The Case for Thomas Rongen

Monday, April 18, 2011 | View Comments
- Ben McCormick

Following the debacle two weeks ago in Guatemala, Sunil Gulati has not committed to the future of U-20 Head Coach Thomas Rongen. While the knee jerk reaction is to fire the Dutchman for failure to qualify for the U-20 World Cup, I’m here to tell you the right decision is to keep him right where he is.

As I discussed in my last piece, the job of the U-20 National Team is not to develop players. One of the biggest responsibilities of any youth national team Head Coach is to expose players to the national team program. Last year, Rongen said he identified over 400 players outside of the United States that are eligible for the American U-20 team, a staggering number in the search for talented Americans abroad.

Fans have already seen some fruits of Rongen’s scouting labor. America having a shot at players like Fabian Huerzeler or Alex Zahavi was only possible because of him. Had he not asked Mikkel Diskerud what his nationality was during a corner kick, he would be playing for Norway. Rongen turns over every stone imaginable to find young Americans across the globe, and players want to play for him. He was born and bred at Ajax. He preaches the type of soccer players love.

Ask yourself: If Gulati fires Rongen, who should he put in his place? Someone born and raised in the states won’t be nearly as effective as Rongen in the world scouting department. His personality suits potential dual-nationals in Europe and his attractive style of play suits dual-nats in South America. If the goal is to get top talent in the red, white and blue, Rongen is the man for the job. If your hypothetical replacement is a high-profile foreigner, he won’t be as familiar with American players or navigate America’s unique youth system like Rongen can.

The loss to Guatemala was a fluke in a big, big way; not by any means indicative of Rongen’s larger body of work. He is the rare and precious combination of a coach with extensive knowledge of both international youth setups and America’s own convoluted system.

I know the first instinct is to fire him, but Gulati needs to consider more than just results. Losing to Guatemala is one of the low points in American U-20 history, but what Rongen has done and continues to do for the whole program carries much more weight than just one loss.

Penalty Kicks:

-Gale Agbossumonde played a full 90 in 10 man Djurgarden’s stoppage time loss to Malmo FF. Djurgarden fans seemed very impressed by Agbossumonde’s debut.

-Josh Gatt played the final 18 minutes for Molde FK against Mikkel Diskerud and Stabek. 18 year old left back Sean Cunningham made the bench for Molde.’s J.R. Eskilson reports Emerson Hyndman (grandson of Schellas) is currently on trial with Mallorca in Spain.

-Following a strong showing at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, Greg Garza played 13 minutes for Estoril.

-Adrian Ruelas continues his rise at Santos Laguna with an 88th minute sub appearance this weekend.

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