Gluck: Who should Head Coach the #USMNT in @USSoccer?

I’m sure there’s many ways to determine what Head Coach might best lead the US Men’s National Team out of darkness…    

I’ve narrowed my scope of who might fit best by limiting the selection pool to those who currently lead a team in Major League Soccer.  This obviously includes a broad band of candidates – you need to start somewhere.

In today’s environment, world class national and domestic teams are great at “controlling the ball” AND/OR great at “controlling the opponent when they don’t have the ball”.

I’ve taken that statement and converted it into measuring four categories of possession:  

  1. Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has equaled or exceeded 55% possession,
  2.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has possession greater than or equal to 50% possession but less than 55% possession,
  3.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has possession greater than or equal to 45% possession but less than 50% possession, and
  4.  Points per game a Head Coach averages where their team has less than 45% possession.

My intent is to try and quantify/qualify three basic styles of play:

  1. Possession-based with controlled possession starting from the back,
  2. A mixture of controlled possession and controlled counter/direct -attacking, or
  3. A team relying solely on “controlling the opponent when they don’t have the ball” and offering counter/direct attacking as a method of penetration.

My relationships between the four measured categories of possession and three styles of play are:

  • #1 with #1,
  • #2 & #3 with #2, and
  • # 4 with #3.

Its’ not perfect, but then again, soccer isn’t perfect either.

Note:  Prozone has identified ~ 7 styles of play – I try to keep things simple.

I’ve made a list of five Head Coaches for consideration:

  • Gregg Berhalter,
  • Oscar Pareja,
  • Caleb Porter,
  • Peter Vermes, and
  • Jesse Marsch

Why didn’t I include Jason Kreis?

He’s been relieved of coaching duties twice and failed to make the playoffs with Orlando City.  Something, somewhere isn’t working…  nothing personal.

Here’s their initial PPG by each category from 2014 to 2017 (excluding the final two games):

The cells highlighted in green show which Head Coach had the highest PPG (per year) in the four categories listed.

It’s pretty clear those five coaches having varying strengths in earning points relative to the four categories of possession.

Here’s their average PPG over the last three years in an attempt to quantify/qualify their “consistency of purpose” – a phrase usually associated with Dr. Deming:

So how do their teams perform against conference opponents?

An attempt to measure how well each coach’s team performs against a “known quantity”; similar to the US Men’s National team playing “known” CONCACAF opponents…

Note the 2017 data excludes the last two games of this season.

Finishing Touches:

Jesse Marsch shows best (“consistency of purpose”) in:

  • Earning points per game in three of four possession categories over the last three years,
  • The Total Soccer Index versus “known” opponents over the last three years,
  • Goal differential versus “known” opponents over the last three years,
  • Earning points versus “known” opponents over the last three years.

Who’s your choice?


Best Chris

You can follow me on twitter @CoachChrisGluck



  1. Jon Z

    While I like your data from games being used, the USA needs a coach that can develop talent from their youth. Otherwise these data points mean nothing without the talent to play at the highest level, period. Oscar Pareja scores very high in your data and has the best youth academy and in the MLS. Measured by the number of players making the first team or going on to play at higher levels from the academy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Gluck

    Jon, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I too, agree the academy for FC Dallas has been superb. I’m not really of the opinion that the next Head Coach has to be directly involved with the youth development piece. Yes, leadership is good and having great influence, to include participating in a quality control / quality assurance approach is key but, for me, player selection and training specifically for upcoming opponents is number one priority – not development. That may rankle a few feathers. And yes, you are right the data is not DIRECTLY related but in soccer there is intuition and feeling that helps drive decision making and in viewing those “team” performance statistics my intuition and gut feeling leads me to believe Jesse Marsch has the “coaching tools in his bucket” that help him set up tactics given various styles of play. Not sure that scratches your itch Jon? Best, Chris


  3. John

    The biggest thing about a international manager is being able to put together a squad that gets along on and off the field. Club coaches have the team for 9-10 months of the year the national team manager gets camp in January and a week before each of the games.
    So having a manager and an assistant that can gel the group together and play the soccer that the manager wants.
    The priority the USA should be looking at is man management skills and preparation ability.


    • Chris Gluck

      Hi John, Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts. I 110% non-violently agree with your view. An assumption on my part is an existing Head Coach, of at least three years, shows a consistency of purpose in ‘man-management’ skills; hence Jason Kreis was immediately discounted… and why I non-violently disagree with Sam Allardyce too. For me (others may view this differently) a consistency in earning points reflects on the ability to prepare for and have players execute the tactics they see needed to earn points. All of these same bits of info (boxes being ticked) were part of the rationale why Bruce Arena was selected to replace Jurgen Klinsmann. But alas… with Arena all they really did was give the car a new paint job – they never went under the hood and rebuilt the engine… the engine needs rebuilding – our playing style is stale and predictable…. Hope my added thoughts help to improve/clarify?


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