Is Slaven Bilic the man to lift the United States men’s soccer team off the floor?
The West Ham United manager is a leading contender to become the next permanent head coach of Team USA, talkSPORT’s Craig Bloomfield reported Wednesday, citing a “reliable” US soccer source. Bilic is under pressure at West Ham due to its sluggish start to the Premier League season, but his previous record as Croatia’s manager and the progression the country’s young players made during his tenure reportedly have vaulted him to the top of U.S. Soccer’s list of candidates for the national team job.
Bilic, 49, helped Croatia finish third place in the 1998 FIFA World Cup as a player. He took charge of his country’s team in 2006 and guided it to the quarterfinals of the 2008 UEFA European Championship. Croatia then failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup under Bilic’s guidance, but he helped it reach Euro 2012 from which it was eliminated in the group stage.
He left Croatia after Euro 2012 to take charge of Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow. Bilic’s stint there lasted only one season, and he resigned in 2013 after leading the club to a ninth-place finish in the Russian Premier League. He then coached Turkish club Besiktas for two seasons between 2013 and 2015, leading it to consecutive third-place finishes before leaving for West Ham.
Bilic helped West Ham finish seventh in the 2015-16 Premier League standings in his first Premier League season, but his soaring reputation suffered the next term when West Ham finished 11th. The Hammers currently are 16th in the Premier League standings, and many rumors claim the club is considering firing Bilic in the coming days or weeks.
Bruce Arena resigned as USA coach earlier this month following its disastrous failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. U.S. Soccer appointed Dave Sarachan as interim coach Tuesday, but he’ll likely lead the team for just one game, USA’s Nov. 14 exhibition at Portugal, before stepping aside afterward.
ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and The New York Times’ Andrew Das on Tuesday reported U.S. Soccer doesn’t plan to appoint Arena’s permanent successor until after the federation’s elections in February.
How that timetable meshes with Bilic’s or West Ham’s remains to be seen.
Photo via YouTube/NBC Sports
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