1417_isi_rongen_usmntu20040211113 Omar Martinez/isiphotos.com
Americans Abroad

Bradley Bound for Norway? Rongen Returns to U.S. Fold

It is still the winter break for most leagues in Europe but this has been a busy week for Americans in Europe. Bob Bradley could have a new gig soon and Thomas Rongen has returned to U.S. Soccer.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 04, 2017
1:00 PM

Bob Bradley closing in on Norway job

Shortly after Bob Bradley was fired from Swansea City, the Norwegian federation to swung into action to look at Bradley for the vacant national team job. That same day, Stabaek technical director Inge Andre Olsen went public to urge those within the federation to cancel their Christmas holiday break and work out a deal with Bradley.

So Bradley is wanted in Norway, at least by some. But what is the latest? After speaking to people in Norway, here is the latest.

Bradley arrived in Oslo on Wednesday and was greeted by the media. He refused to say if he was meeting with the federation but was there to “just meet up with friends.” Later he would confirm that he met with Nils Johan Semb of the Norwegian federation although it was not an interview nor was he offered the job. Bradley later said it was an “honor” to be a candidate. 

The federation’s top candidate from the start was FC Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken but few expected him to leave his Champions League-caliber job to take the job for the national team which got off to a rocky start in qualifying.

Beyond Solbakken there are three candidates in the mix at the moment. Bradley, Molde’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and former Swedish national team and Rosenborg manager Erik Hamren.

Bradley could be in the top position to get the job but one hang-up could be money. One Norwegian insider told me that the job is typically thought of as honorary and as a result the federation typically does not pay much.

Speaking with people in Norway over the weekend, it is impressive just how highly Bob Bradley is thought of in the country after overachieving with newly promoted Oslo-based club Stabaek in 2015. Many cite his ability to interact well with his Norwegian players, prepare for games, and get the team to buy into his system.

For those reasons it would be great to see Bradley get the job. Unlike at Swansea, Bradley would not be viewed as an outsider but rather as someone who worked hard to establish himself and gained respect inside of Norway. He would have far more support than he did in the English Premier League.

One problem for Bradley is that that he would be starting off in a rough situation—similar to how he began at Swansea. Norway has just three points from its first four World Cup qualifiers, only beating San Marino 4-1 (where even conceding a goal is considered embarrassing). Germany is expected to run away with the group but Norway must climb past the Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, and Northern Ireland if it wants to make the playoffs for a spot in Russia.

Because of that, Bradley should try to seek a job that carries him through the 2020 European Championship where he can actually build a program as opposed to attempting to salvage a mess created by others. Combined with the public goodwill he has in the country, if he can get a longer-term deal without unrealistic expectations for World Cup qualifying, it could be a good fit.

Gatt on trial at FC Nuremburg

Last year, United States national team hopeful Joshua Gatt returned to the field with Molde after missing most of the past three years with three separate anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. After a hellish period, Gatt played well in the final year of his contract at Molde to generate interest.

Today FC Nuremburg announced that the Michigan native was going to be on trial with the club. Currently in ninth place of the 2.Bundesliga, the team is considering offering the speedy winger a contract.

“Joshua is with us at least until Friday,” a FC Nuremburg spokeswoman told American Soccer Now on Wednesday via e-mail. “Our coach will decide by then if he will participate in our friendly against third-division team SG Sonnenhof Großaspach on Saturday. So by Friday/Saturday we’ll know if he made it into the squad.”

Gatt, 25, has played twice for the U.S. national team, debuting against Russia in November 2012. At the time, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann viewed Gatt as one of the most promising young American players before injuries forced him off the field.

FC Nuremburg is not the only club interested in Gatt. MLS teams, as well as teams in Austria—where Gatt began his career in 2010 with second tier Rheindorf Altach—have made inquiries to some extent.

Horvath lands at Club Brugge

While the deal has been widely discussed since mid-December, Club Brugge this week announced it had signed United States national team goalkeeper Ethan Horvath away from Molde on a four-and-a-half year deal.

Horvath, 21, will join the Belgian leaders after making 39 appearances for Molde the past two seasons. Horvath will be competing with Ludovic Butelle, 33, the current No. 1 for the starting spot. But competition could also be increased as there are reports that Romanian Silviu Lung might also be targeted by the club. 

Horvath is extremely young for a goalkeeper and it is an ambitious move to join a team with Champions League ambitions. He is leaving a great situation at Molde since it is very hard for a goalkeeper to find first-team minutes at his age. But it’s a high risk, high reward move. If he can earn the starting job at Brugge, he could be on a path toward a top league before even entering his prime years. 

Wright to join Schalke winter camp

The winter break recently ended for Bundesliga teams which reported for winter camp ahead of the start of the second half of the season.

Schalke has had a rough first half and sits in 11th place. One of the reasons for its struggles is its lack of offense, scoring just 20 goals through 16 games. Because of this, head coach Markus Weinzierl is exploring all options and  is U.S. U-20 international Haji Wright who will join the first team for its winter camp.

The Bundesliga winter break has been kind to young Americans looking to get their feet wet. Danny Williams, Timothy Chandler, and Christian Pulisic all impressed during this window, making their way into the German top flight. Even Joe Gyau and Russell Canouse made their debuts in large part due to their performances during winter camp.

Wright, 18, has been playing well at the U-19 level for Schalke and will now get his chance. It will be interesting to see how he performs. A successful camp could lead to becoming the third young American to debut in a top league this season, behind Joshua Perez at Fiorentina and Lynden Gooch at Sunderland.

Rongen named Chief USMNT Scout

Bruce Arena today formally announced his staff for the U.S. men's national team and most of it was as expected: Dave Sarachan, Pat Noonan, and Kenny Arena all received assistant jobs along with Matt Reis as goalkeeping coach.

But one particular hire stands out. Former U.S. U-20 coach Thomas Rongen was named the national team’s chief scout. Born in the Netherlands, Rongen has been a fixture within American soccer for decades and has a vast knowledge of the team’s player pool.

He has brought several dual-national players into the program, including Mix Diskerud, John Brooks, and Jerome Kiesewetter. Rongen also initiated the recruitment of Terrence Boyd before the German-American striker even obtained his American passport.

But it is not just foreign-born players that Rongen knows. He also was way ahead of the curve at the U-20 level, identifying top domestic players such as Clint Dempsey, Bobby Convey, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley.

The U.S. will like consist of familiar faces during the first half of the year as it attempts to improve its standing in World Cup qualifying. But if that happens, Rongen’s job could be extremely important as Arena looks to bring in new talent.

Rongen has been away from U.S. Soccer since being fired in 2011 as the U-20 national team coach but he has remained very active in following and tracking American players both domestically and abroad. For players overseas, Rongen’s hiring is a sign that Arena is not going to be overly inclusive with MLS players but will be on the lookout for emerging players abroad.

Post a comment