When the U.S. Under-20 team heads to Mexico later this month for the first competitive matches of the cycle leading up to the 2011 world championships, it will be accompanied by an assistant coach who, during his playing career, had his issues with coaches.
"He expressed an interest to me about getting involved," U-20 head coach
The list of former national-team players who have served as U-20 assistant coaches includes
This seems a natural progression for a top-level player, to use his expertise and accomplishments as teaching tools for players at a very important stage of their development. And it makes more sense than an MLS team hiring him as a head coach, as Wynalda suggested to Fire majority investor
"This is a crucial time for these players," said Wynalda, who passed the USSF "A" coaching-license course in '05 but has not coached at the national-team, college or professional level. "I think too often we come out with guys who are average at everything instead of making them great at what they're good at. At this age, they have to be able to figure out who they are, what they bring to the table and stay true to it.
"I was very bad at that and didn't always handle it well, so I think we can help these players not lose focus of why they've been chosen in the first place. I can point to the year I spent with
Mariner, a former England international and assistant coach of New England up until his departure last fall to join the staff of Plymouth, coached Wynalda with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks of the American Professional Soccer League in '91 and '92, just prior to Wynalda's initial foray overseas to start his stint in Germany with FC Saarbrücken. Said Wynalda, "I think it was Paul who gave that famous quote, 'If you don't know where you're going, you end up somewhere else.'
"First and foremost, my job is to help Thomas. I think he's a fantastic coach, very organized, and if anything, I want these guys to know exactly what they need to do to get ready for the next level. I went to see them train when they were in San Diego [in December], and it's pretty obvious to me we have a lot of good players.
"I really like
Wynalda has not been hired as a full-time assistant coach. On the Mexico trip will be former Dallas head coach
Yet Rongen knows what he's getting in more ways than one. When asked two years ago how the Galaxy might respond to fellow countryman
Maybe it can work. Maybe the way to cultivate and nurture the quirks and instincts inherent in talented players is to guide them with one of their own. It's worth a shot.
"I think we'll get along great, maybe because it's because we're both Dutch, I don't know," laughed Wynalda of his ancestry. "We'll see how it goes, but this is a real honor and I'm very grateful to Thomas and U.S. Soccer for the opportunity. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time and have been excluded from for whatever reason. This is pretty cool."
And that is vintage Wynalda.