U.S. U-17s, Coach Richie Williams, Make the Wrong Kind of History

Former MLS midfielder Richie Williams and his U.S. U-17 charges lost 3-1 to Honduras in the CONCACAF Championship quarterfinals on Sunday evening in Panama City.

The defeat denied the team a berth in the 2013 U-17 World Cup, and made them the first U.S. U-17 side ever to fail to reach the World Cup, a string of 15 straight appearances dating to 1985.

The Americans came into the match as heavy favorites, but after Honduras broke a 1-1 tie with two goals early in the second half, the U.S. could not recover, and their World Cup dream evaporated.

Highlights here:

This is the third disappointing result for a U.S. youth team in the past three years, following the 2011 U-20 team’s failure to reach their World Cup, and the U-23’s inability to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Red Bulls Sack Assistant Williams, Goalkeepers Coach McAleenan

Just weeks before their March 19 MLS season opener, the New York Red Bulls dismissed longstanding assistants Richie Williams and Des McAleenan—then released possibly the tersest press release in sports history to announce the decisions.

Here it is, in full:

Red Bull New York announced today that it has relieved assistant coach Richie Williams and goalkeeping coach Des McAleenan of their duties effective immediately.

“As an organization, we decided to go a different direction with our coaching staff,” said Red Bull New York General Manager and Sporting Director Erik Soler. “We want to thank Richie and Des for their contributions to our franchise and wish them good luck in their future endeavors.”

Obviously, there is much more to this story than that ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’ bulletin, but we’ll have to await further details. According to the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, who broke the story, “One source said the reason was repeated violation of club rules. Another cited punctuality.”

Williams had been with the organization since 2006 and was seen as a vital liaison to coach Hans Backe and his staff as they acclimated to the idiosyncrasies of doing business in MLS during their first season last year.

McAleenan had been New York’s keepers coach since 2002 (when they were the MetroStars) and is widely respected around the league.

More to follow on this one, for sure.

Q: What’s A Hans Backe? A: Your New Red Bulls Coach


Backe was an assistant to Eriksson in Mexico—and still got the Red Bull job.

The New York Red Bulls have finally found a new coach, and longtime fans of the organization can be forgiven for any eye-rolling or “here we go again” utterances.

The new man is Hans Backe, 57, a Swede who has worked with Sven-Goran Eriksson and won four titles in the Danish league with FC Copenhagen and Aalborg. His most recent stint was with Notts County of England’s League Two (the fourth level of English soccer), and he also served as an assistant under Sven-Goran Eriksson at both Manchester City and with the Mexican national team.

Considering the disaster that was the stint with El Tri (thousands of Mexican fans held a “victory rally” when Eriksson and Co. were sacked), and Backe’s limited to non-existent knowledge of MLS, combined with GM Erik Soler’s comparable inexperience with the league, well, this just may be one that makes Red Bull fans go hmmmm. Or worse.

On the bright side, Backe did win those championships in Denmark, he does have a lot of experience in the game at fairly high levels, and the team did smartly retain Richie Williams as an assistant coach. Williams will be the highest-ranking Red Bull employee with any real knowledge of MLS or the American player. 

That beautiful brand new stadium opens in just two and a half months. Can Mr. Backe and his staff assemble a team worthy of it in time?