Schellas Hyndman and Ralph Perez sat down with SiriusXM FC host Glenn Crooks ahead of the USA-Iran match on Tuesday. Hyndman and Perez are currently leading a group of coaches for United Soccer Coaches and Generation adidas International at the World Cup in Qatar.
- Recipient of the Honor Award – United Soccer Coaches & Director of Coaching Education Emeritus.
- Past president of United Soccer Coaches, formerly known as the NSCAA
- He grew up in Ohio before setting off on an astounding career, compiling a college record of 511-169-6 in 37 years, including stints at Eastern Illinois University (1977-83), Southern Methodist University (1983-2006), and later Grand Canyon University (2015-21).
- Head coach of FC Dallas in Major League Soccer from 2008-13.
- 2010 MLS Coach of the Year and made an appearance in the MLS Cup final in 2010 (lost to Colorado)
- Recipient of the Walt Czyzowich Lifetime Achievement Award
- Perez is currently at the University of Redlands and formerly at Old Dominion University (V.A.), Santa Clara University, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State San Bernardino (women’s), and Cal State Los Angeles.
- Perez is a former Major League Soccer assistant with the L.A. Galaxy and NY/NJ MetroStars, and he worked on Bob Ganzler’s staff at the 1990 World Cup, helping guide an American group to their first World Cup in 50 years.
Schellas Hyndman on signing Walker Zimmerman, his disappointment that Jesus Ferreira is not playing, and his thoughts on USA’s must-win versus Iran.
Schellas Hyndman: I was teaching a course with the NSCAA at that time down in Florida, and one of the candidates came to me at lunch, and he said, ‘You know, there’s a really good player down at Furman – Walker Zimmerman.’ He was coming out after his junior year. So, I got a hold of him and got some videos of him. He was called an engaging inspiration by this coach. I saw a young player there that I thought had the character and the ability to be a good player in the MLS.
Glenn Crooks: You mentioned he had great character.
Schellas Hyndman: When we drafted him, his dad (David) came, so I got a chance to meet him. It turns out that he’s a pastor, and you can understand why Walker is such a wonderful human being, a caring person, and a great teammate. It’s not surprising that he’s done so well and is such a good leader with the team.
Glenn Crooks: So, you helped build FC Dallas from the draft.
Schellas Hyndman: In the early days of the draft, you went after attacking players. As I went further into my career, I found that the success that I was getting immediately was from defenders.
(Hyndman also drafted Matt Hedges and George John at the back). Someone contacted me in Dallas and said he was watching the U.S. play, and he asked if I drafted both Hedges and Zimmerman – they were starting next to each other in the back for Gregg (Berhalter) in that game.
Glenn Crooks: You’ve had a front-row seat to watch him grow as a player.
Schellas Hyndman: Walker’s qualities besides his character and his work ethic are his athleticism. For his timing on headers – defending and attacking. And running down speedy players. He’s special, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Glenn Crooks: It struck me when you said you had drafted for college kids that had an immediate impact. That doesn’t happen in those numbers anymore.
Schellars Hyndman: You have to remember, I had just one Designated Player – you could have three, but we had one – David Ferreira. It was really the owner’s decision where we were going to put our money and Designated Players, or we were going to get the players through the draft. (David Ferreira was the 2010 MLS MVP)
Glenn Crooks: David’s son, Jesus, came up through the Dallas system and is now on the U.S. National Team. What is the story of the family in Dallas?
Schellas Hyndman: I have a friend working with Atletico Paranaense, and I stopped there by chance on a recruiting trip to visit with him, watching the training and things like that. He said he has an excellent Colombian player playing in Brazil. I went out and watched him — great personality, friendly. You can see him joking with the Brazilians. And he is a very good player, so he became our designated player. Jesus was a 12-year-old and started playing with our academy. And we had Weston McKennie with Jesus.
Glenn Crooks: It seemed that Berhalter’s No. 1 striker coming into Qatar was Ferreira. Any idea what happened?
Schellas Hyndman: It hurts for me personally because I know how he feels not playing. I know how his family feels. But you know, I’m not the manager.
Glenn Crooks: I remember Berhalter suggesting Ferreira was the best fit for the system, not Josh Sargent and not Haji Wright. I suppose there are multiple reasons for you to have another idea.
Schellas Hyndman: It’s always a tough spot. This is such a world stage; everybody wants to be seen and have opportunities down the road. I see a really good player in Ferreira. I see a natural finisher. I also see a player that can play the No. 10 or as a second striker.
Glenn Crooks: Leading into the Iran match – what are you thinking about going into this game?
Schellas Hyndman: You have two teams playing with a lot of confidence. And you have two teams that realize that only one will make it through – everything’s on the line. It could be the game of the tournament.
Glenn Crooks: There are political considerations to this match. Will that matter to the players?
Schellas Hyndman: It’s hard to separate, but once the whistle blows, players aren’t considering that sort of thing. They’re more concerned about playing for the country than playing against a country. And it’s also about handling the nerves. Do you want to win? Or are you trying not to lose? I believe we turned a corner, and they wanted to win against England.
Glenn Crooks: How is this game managed from a coach’s standpoint? If Gio Reyna is genuinely 100 percent fit and ready, how would you use him?
Schellas Hyndman: I think he is one of those special players. But after this performance by the U.S., are you willing to make any changes? The second thing is every player brings something, but they also are weak at something. You have to measure the game and say okay, we’re losing one zero. I need a special player to get in the box.
Glenn Crooks: What will it take to get past Iran and to the Round of 16?
Schellas Hyndman: We put a young team out in our first game. And we also have a young coaching staff out there, so the whole event may be overwhelming. The result we got (1-1 vs. Wales) – we’re better than that. Then look at them against England, and you go, wow, we can play with a powerful European team and could have won. A lot of how I feel is just my mentality and how I grew up, and the way I look at life is that I think talent can only get you so far. You need character and mental strength to get you places. We will see if we have the players who bring those intangibles along with their talent.
Ralph Perez on USA-Iran, scoreless draws, and his relationship with Iran coach, Carlos Queroz
Glenn Crooks: What are your initial thoughts about the USA-Iran game?
Ralph Perez: The first thing I think of is Iran’s overall experience. This World Cup is the third straight with the same coach, and he is one of the best managers in the tournament. I see a team that will be well-prepared even though they looked ill-prepared in the first match against England. A lot had to do with what’s been transpiring in Iran politically. And that’s always the problem when issues outside the field mentally impact how you play on the field. It reminded me of what happened to Colombia at the ’94 World Cup and how it affected the team’s performance.
Glenn Crooks: There’s no question that the upcoming match is politically charged. For instance, the official U.S. Soccer Twitter page posted the Iran flag without the Islamic Republic symbol to support “the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” And the Iranian players themselves did not sing their National Anthem in the opening match against England. The Iranian Federation demanded that they sing ahead of their victory against Poland.
Ralph Perez: Well, we heard from Steve Sampson about politics the last time we played Iran in the ’98 World Cup. As a national team manager, you deal with that. The youth of our team – I think our guys are more focused on playing. A lot of our players – more than half the team – don’t live every day in the U.S., but surely, they talk about it.
Glenn Crooks: What are some of the specifics you think about regarding what the U.S. needs to do? What kind of setup do they need?
Ralph Perez: You make a game plan. And can it be carried out and sustained from the first half to the second half? We grew and matured from game one to game two and understood that staying with the game plan makes us play effectively.
Glenn Crooks: There have been five 0-0 results after just one scoreless game in the entire Russia ’18 World Cup. Why are the reasons?
Ralph Perez: It shows us the lack of time spent together and preparation. Time to have pieces of training to focus on your system’s organization. The second factor for me is having those difference makers show up to score big goals in critical moments. Also, many players have been injured and are carrying injuries into this tournament because they just finished a week or ten days ago and are jumping into a World Cup.
Glenn Crooks: What’s your stance on Gio Reyna if he is 100% fit? He’s played seven minutes in the first two matches. Should he be given a run against Iran?
Ralph Perez: Well, in a game like this, you need a player with that talent and special ability. It’s always nice to have that guy who can do things in the final third on his own or do something by his movements. Beat a player on a dribble, draw a second defender and then find a player in a better position. I think the one thing that people need to realize is that the way the U.S. plays and the U.S. players are asked to play, you need a lot of willing defenders – even if they are attacking players. That was one of the things that Gregg said in his press conference that he was most proud about.
Glenn Crooks: You worked as an assistant for a year with Carlos Quieroz at the NY/NJ Metro Stars (now New York Red Bulls). You said earlier that he was one of the best coaches at the World Cup. Why?
Ralph Perez: He is a tactical genius who knows the game inside out. Sir Alex Ferguson said he was the best assistant manager he’s ever had. He’s coached in other World Cups, coached and won a U20 World Cup, and he knows how to get the best out of his team to prepare them for the tactical side of the game.
Glenn Crooks: The players seem to really like him.
Ralph Perez: He didn’t qualify this group for this World Cup. He was working with Egypt, and they didn’t make it. The players went to the Federation saying they’d like to have Carlos back. And you can see the joy, reaction, hugging, and embracing after the win against Wales. He’s got that team bought into his way of doing things.
Glenn Crooks: After Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments on BBC, Quieroz reacted to protect his players and the country he is serving as coach. Is that typical of what you would expect from him?
Ralph Perez: Emotionally, he’s high energy. And he’s a player’s coach wherever he’s worked—the players who have played for him respect and respond to his words and actions. I feel blessed to have had that opportunity to work with him and say he’s a friend. And if you go back and read his Technical Report in 2010 for U.S. Soccer, it was a comprehensive document. He’s not only a good coach but also a brilliant man on and off the field.
Glenn Crooks: It sounds like you think the U.S. task is far more difficult with Carlos Quieroz in the opposite technical area.
Ralph Perez: Clearly, for me. Coaching teams like Iran aren’t at the top of the pyramid of the best in the world, but he’s done a great job with their performances in the previous two World Cups. It will be a good chess match, but he also has an excellent knowledge of the U.S. Soccer scene and the U.S. team. I’m sure he’s well prepared and schooled on us.