Utah club interviews for coach
Utah's new Major League Soccer team already is interviewing head coaching candidates, a team official acknowledged Wednesday.
At any rate, the team is apparently aiming high.
"They are great candidates," said Dean Howes, the team's chief executive officer. "We are lucky on this. There are a number of nationally and internationally recognized coaches that are ready to come into the league."
Howes said he interviewed two candidates - John Ellinger, the under-17 national team coach, and Thomas Rongen, the under-20 national coach - last week in Washington during the All-Star break. Both men had two-hour interviews with Howes.
In addition, a Sports Illustrated Web site report called Steve Sampson, former head coach of the U.S. and Costa Rica national teams, a candidate, as well as current national team assistant coach Glenn Myernick.
Howes said other candidates are being considered, but would not offer any names. The club hopes to have a coach in place by the end of August.
Howes would not say what the deciding factors in the hiring process will be, saying it is too early. He said the team can only look for a good fit.
"How they fit with the management team, and how well they share our goals and objectives" are the current criteria, he said.
"We want to win championships, and the coach has a lot to do with that," Howes said.
Rongen has the most experience coaching in the MLS, having been the head coach for D.C. United and the New England Revolution, as well as the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny. Rongen also played in the league's first season.
Ellinger has turned down head coaching jobs with MLS teams in recent years, but the prospect of heading up an expansion team is different. The chance to build his own team from the bottom up may be attractive enough to bring him to Utah.
"He brings a tremendous amount of experience," Howes said.
Ellinger has been the head coach of the U.S. Soccer Federation's U-17 training program in Florida for 10 years. The program helped develop players such as Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley. In addition, Ellinger was an assistant coach for the Columbus Crew.
Although Howes has not yet interviewed him, some have called Sampson the favorite for the job. Sampson was born in Utah, but moved to California at a young age so his ties to the state may not be too strong. His experience at the highest level of soccer, however, is Sampson's main asset.
"I know that he's available for a new opportunity," Howes said. Sampson was recently dismissed from his head coaching position with the Costa Rica national team, despite a reasonable amount of success.
Myernick coached at Colorado for a number of years and took the Rapids to the MLS Cup match in 1997. With comparable MLS experience to Rongen, Myernick may be just as attractive. Currently, Myernick is the first assistant to National Team coach Bruce Arena.
"He certainly is a top candidate," Howes said.
Among those being considered for head coach of Utah's new MLS franchise:
John Ellinger, under-17 national team coach
Thomas Rongen, under-20 national coach
Steve Sampson, former head coach of the U.S. and Costa Rica national teams