As he looked out the window of his hotel room Thursday in Bermuda, Bob Gansler said he could see the Atlantic Ocean. “It has a calming effect,” he said.
He mentioned that as a contrast to the turbulence that surrounds him as coach of the U.S. soccer team, which lost to Bermuda, 1-0, Thursday night in Hamilton.
Gansler, 49, said during a telephone interview that he was aware he might be coaching his last game with the national team.
U.S. Soccer Federation officials have not tried to hide that they are considering candidates to replace Gansler. Executive Director Hank Steinbrecher began with a list of 10, interviewed four and has forwarded at least two names to the executive committee.
If the executive committee, headed by USSF President Alan Rothenberg of Los Angeles, chooses one and reaches a contract agreement, the national team could have a new coach when it plays on March 12 against Mexico at the Coliseum in the North American Nations Cup. Mexico and Canada will meet on March 14 at the Coliseum, followed by a game between the United States and Canada on March 16 at El Camino College.
Rothenberg would not reveal the remaining candidates, although sources close to the federation said they include Yugoslav Bora Milutinovic, who coached Mexico into the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup and Costa Rica into the second round of the 1990 World Cup, and Thijs Libregts, who coached the Netherlands into the second round of the 1990 World Cup.
As host country, the United States automatically qualifies for the 1994 World Cup.
“If we need to make a change, let’s look for someone who is extremely experienced at the task we have at hand,” Steinbrecher said.
In two years as coach, Gansler’s record in full international games before Thursday night was 14-16-5. That includes losses in all three games at last summer’s World Cup in Italy.
But Gansler also was the first coach since 1950 to take the U.S. team to the World Cup. And in the most encouraging result for U.S. soccer in recent years, his under-20 team finished third in the 1989 World Youth Championships.
“He’s the best American for the job,” Steinbrecher said.
A former national team defender who coached at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee before accepting a full-time job with the U.S. team, Gansler said the federation should not assume that a foreign coach would have more success than an American. “You might get a top European or South American coach who knows X’s and O’s, but you also have to know the lay of the land,” he said. “American-based coaches had a lot of success in the ‘80s. There’s an element out there that either doesn’t appreciate it or doesn’t want to appreciate it.”
Steinbrecher said Gansler would be offered another position within the federation if he is replaced as coach.
“It’s obvious to me that our system for selecting players is woefully inadequate,” Steinbrecher said. “Who better to change the system than someone like Bob, who knows everything about the system?”
Gansler said he would consider a different job.
“It would depend on the responsibility and the remuneration,” he said. “I feel I can contribute as the coach or in other areas. I’ve been around for 28 years as a player and a coach. Maybe a couple of things have stuck.”