LOS ANGELES -- As expected, Bora Milutinovic, a Yugoslav who has coached the World Cup teams of Mexico and Costa Rica, was named coach of the United States national soccer team yesterday. He replaced Bob Gansler, who resigned last month after two years in the job.
Milutinovic, 46, was introduced at a news conference in New York and on a conference call to reporters.
"It's a big challenge," Milutinovic said of coaching the U.S. team, which as host of the 1994 World Cup will automatically qualify for the tournament. "The best things about the players in the United States are discipline and tactics. By 1993 I will have a better picture of what team I will put together for 1994."
Milutinovic's contract with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which runs through December of 1994, is reportedly for about $200,000 a year and includes incentive bonuses.
Milutinovic speaks five languages, but English is not chief among them. For yesterday's conference call, Milutinovic spoke mostly Spanish, a language that has served him well during 17 years in Mexico City.
After playing professionally in Yugoslavia and France, Milutinovic played in the Mexican league at the end of his career and `D coached the Mexican team to the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup, for which Mexico was the host. Milutinovic was hired to coach the Costa Rican team only 45 days before the start of the 1990 World Cup. That team made it to the second round.
Milutinovic's experience with Latin players and the Latin style of play is seen as a peace offering to the Hispanic soccer-playing public in the United States, a group that has frequently complained of being ignored.
Officials said they wanted someone with World Cup experience, making Gansler the only U.S. candidate on the first 10-man list. Four were interviewed from that list, which was pared to two finalists, Milutinovic and Dutch Coach Thijs Libregts.
The U.S. team will leave Monday for matches in South Korea against the Olympic team on April 5 and the national team on April 7. There are two matches against club teams in Saudi Arabia on April 17 and 19 that are yet to be confirmed by the USSF. Milutinovic said his first game behind the bench would be against Uruguay on May 5 in Denver.
Milutinovic is not only charged with the difficult task of achieving the federation's avowed goal for 1994 -- making it to the second round of the World Cup -- but he also must try to sell the sport to the American people.