Crocker has USMNT coach hire atop agenda

British football executive Matt Crocker was hired Tuesday as sporting director of the U.S. Soccer Federation and will lead the search for the United States men’s national team coach, a job that has been uncertain since Gregg Berhalter was pushed aside during an investigation that developed from a feud with the Reyna family.

Crocker will start the job on Aug. 2 but will begin the coach search process immediately, the USSF said.

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In introducing Crocker, USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone said he, “brings a wealth of knowledge having worked at various roles and at various levels of our game. He will set the sporting vision for U.S. soccer and implement the technical plan for the women’s men’s extended and youth national teams.”

Crocker will also be providing support for the USWNT during the World Cup prior to his start date.

She added that Crocker, “excels in communication as well as being a team builder. He is driven, he’s creative and committed to building relationships at every level of the game. His passion for the game, his experience and expertise will make U.S. Soccer better.”

Crocker said, “I’m really, really looking forward to building on the great work and the foundations that have already been laid and working with the staff in what is a really exciting opportunity.”

The 48-year-old has been the director of football for Southampton since February 2020. Sport Republic, a London-based investment firm founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen and backed by lead investor Dragan Solak, bought control of team in January 2022.

The club announced Dec. 16 that Crocker will leave at the end of the season.

The USMNT has been without a manager since Berhalter’s contract expired at the end of last year, with assistant Anthony Hudson appointed as interim coach on Jan. 4.

This was after the USSF said it was investigating a three-decade-old domestic violence incident involving Berhalter and the woman who later became his wife — the college roommate of Danielle Egan Reyna.

Reyna is a former U.S. women’s player who is the wife of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna and the mother of current American midfielder Giovanni Reyna.

Following the investigation, which was completed back in March, Cone said that Berhalter remains a candidate.

Crocker was reported to have interviewed American Jesse Marsch to become the team’s manager in February before hiring Ruben Selles. Marsch is former coach of the New York Red Bulls, Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg, Germany’s RB Leipzig and England’s Leeds.

But the new USSF sporting director declined to go into details about possible candidates, including Berhalter.

“It would be unprofessional of me right now to talk about individual names,” he said. “[Berhalter] has done a fantastic job and I intend to follow up with a number of candidates, both internally within the organization, and externally to begin to understand more and to assist my learning as well. And I’ll be doing that as quickly as I possibly can.”

Crocker added that he wouldn’t be rushed into making an appointment.

He stated that he wants a manager that will build on the USMNT’s performances at the last World Cup, one that was “aggressive” and “forward thinking,” and evolve the team’s style of play.

“We need the right leader,” Crocker said. “We need the right head coach to come in and give the players ownership and responsibility to build a really, really strong culture or to continue to develop that really, really strong culture and coaching.”

Previously, Crocker was Cardiff’s academy director from 1999-2005, then youth development minor of England’s Football League (the competition of the second, third and fourth tiers) from May 2005 to May 2006.

He joined Southampton as academy manager from May 2007 to November 2013, then became head of development teams, coaching, for England’s Football Association starting in November 2013 before returning to Southampton.

Crocker replaces Earnie Stewart, who as general manager recommended the hiring of Berhalter. He led the team to the second round of last year’s World Cup and hoped to stay through the 2026 tournament, which the U.S. will co-host.

Stewart was elevated to sporting director in August 2019 and left Feb. 15 to become PSV Eindhoven’s director of football.

The Reyna family brought the allegation to the USSF’s attention after Gio Reyna was used sparingly at the World Cup and almost got sent home by Berhalter for lack of hustle in training.

Berhalter referred to a problem with a player during a management conference without identifying Reyna, remarks Berhalter thought were not for publication, but they became public and the identity of the player was clear, angering the Reyna family.

Alston & Bird, the law firm hired by the USSF, said in March that Berhalter did not improperly withhold information about the domestic violence incident. The USSF said Berhalter remained a candidate for the coaching position.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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