(Sunday, November 19, 2006) -- United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati denied making comments that said former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman was about to be hired as manager of the U.S. men.
Gulati's denial came in an e-mail this morning to SoccerTimes.
La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper printed in Mexico and Los Angeles, reported this week that Pekerman would be signed to a contract as soon as final details could be worked out.
According to the story in La Opinion, Gulati said, "We did not sign the contract yet, but it just lacks some details" and that the deal would be completed within a week.
Gulati said he did not make those remarks.
Pekerman led Argentina to the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals before resigning. The USSF is searching for a manager to replace Bruce Arena, who served in that capacity from late 1998 until being fired following the Americans' first-round elimination in this summer's Cup in Germany.
The veracity of the La Opinion story was further questioned. The newspaper also reported that Fernando Clavijo, the Uruguayan coach of Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids, would be hired as Pekerman's top assistant and translator with a formal contract already prepared and awaiting signature.
Clavijo denied that. "That is not true," he told the San Diego Times-Union. "I have a contract with Colorado. . . Unfortunately, it's just a good rumor."
| Sunil Gulati denied making comments to La Opinion.
-- United States Soccer Federation photo --
Pekerman, 47, is known to be one of the major international coaches with whom Gulati discussed his national-team opening. He might be of special interest to Gulati because he not only coached Argentina to the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, but he built a strong reputation leading the nation's youth teams to prominence.
However, Pekerman does not speak English, though he is known to be affable and easily approachable.
Pekerman became coach of Argentina's under-20 and under-17 men's programs in 1994. The under-20s captured the World Youth Championship three times -- in 1995 (Qatar), 1997 (Malaysia), and 2001 (Argentina) -- leading him to name his three dogs Qatar, Malaysia and Argentina. The team also won South American Youth Championships in 1997 and 1999.
He was named to head the Argentine World Cup effort on September 15, 2004.
Gulati has regularly responded with "No comment" to questions about who will take over for Arena.
Jürgen Klinsmann, 42, who coached Germany to third place in the 2006 World Cup, has been a leading candidate for the U.S. job. He resides is California, and is familiar with the U.S and MLS programs.
The German publication Bild reported he had been offered in excess of $3 million a year to become U.S. coach, something Klinsmann termed nonsense, saying he had never discussed money with Gulati. "The speculations are not correct, as usual," he said. "The sums were invented freely."