombian national team is led by Jose Pekerman, an Argentinian. Alejandro Sabella has Argentina in first place in qualifying and Claudio Borghi has Chile tied for fifth, though he is under pressure following three successive defeats.

Latin American coaches seem to travel well. They are often adaptable, multilingual. Brazilians are scattered all over the world, and it is curious there are not more of them guiding national teams in contention for a World Cup which will be played in their country in two years.

Probably the most obvious reason U.S. coaches do not travel well is because of the collegiate system. There are plenty of good tactical minds at that level, but the colleges’ refusal to adhere to international rules of the game, plus the limited schedule of matches, hurts coaches’ development. Also, there is a tendency to become comfortable within the collegiate system, so ambition is thwarted.

Egypt is off to a 2-0-0 start in qualifying. But the domestic league has halted play while attempting to resolve issues related to February’s Port Said stadium tragedy. Egypt failed to qualify for the African Nations Cup, so Bradley’s players are lacking competitive games both at the club and country level.

The African Nations Cup draw was held this week in Johannesburg, and it was odd not to have the Egyptians participate for the second straight tournament, since they had won three successive titles from 2006-10.

Bradley showed he could win at the club level with the Chicago Fire and Chivas USA. And there is a suspicion Bradley is at his best working with players on a daily basis – he will probably get another chance to do that. But, first, Bradley has to prove himself with Egypt. Sociopolitical unrest in the country is working against the national team, not the type of problem Bradley would have ever encountered had he remained in the collegiate ranks.

By dealing with the complications of the situation, Bradley is paving the way for the next U.S. coach seeking greater horizons. Egypt’s next qualifier is scheduled at home against Zimbabwe March 22. If Bradley can get the Pharoahs through, a lot of doors could open.