Top photo: Wikimedia/ Philipp Zachl
Austria’s Record Player Coaching the U.S. National Team
By Marina Reitner & Julian Steiner Austrian
Andreas Herzog is one of the most prominent names in Austrian soccer. With 103 appearances, he is the record national team player, scoring 26 goals. Austrian soccer fans will never forget his legendary goals in the qualifiers for the world cup in 1998, most notably against Sweden. He started his career at Rapid Vienna, where he played from 1986 until 1992, winning two Austrian championships.
From Austria, he moved to the German team Werder Bremen, where he won the Bundesliga in 1993 and the DFB Pokal in 1994 and 1998. During his one season at Bayern Munich, he won the UEFA Cup, together with the current U.S. men’s national team (USMNT) coach Jürgen Klinsmann in 1996.
After returning to Rapid from Germany in 2002, he decided to spend the last year of his career with the U.S. Major League Soccer (MLS) team Los Angeles Galaxy in 2004. Following his retirement from active soccer, he served as Austria’s U-21 coach from 2009-2011, and was also an assistant coach for the Austrian men’s national team. In 2013, he followed Jürgen Klinsmann’s call to become the assistant coach of the USMNT and was named head coach for the U-23 U.S. team in 2015.
Austrian Information reached Andreas Herzog during his vacation to conduct the following interview:
Nowadays, do you spend more time in Austria or the U.S.?
I still live in Austria for most of the year, but travel back and forth quite a lot, especially for big tournaments or qualifiers. In total, I would say that I am spending roughly five months per year in the U.S.
As a player, you moved to Los Angeles to play for L.A. Galaxy in 2004. Why did you choose the U.S. for the next step in your career as a professional soccer player?
I wanted to have a new experience in soccer, and the MLS was a great way to do that. The experience to live in the U.S. and to learn a lot about the culture and the American way of life was important for me. It is wonderful to see that soccer has become such a big thing in the States and believe me, things have changed quite a bit since 2004. Back then, we played mostly in football stadiums. Today, coaching methods and infrastructure are continuously improving.
After the end of your career as an active player, you returned to Austria and began working with the Austrian National Team as an assistant coach. What were your motivations to pursue a career as a coach back in Austria?
Well, in a way my whole life was all about soccer. To be the record holder in appearances for the Austrian national team is a huge honor, but to get the chance to work for the Austrian Federation as a young coach and to learn a lot at the highest level back in Austria was amazing and indeed very helpful for me.
Nevertheless, you returned to the United States in 2012 to train the U.S. Men’s National Team together with Jürgen Klinsmann. What prompted you to move to the U.S. again? Were there any particular challenges that you faced at the beginning?
Of course, the biggest challenge was coaching in English, but Jürgen gave me all the support I needed right from the start. I did not hesitate one second to take the job, because it presented a great opportunity to learn more and become a better coach.
Before signing in the U.S., Jürgen had coached Bayern Munich and the German team. It is very interesting to work with him, especially because he is not only a very successful coach, but also very innovative in his techniques. I am learning new things every day and really enjoy Jürgen’s mentality as well as the whole team at U.S. Soccer.
In addition to your work for the national team, you were appointed head coach of the U.S. under-23 team in 2015. What would you say are the most important aspects when coaching national teams at those levels?
It is just like with every other team: Give your players all the confidence they need and support them whenever you see they need help. Especially the youngsters with little experience need you the most. When you have confident players, you can push them to work hard and have success at the highest possible level.
You are Austria’s record national team player with 103 games. What are your top three moments looking back at your career?
That is easy: the qualification for the world cup tournaments in 1990 and 1998 with the national team and the German Bundesliga title with Werder Bremen in 1993.
What are the most valuable experiences you gained from 15 years in the Austrian national team and would you say this has substantially influenced your work as a coach now?
You learn a lot about coaches, colleagues, fans and how to deal with the media. Also, if you make mistakes, you learn to stand up, work hard, and learn from these mistakes. It is simple: Look forward – and always stay positive.
On a more personal note: What are your favorite places to go to in the United States? Are there any places that you have not yet been to but would love to see some day?
I really like LA, San Diego, Miami and all the great stadiums we played in. We had such a great atmosphere! I really have to thank all the fans! Personally, I would like to see and drive through Alaska if I have a chance.
Could you imagine returning to Austria to work again as a coach or do you see yourself staying in the United States in the future?
I could imagine both! To get a chance to coach a MLS-team would be very interesting. Let us briefly compare Austria and the U.S. : What are the similarities and differences that you see with regard to the role of soccer in those two countries?
Tactics in soccer are similar everywhere, it depends on the philosophy of the coach or the team. The mentality in the U.S. seems more open though. Everyone is 100 percent committed. Soccer also does not have a history here, so it is sometimes easier to introduce changes in structures. But in the end, the goal is the same: Success at the world cup.
How would you say the role of soccer has changed in the U.S. over the last decade and did you observe a similar development in Austria?
Soccer is getting bigger and bigger in the U.S., just remember the soccer boom during the 2014 world cup in Brazil. It was an amazing experience and great fun to represent the United States with our team at the biggest stage in world soccer!
One final question: What are the next goals for you and your U.S. teams? Where will the road lead you?
Our goal number one is reaching the quarterfinals in Russia in 2018. It won’t be easy and will present a great challenge, but I am confident we can do it!
Thank you for the interview and enjoy the rest of your summer!