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U.S. National Teams


November 21, 2016
When U.S. replaced Osiander with Gansler as coach in 1989

Bob Gansler back in the day.
Bob Gansler back in the day.
Photo by Michael Lewis
By Michael Lewis Editor

For the first time in 27 years, U.S. Soccer changed coaches right smack in the middle of a World Cup qualifying cycle with Monday's dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann.

During the winter of 1989, U.S. Soccer, looking for a fulltime coach, named Bob Gansler as the new national team coach that Jan. 16 as he replaced Lothar Osiander. Gansler, 47 at the time of his appointment, was the coach of the U.S. Under-20 team that was about to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Championships in Saudi Arabia and coach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a staff coach with U.S. Soccer since 1975.

Werner Fricker, then the president of U.S. Soccer said: "We are pleased to announce Bob Gansler's appointment and are confident that he will take the U.S. national team forward as we continue our quest t qualify for the 1990 World Cup in Italy."

Outside of the meager soccer media in 1989, the announcement did not receive much publicity.

"It's going to be a heck of a challenge," Gansler said of reaching the 1990 World Cup in Italy. "I think I'm looking forward to it."

The maître de at a San Francisco restaurant at the time, Osiander would not quit his job after guiding the Americans through the CONCACAF semifinals.

Osiander, who had been coach since March 30, 1986, compiled a 10-12-6 mark while guiding the team to a berth at the 1988 Seoul Olympic soccer tournament and a spot in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Because of coaching instability at the international level, Osiander realized he probably would be out of a fulltime job -- he remained as a U.S. Soccer staff coach and wound up as the 1992 Olympic coach.

Gansler, incidentally, became the first full-time coach of the U.S. since Alkis Panagoulias guided the national side before leaving the federation in 1985. Gansler directed the Americans to their first World Cup berth in 40 years as they qualified for Italia '90.

The players might not have been as sure about a new coach, because there was a lot of apprehension from the very beginning when Gansler met with the senior players on the team at a week-long training camp at the University of California-Irvine.

When former Cosmos midfield Ricky Davis, then the U.S. captain, was asked about the players' reaction to Gansler's appointment, Davis replied: "First of all, right up front, the questions for Gansler have not been answered yet . . . I think the players approached our only opportunity with him with a certain amount of apprehension."

Gansler and the U.S. got off on the wrong foot that April 16, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Ticos in San Jose, Costa Rica. Midfielder Gilberto Rhoden scored the only goal 14 minutes into the match before 26,271 at Estadio Nacional (the original Estadio Nacional before it was rebuilt).

"We didn't play that well," U.S. captain and sweeper Mike Windischmann said at the time. "There's not really excuses to be made."
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