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Arena, Queiroz should get posts.

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Thursday, August 6, 1998) -- Alan Rothenberg is about ready to make his grand departure from U.S. Soccer, and we hope he doesn't stain an otherwise brilliant record he achieved as president of the federation the past eight years.

The final act is selection of a national team men's coach. And also picking the director of the massive Project 2010 development program.

We hope the reports of him leaning toward Bora Milutinovic are wrong. We hope the reports of him seriously considering Carlos Alberto Parreira are wrong.

Both are distinguished, veteran coaches who are unique for having coached four different countries in World Cups. The U.S. national team doesn't need a quick-fix for a program that faces major rebuilding. It needs a long-term solution, with respectable intermediate results.

It doesn't need an international coach, per se. It needs the best coach.

We endorse Bruce Arena for national team coach. We endorse Carlos Queiroz for director of Project 2010, designed to make the Americans a World Cup contender in 12 years.

The credentials of both are strong. Arena's are close to impeccable. He dominated college soccer for a decade, taking Virginia to five NCAA titles. He led a mediocre U.S. Olympic team to a highly creditable showing in 1996, losing to Argentina, beating Tunisia, and tying Portugal.

That's international experience, by the way.

Arena then dominated Major League Soccer, winning the championship the first two years with D.C. United. He's well on his way to a third straight crown. Don't be surprised if the Washington team does well in the CONCACAF Champions Cup starting next week. That's international, too.

Queiroz has exceptionally strong credentials as well. He developed a model youth program in Portugal in the 1980s, and coached the under-20 national teams to world championships in 1989 and 1991 -- though failing as national coach to make the 1994 World Cup.

This is not his first go-round with U.S. Soccer, which thought it had him sewed up to coach the national team and direct overall player and coaching development in 1995 -- until he left the Americans at the altar by accepting a three-year extension from Sporting Lisbon.

He later was fired by the club, and hooked up for half a season with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of Major League Soccer (where he was a respectable 12-12), before leaving in 1997 for big money at Grampus Eight (Japan).

Queiroz didn't burn bridges with U.S. Soccer, which hired him in the past year to do a report on the status on player development, along with recommendations.

Arena and Queiroz. Queiroz and Arena. Both could handle either job well. Both would have to work closely together. That shouldn't be a problem. It would give U.S. Soccer both international and domestic representation at the highest level.

Milutinovic is an outstanding strategist. But he was not rehired by U.S. Soccer in 1995 because he only wanted to continue as national team coach. He didn't want to be involved in overall player development. We can't have such isolation. The two jobs should be intertwined at least until qualifying for the 2002 World Cup starts.

Bora is needed for qualifying because he knows the CONCACAF landscape? We grant he is very familiar with the region. But he has qualified for the World Cup only once. That was last year, with Mexico, and he was fired seven months before France '98 because of four draws in the final round of qualifying that tarnished his team's No. 1 finish.

Three slots are available for CONCACAF qualifying. We're confident Bruce Arena will be well-versed enough in the play of Jamaica, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, etc., to get favorable results.

Parreira has qualified for the World Cup only twice -- with world champion Brazil (1994) and Kuwait (1982). He coached the MetroStars in 1997 to a 13-19 record, last place in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs. He took over Saudi Arabia after it qualified for France '98 -- much like Milutinovic did with Nigeria -- and was fired after losing the first two games.

One final thought: The United States would have lost to Germany and Yugoslavia in the World Cup no matter who was the coach. And we didn't even see the best of these two European powers.

We need a coach who is known for identifying talent, getting the maximum out of talent, and organizational skills (Arena). And we need a youth development specialist with a proven track record who will do things differently than what's been the custom in this nation (Queiroz).

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at jlangdon@gns.gannett.com.

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