The direction of the United States men’s national team nearly three months after its World Cup campaign in Qatar began is in flux. The Yanks are at the wheel, but don’t know whether to hit the gas or the break. The car is in neutral at a time where that’s acceptable, but not ideal. Making the right decision with who coaches the USMNT moving forward will be program-changing, as the country must benefit from hosting the World Cup in 2026. If the USA doesn’t make the most of that opportunity, it’ll have to wait 32 more years to repair the damage (just going off the math of the last time it hosted in 1994).
And given my criteria for being an American or previously being the head coach of a national team to helm the team moving forward doesn’t apply to Thierry Henry, who recently expressed his interest in the job while working as an analyst for the UEFA Champions League on CBS Sports, I actually don’t hate that fit. Being one of the best strikers of the 21st century helps draw interest to the team and Henry was been Roberto Martinez’s right-hand man while coaching Belgium. The Frenchman has also been a head coach in the MLS, even though those tenures ended poorly. If you couldn’t cut it coaching in America’s domestic league, why would we hand you the keys to influence the best talent this country has? At least Gregg Berhalter had that after leading the Columbus Crew.
Assuming Berhalter’s tenure with the team is done following the drama emanating from the Reyna family and the USMNT not winning a knockout-stage game in Qatar, Jesse Marsch seems like a natural fit. Even after being fired as Leeds United’s manager and his flirtation with becoming relegation-candidate Southampton’s new boss, coming back stateside could still happen. It does appear Marsch wants to stay in Europe. If the popular pick is off the table and U.S. Soccer wants to go big as opposed to choosing an American, there are plenty of worse choices than Henry. Provided that the USA swings big and misses on Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane, falling on the Arsenal legend is a risky move in the right way.
Managing a national team is much different than a club team for obvious reasons, with finding a system that benefits your players is the goal of the former. The latter is the exact opposite, where finding players to fit a particular system and perfecting that is the goal. Henry’s teams had trouble linking onto one uniform system, which wouldn’t be a major issue for the Yanks. It’d be as simple as getting on the same page as the team’s integral players and letting them lead the way. Getting some competitive games under the USMNT’s belt with the new coach before they likely appear in the 2024 Copa America, which the USA doesn’t automatically qualify for as hosts, meaning U.S. Soccer needs to hire a coach by May with the Gold Cup coming this summer.
Henry clearly knows what it takes to play at the highest levels professionally and could be a mentor to Americans hoping to raise their profile when not wearing the stars and stripes. Christian Pulisic plays for Chelsea, Matt Turner is a fellow Gunner, and Sergino Dest plays for AC Milan. There aren’t many others playing for big clubs in Europe and Henry could be a huge help in that way. Yet, it is all about results at the World Cup in three and a half years. And of all the names being floated to be the USMNT’s head coach, Henry is an out-of-the-box candidate where it’s easy to see a tremendous reward as well as a Hindenburg-like disaster. Either way, U.S. Soccer will have gone big.