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A Kick Start
Last week the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) formally announced the appointment of Bora Milutinovic of Yugoslavia as its new national coach. This is a positive first step for the USSF and its new president, Alan Rothenberg, but U.S. soccer still has a long way to go before it catches up to the rest of the world. And it doesn't have much time to do it, what with the World Cup scheduled to be played in this country in 1994.
Milutinovic's nickname is the Miracle Worker because of his success with the national teams of Mexico and Costa Rica in the World Cups of 1986 and '90, respectively. Milutinovic is replacing Bob Gansler, who was roundly criticized for America's winless performance in World Cup '90 in Italy. But the biggest problem with the U.S. team wasn't coaching.
For too long, the USSF has been a closed-door organization, relying too heavily on its so-called development programs. There hasn't been enough open competition for positions on the national team. Many of the American players in the indoor Major Soccer League and the outdoor American Professional Soccer League have been ignored. There are also a number of players in city ethnic leagues who could play for the U.S.
Manfred Schellscheidt, a former national team coach now at Seton Hall University, believes that the best way to select the team is through competition. Says Schellscheidt, "The federation wanted everyone to believe that the team that went to Italy was the best team this country had to offer, but they didn't beat any teams over here to prove that. If they can't beat everyone, then they're not done with the selection process. If they do beat everyone, well then maybe they can find a player or two along the way."
This is the type of screening process Milutinovic needs to implement even as he works to get a feel for U.S. soccer. "The first stage will be observation," he says. "But by 1993, there will be important changes." There will have to be if Milutinovic is to work another miracle.
That Cupid is certainly a versatile guy. Not only is he handy with a bow and arrow, but he can also fire a starter's pistol. By her own account, the little fellow helped Lynn Jennings win her second consecutive World Cross-country Championship, in Antwerp, Belgium, two weeks ago. "I just feel tremendous," the 30-year-old Jennings said after her impressive triumph in the March 24 race. "But more importantly than that, I've fallen in love, and I'm engaged to be married to the greatest guy on earth."
That would be Dave Hill, a United Parcel Service driver who has been delivering running shoes to Jennings in Newmarket, N.H., for the past five years. They started dating in February, and just four weeks later they decided to get hitched. "It happened very quickly, but we both knew it right away," says Hill, 32. "That was the coolest. This is wicked fun."
The announcement of the impending nuptials startled some of Jennings's friends. "I couldn't believe it," said Peter Farrell, who coached Jennings at Princeton. "She always sort of pooh-poohed the idea of marriage, until her career was over." Said her current coach, John Babington, "I'm not at all surprised that the way Lynn is getting married is surprising, if you know what I mean. She never has taken the well-beaten path."