At the same time, the USSF is also showing signs of shedding its chronic amateurism. With the building of the new team, the federation said farewell to its talented but part-time coach, Lothar Osiander. During his three-year tenure with the U.S. team, Osiander was at times unable to show up for practice or exhibition games because of other commitments. Now he has returned to his other—more lucrative—line of work, as the headwaiter at Graziano's, a restaurant in San Francisco.
For a while, rumor had it that the USSF was trying to steal the legendary Franz Beckenbauer away from West Germany to coach the U.S. team. But in the end, the federation decided to hire Bob Gansler, 47, who was born in Hungary but learned the game in the United States. Gansler's soccer career is a classic American one. He coached at Marquette University, as a graduate student; he was the captain of the U.S. Olympic teams in '64 and '68; he did a one-season stint as a defender with the NASL's Chicago Mustangs in 1968; he played on and coached a club team called the Milwaukee Bavarians for 14 years; and he was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1984 to '88. In addition, he was the coach of the under-20 national team until January.
All this home cooking is fine by Davis. "A coach needs to understand American players," he says. "That was the downfall of the other two [Osiander is a West German; his predecessor, Alkis Panagoulias, is a Greek]. They couldn't understand our mentality, the way Americans are educated to ask if they don't understand something."
Nevertheless, there are those who question the choice of Gansler because of his lack of top-level international experience. Soccer is an intuitive game, susceptible to being overcoached, and Gansler's critics argue that because he has coached primarily in U.S. colleges, he is too married to the structured American style of play, which, unlike the international game, allows unlimited substitutions.
In response, Gansler says, "I play with what I have. I'm a realist. The more players I have who lack the top kind of intuition, the more structured I have to play."
He uses forward Hugo Perez, a former midfielder for the Sockers and perhaps the most talented player on the U.S. team, as an example. "It would be crazy for me to put a tactical straitjacket on Perez," says Gansler, "but I have to be sure the players around him know how to respond to what he does."
Gansler's biggest problem, as he sees it, is trying to keep his team together through 1990. Besides the ever-present lure of the MISL, he has to be wary of a trend that is just beginning—the trickle of some of the best U.S. Olympians to professional teams in Europe. Midfielder Bruce Murray now plays in Switzerland, forward Frank Klopas in Greece, forward Peter Vermes in Hungary, and defender Paul Caligiuri in West Germany. All of them except Caligiuri, however, have been released by their teams to play in the U.S.'s first third-round match on Sunday. The U.S. team's top scoring threat, Brent Goulet of Tacoma, Wash., was offered a four-week trial by Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga, a leading pro league in West Germany, but he turned it down. "They would've had to make it right with the USSF," he says. "I would still want to play for the U.S. in the big games. But, hey, the
Another problem for Gansler is finding world-class teams to practice against this year. In March the U.S. team traveled to Paraguay and beat two clubs, Sporting Colombia and Cerro Porteno, and last weekend it finished second in the Marlboro Cup in Miami, losing in a shootout to Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe team in the final. Still, that sort of competition is not the same as playing in the European pro leagues every week.
Gansler is fairly confident the team will have an appointment in Italy next year. "It's realistic to say we'll qualify," he says. "But you should never belittle the Latins at home. And I saw the Trinidadians—big and leggy, with strength and speed, English style—take out the Hondurans in Central America in front of 35,000 crazy fans. I wouldn't want to underrate those guys."
Davis is less cautious. "We'll have the best preparation of any of the countries left in CONCACAF," he says. "We'll make it to Italy for sure. And I'll get a few goals."