This should have been Berhalter’s moment.
As Matt noted earlier, former USA defender Gregg Berhalter was named manager of Hammarby IF, a Swedish Superettan (2nd division) club, today. Berhalter, who retired following the 2011 MLS season, served as a player-coach with the Los Angeles Galaxy this past season. It’s worth mentioning that Anschultz Entertainment Group (AEG), the owner of the Galaxy, owns 49% of Hammarby (Swedish league rules require majority ownership by fans), and former teammate Chris Klein, who sits on the board, recommended Berhalter.
To some degree, Berhalter’s AEG connection make this less of an external hire. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it has some historic connotations. The list of Americans to coach in Europe is rather short.
It is perhaps fitting, given the fact that a German currently serves as manager of a national team with several German-Americans, that Germany would see some coaching success for Yanks. Brent Goulet, spent a few seasons (2004-08) managing SV Elversberg, a semiprofessional club playing in the Regionalliga Süd (then the third division, now the fourth division). Goulet is the lone American to serve as a permanent coach for a European club.
Joe Enochs was the most recent to garner headlines. The California native, who spent fifteen years playing with Osnabrück as they bounced back and forth between the second and third divisions, was named caretaker manager of his former club for a brief spell last spring. Having previously been coaching the club’s U-23 side, he was retained as an assistant despite their relegation to the 3. Liga last spring.
Another American, current Clemson assistant coach John Murphy (formerly an assistant with the Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, and New England Revolution of MLS and not to be confused with the composer) held the position of manager for a two-month stint in 2009. Alas, that that stint coincided with the club dropping from the Scottish First Division (second tier) to Third Division (fourth tier) as a result of liquidation hearings. Not a particularly ideal time to become the first American to coach in Great Britain.
There have also been a few Americans to coach international sides abroad. Fernando Clavijo, Uruguayan-born but a World Cup veteran for the USA, coached Haiti in between MLS stints at New England and Colorado. Steve “3-6-1″ Sampson spent a spell managing Costa Rica, although he was fired during qualifying for Germany 2006. Afshin Ghotbi, an Iranian native before living in the US for twenty-odd years, unsuccessfully tried to rescue his native Iran’s 2010 World Cup hopes before later resigning following a quarterfinal loss in January’s Asian Cup. Ian Mork had a four-game run in 2008 with another CONCACAF minnow, Belize. Most recently, Thomas Rongen, Dutch-born but an American resident for most of his life, guided American Samoa to a near-miracle in OFC World Cup qualifying (although that is not technically “abroad”). Of these, Ghotbi’s is most impressive although he is an Iranian native. Sampson’s is also notable. However, no American has had sustained success coaching abroad.
Which brings us to why this is a big deal. Hammarby has their own financial issues, but it is a relatively big and proud club by Swedish standards. They have won the Allsvenskan in the last decade, and just two years ago they sold a young striker to a Ligue 1 club. As recently as 2007-08, they were competing in the qualifying rounds for the UEFA Cup (now Europa League). Gregg Berhalter will become the first American to be permanent.
Berhalter joins another American in making 2011 a breakthrough year for American coaches. Bob Bradley’s hiring at Egypt following his dismissal after the Gold Cup needs no introduction; with his appointment of the African power, Bradley became the first American-born manager of a national team outside CONCACAF. Bradley faces his own unique challenges in taking over the Pharoahs, and much like Berhalter, he will likely be followed more closely due to his pioneer status.
There is an entire generation of American stars with respected European club experience. Americans have played in mostly every top league in Europe in recent years. Could we finally be seeing a breakthrough in the coaching ranks, until now the last frontier?