World Cup 2018: U.S. Soccer could make quite a statement by hiring Irans coach

World Cup 2018: U.S. Soccer could make quite a statement by hiring Irans coach

It would be a provocative headline, would it not?

“U.S. Soccer hires Iran’s coach to run the men’s national team.”

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That’d get their attention from sea to shining sea.

“Iran’s coach” is Carlos Queiroz, or at it is until he makes official his departure from the job he has held with the Iranian national team since 2011. He told Reuters in May he would leave after the World Cup because the national federation only offered a six-month extension to his contract.

U.S. Soccer, if it wishes, could be the beneficiary of that blunder. New men’s national team general manager Earnie Stewart officially will be searching for a new coach when he begins his job Aug. 1. It's not known whom he will consider, although speculation has ranged anywhere from Greg Berhalter of Columbus Crew S.C. to Roberto Martinez of the Belgium natonal team to Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio.

Stewart has been scouting potential coaches from the moment he accepted the position earlier this month, and if he watched Iran in World Cup Group B he saw an impressively well-coached team.

Stuck in a quartet with heavyweights Spain and Portugal, the last two winners of the European Championship, Iran barely missed advancing to the round of 16. The Iranians drew Portugal, defeated Morocco and lost to Spain by a single goal.

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Fox Sports analyst Aly Wagner, who worked the Iran-Portugal game that closed group play Monday, was effusive in praise of Iran’s organization and discipline on the field.

Queiroz is not someone who’d be unfamiliar with American soccer. He was a coach in Major League Soccer in its first year and authored what is known as the “Q Report”, a treatise on developing American players that was part of U.S. Soccer’s 1998 initiative to become seriously competitive by 2010.

If one defines that as beating England to win a World Cup group and then losing in the round of 16, it worked out OK. If one defines as being seriously in contention to win the whole thing, it was a bit overly ambitious.

Although Queiroz, 65, initially entertained thoughts of retiring, he changed his mind and expressed that he wants to try to qualify a fifth team for the World Cup. He coached South Africa in 2002, Portugal in 2010 and Iran in both 2014 and 2018.

“When I think about United States -- I was there, I worked there, I saw it, I felt it – I think about its huge potential with its enthusiasm and its resources – its economic strength, its facilities, the infrastructure,” Queiroz told Soccer America in May. “Combine that with love and passion and opportunities, and it will happen.”

What might be held against him in terms of taking over the U.S., aside from how that headline would play, is how offensively challenged his teams have been at the World Cup. In 2010, his Portugal squad advanced to the knockout round but failed to score in three of four games. Only a 7-0 rout of North Korea made it appear his team had been potent. Iran scored one goal in three games in 2014, then two this year in Russia – one on an own goal by Morocco.

Long reliant on counterattacking, the U.S. has expressed a desire to build toward a more aggressive style of play. That might be what leads Stewart in another direction. But after giving up two goals to Trinidad & Tobago when a 0-0 draw would have led the USMNT to Russia, it’s at least worth pondering whether Queiroz would advance the cause.

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