US Soccer is thought to have moved on so quickly from former USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann that the rumor mill has had no time at all to have any fun with the US Men's National Team's coaching vacancy. A consensus has rapidly formed in the American soccer media: Bruce Arena will be the next head coach of USMNT.
It's rare to see almost every reporter passing on the same anonymously-sourced information. It is possible, of course, that every American soccer reporter has the same source at USSF; it is possible that the one source leaking news out of USSF to the world is wrong, or that even multiple sources simply have the wrong information or are unaware of a change of plan. It is more likely, however, that the consensus is a sign of truth. So until or unless it doesn't happen, expect to see Bruce Arena take charge of USMNT.
But the rumor mill is not so easily deterred. Yes, it was only a matter of hours between the news Klinsmann was out and the emergence of the overwhelming consensus that Arena would be the next man in the USMNT's hot seat - still, the rumor mill has put those hours to work.
Without offering any particular reason to believe in it, for example, mediotiempo.com presents a shortlist comprising Arena, Miguel Herrera, Manuel Pellegrini, and Marcelo Bielsa. Fair enough. Have your fun while you can, rumor mongers.
Bielsa's name, however, has been floating around in connection with the USMNT coaching job since before it was officially available. Cesar Martinez produced a piece for Univision last week that argued against the already-growing support for Arena's candidacy, suggesting the team needed "an architect" rather than emergency stop-gap. Bielsa was the proposed architect.
In the few hours remaining before what seems the inevitable return of Arena to the USMNT, Bielsa's name is still getting some play. A report credited to Telam Agency doesn't just suggest Bielsa is a candidate, it specifies his requirements to USSF:
The 2017 season starts in February instead of April, an annual salary of $ 4 million and the historical reference of US representative, Landon Donovan, is his adjutant.
The money seems reasonable enough for a coach of his standing. Appointing talismanic players to coaching positions is a tried-and-tested approach around the world. But changing an entire league schedule seems like it might be slightly beyond the remit of a national team coach.
Still, the most outrageous request seems the most authentically Bielsa.
The Argentine coach is essentially famous for two things: he is one of the most respected soccer tacticians on the planet, and...well, his nickname is "El Loco".
He is currently without a full-time coaching gig because he left his last job - at Lazio - after two days. Even by Bielsa's standards that was an unusual episode, but it boiled down to control: he said the club didn't follow through on its promises to sign new players in time for pre-season training, so he left.
Bielsa likes control and he isn't afraid to walk if he doesn't get it. He resigned his position at Marseille after the opening game of the 2015-16 season because he wasn't happy with the direction of his contract negotiations with the club. He resigned his position as head coach of Chile after his preferred candidate for the presidency of the national association was not elected.
There is nothing particularly loco about any of those matters (and Bielsa's nickname has more to do with the style of play he favors), but there is a pattern there that is probably discouraging to US Soccer. Jurgen Klinsmann was handed an almost unprecedented degree of control over USMNT, and his dismissal from the post forces the conclusion that the experiment failed.
That is not to say US Soccer won't try to appoint another "architect" in the future. But right now, in the midst of a faltering World Cup qualifying campaign - it would be unlikely even if Bruce Arena weren't already considered a certainty for the job.
In 2014, Klinsmann triggered a tirade from MLS Commissioner Don Garber - an overwrought response to Klinsi's suggestion that MLS might not be as demanding an environment as the Premier League or Serie A. Garber essentially demanded that the national team coach pipe down and get behind the MLS vision for soccer's development in America.
And Garber's demands were more or less heeded. Klinsmann stuck around and took increasing flak from the media, but he did appear to show greater respect for those subjects MLS does not want discussed. In what turned out to be his last Facebook Q&A as USMNT head coach and technical director, Klinsmann ruefully ducked a question about promotion and relegation "for reasons I think you can understand".
Too little, too late. Klinsi never got the results he needed to be the bulletproof change-agent in American soccer that he wanted to be.
Bielsa probably never would have tried. Past experience suggests the Argentine would not have stuck around if he'd been told to keep his ideas to himself by a league exec.
And present circumstances suggest the last thing US Soccer wants at the moment is to be called on to mediate in disputes between one of the world's most meticulous and willful coaches and the hair-trigger sensitivity of the MLS Commissioner.
Bielsa was frequently linked to USMNT a few years ago, before Klinsmann was hired. He might yet be called upon again by US Soccer. But his appointment to any position appears to inevitably bring conflict, and now is not the time for conflict where USMNT is concerned.