As a permanent USMNT head coach has yet to be named, we have looked to Hollywood for some answers — because that’s what any reasonable person would do. From classic sports movie leaders to iconic sci-fi gurus, these are some fictional characters we wouldn’t mind seeing at the helm of U.S. Soccer’s finest.
It’s been nearly a year since Dave Sarachan was named interim head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and it doesn’t look like the U.S. Soccer Federation will be hiring a permanent replacement any time soon. With the CONCACAF Gold Cup approaching in 2019, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding who will lead the USMNT in its redemption tour following a disastrous 2018 campaign that everyone — save for those under rocks — has heard about.
Seeing as how a real-life decision is a ways away, why not look to one of America’s finest exports — motion pictures — for a little inspiration?
From Gordon Liu’s fiery Pai Mei in Kill Bill: Volume 2 to Pat Morita’s legendary Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, Hollywood has given us a fair share of wise authorities that have led their subjects to untold success. In fact, one of Tinsel Town’s favorite tropes has been the coach that turns a ragtag bunch into a polished machine, be it The Bad News Bears, Kicking and Screaming, or Cool Runnings.
The movies present a tremendous platform for character study and the game of football is often dominated by some of its biggest characters. With that in mind, we’ve gone through all types of leaders from both movies and TV to determine who’d be a great fit as USMNT head coach — more in terms of personality and disposition rather than actual soccer knowledge of course.
Herman Boone, Remember the Titans (2000)
Sure there’s been some great movie coaches like Samuel L. Jackson’s eponymous Coach Carter, Kurt Russell’s Herb Brooks in Miracle, or the fiery Al Pacino playing Tony D’Amato in Any Given Sunday, but perhaps there is no better Hollywood coaching option than Denzel Washington’s Herman Boone from Remember the Titans.
In the last qualifying cycle, the American team was said to have a rift between the international-born and American-born players, and there’s no man better equipped to bridge that gap than Boone. If he brought together black and white in the ‘60s South, surely he can bring this team together.
Rafiki, The Lion King (1994)
Of course, Hollywood isn’t just sports movies and it isn’t just live action. Animated films are always quite the attraction and one of Disney’s most successful and iconic animated movies ever, The Lion King, includes another candidate that would be well-suited for this coaching position — the ever-wise Rafiki.
Arguably Rafiki’s best moment from the film is the, “It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!” lesson he teaches to Simba. That is advice that we could desperately use right now, having embarrassingly failed to qualify for the last World Cup, because it’s both strong and optimistic. He would provide a positive outlook for the future and would not be afraid to use some violence — albeit tasteful violence — if anyone got out of line. Rafiki would also be the first African USMNT head coach, and his mid-game and post-game press interviews would likely be incredible.
Cookie Lyon, Empire (2015)
Another first that the USMNT could use is a female coach. So far we’ve only had men at the helm even though our ladies have brought home multiple World Cup trophies compared to the men’s lackluster bagel. Hollywood has plenty of qualified female characters who could bring a lot to this position. From the savage Miranda Priestly played by Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada to the warrior leadership of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, there’s many options for the team — but who be better suited than Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie from the TV drama-turned-soap opera Empire?
With her ability to build a team, teach, manage, and quickly adapt to new and increasingly dramatic circumstances, she is uniquely qualified to manage the men’s national team. We could definitely use the edge and the take-no-BS, street-smart attitude she brings to the table.
Matt Foley, Saturday Night Live (1993)
While Cookie very well might be the total package, who can deny the importance of a good pump-up speech before a big game? There’s many Hollywood monologues that are famous for riling up a crowd and getting people excited for battle. Sure you have incredibly inspiring moments in flicks like Braveheart and Independence Day, but I can’t think of anyone more fit to give a pre-game game pump-up speech than the iconic Matt Foley played by the late Chris Farley.
Foley gives the type of in-your-face rants needed to get you in the right competitive mindset to want to go out and win a game. We also know that he runs a tight ship. He won’t let you off the hook for anything, and since he has very little to fall back on, you know he’ll be giving all he’s got. This is the opportunity he’s been looking for to get out of that van down by river.
Yoda, Star Wars (1980)
What Foley has in passion, energy, and caffeine-enhanced enthusiasm, he lacks in brains. We can look to Hollywood for a great crop of cerebral characters who have the ability to use their minds in extraordinary ways, and we could definitely use that on the USMNT. Think about someone like Will in Good Will Hunting or Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore — intellect like that would certainly help our in-game strategizing. But when it comes to the ultimate Hollywood brain, the best person for the team, the smartest man in the galaxy, how could we not go with the one and only Yoda?
Can’t you already picture the Jedi master floating on the sidelines and telepathically directing players, orchestrating counter-attacks, and organizing the defense? He wouldn’t need many words but without a doubt what little he would say would take our team from good to great.
After all, if we’re going to go with interim coaches indefinitely then why not make it interesting? May the force be with you.