John Kowalski (pictured far left) was the pinnacle coach of the USMNT futsal crew that completed 2nd within the 1992 World Championship (image courtesy of US Soccer)

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Thirty years could seem to be a very long time to some, however when it comes to constructing a nationwide soccer program and creating a profitable sports activities tradition, only a era in the past just isn’t a very long time.

Three a long time in the past, the USA Males’s Nationwide Soccer Group and the USA Soccer Federation operated with very restricted sources and virtually zero credibility on the worldwide panorama of the world’s hottest sport.

Issues began to vary, however it took time, perseverance and a few very devoted and good soccer minds to assist construct issues, piece by piece.

Pittsburgh soccer teaching icon John Kowalski was one of many architects of the USA’ nationwide males’s soccer program, which helped convey American soccer from an afterthought to the world stage to a good and aggressive footballing nation.

These primitive years, nevertheless, supplied vital hurdles for US Soccer and Kowalski.

For instance, after a visit to Brazil whereas teaching the USA males’s nationwide futsal crew, Kowalski defined how lean issues actually have been.

“At the moment, we had a set of uniforms. We went to an away recreation in Brazil. Two gamers exchanged shirts, and I got here again and the Federation gave me a number of stench that I do not had no management over the gamers,” Kowalski mentioned.

“And the subsequent crew that has to go, which was a girls’s crew, we have been buying and selling a set of uniforms for males, girls, youth. The gamers have been paid 5 to 10 {dollars} a day. As coaches, we We have been paid $110 per day labored.

Round this time, Kowalski additionally turned the pinnacle coach of a brand new varsity soccer program at Robert Morris College within the late Nineteen Eighties, after his expertise because the Pittsburgh Spirit supervisor in the course of the top of the indoor membership early to mid Nineteen Eighties. .

Taking over any position inside the USA Soccer Federation that required his providers, he stepped in to assist present teaching management simply as the game was about to start its ascent to unprecedented development on this nation. Carrying a pedigree of success in teaching the indoor recreation after a formidable run with the Spirit, US Soccer named Kowalski to steer the US nationwide futsal groups in 1989 and 1992.

His achievements on the first-ever FIFA Futsal World Championships stay unmatched, as they’re mentioned to be the best of any U.S. males’s nationwide crew ever to complete in a FIFA competitors.

In 1989, Kowalski took the budget-strapped USA crew to the FIFA 5-a-Facet occasion within the Netherlands, utilizing a mixture of promising younger American gamers and a handful of veterans.

Three years later, Kowalski led the USA to their highest FIFA rating, a runner-up end on the 1992 World Championships, dropping 4-1 to Brazil within the last.


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After two top-three finishes at back-to-back World Indoor Championships, Kowalski was named a FIFA Worldwide Futsal Teacher, a part of a choose group of coaches on the time thought of the highest coaches. indoor play.

Kowalski’s crew in 1989 was the first-ever American crew to win a FIFA medal. And the 1992 crew, which competed in Hong Kong, is the one American males’s crew to ever seem within the last recreation of a world championship.

He’s additionally the one American coach to have led American groups to the CONCACAF championships in indoor soccer (1996) and outdoor, aiding American nationwide crew coach Bora Milutinovic when the USA gained the Gold Cup 1991.

“It was very particular to be a part of that first Gold Cup successful crew and to be an assistant with Bora,” Kowalski mentioned. “Particularly as a result of it was the primary.”

Earlier than Milutinovic turned head coach, Kowalski was the USMNT’s interim coach in 1990-91, main the USA to victories over Olimpia of Paraguay (South American champions in 1990 and world champions golf equipment), Canada and a draw with Mexico.

Kowalski went 1-1-0 as USMNT interim head coach in 1991.

He was additionally in control of one other “unofficial” match on November 16, 1988, however with loads of opposition headliners when the USMNT confronted Mexican membership Guadalajala, higher generally known as the “Chivas” throughout a pleasant recreation in Santa Ana, CA, in 1988.

Former Higher St. Clair and College of Tampa participant Peter Smith turned solely the second Pittsburgh participant to signify the USMNT previously 50 years, within the last 10 minutes of this recreation.

The opposite Pittsburgh-area participant who broke into the USMNT, across the identical time, was former Mt. Lebanon, Pitt, and Pittsburgh Spirit standout John O’Hara.

“A whole lot of these Chivas gamers have been a part of Mexico’s 1986 World Cup squad,” Smith recalled.

“And a number of the fellows in our squad have been key gamers within the 1990 World Cup squad: Tab Harksey, (Mike) Windicschmann, Eric Eichmann, Paul Krumpe. John was proper in the course of that.”

In 1993-94, Kowalski was head coach of the US U-20 MNT, which included many gamers who would later play for the USA or enter skilled play, together with Clint Mathis, John O’Brien and Jovan Kirovski in addition to Chris. Klein and Jay Heaps.

Quick ahead to now, and Kowalski, who obtained the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award on the United Soccer Coaches Conference in 2018, who additionally coached in MLS (Tampa Bay Mutiny within the late 1990) and USL/A-League, as the primary Riverhounds coach, he lastly left a 45-year profession within the soccer teaching ranks when he left Robert Morris’ girls’s program after the 2019 season.

From Poland to Pittsburgh, teaching legend Kowalski resides the ‘American dream’

Kowalski is optimistic about the USA males’s nationwide soccer crew regardless of a number of the setbacks of the late 2010s and having a younger squad on the World Cup in Qatar.

“We’re making enormous progress in soccer even though some individuals do not give us a lot credit score,” Kowalski defined. “The expansion is big. To see the place the Federation was, the place the Federation is, what number of hundreds of thousands extra youngsters and individuals are taking part in and it is actually within the mainstream now.

Whereas Kowalski was a pioneer coach in one other period, he vastly appreciates the immense development of the USA Soccer Federation.

“Now uniforms are now not a problem and coaches and gamers are paid respectable salaries – and in some instances hundreds of thousands of {dollars},” Kowalski mentioned.

“It is good to know that I used to be concerned within the constructing phases and the modifications that came about within the Seventies, 80s and 90s have been unimaginable. The services, the soccer pitches, 1000’s of different kids play, extra referees, it is on TV – it is change into a mainstream sport. And we nonetheless have an extended method to go.”


For extra with John Kowalski and Peter Smith, make sure you hearken to this particular version of the Sounding Off on Soccer podcast as they speak intimately about their USMNT experiences within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties, and share their ideas on the subsequent USA-England. recreation to come back on Friday. Moreover, John Krysinsky speaks with Riverhounds Academy East supervisor and former England skilled participant, James Meara, who shares his ideas and ‘England’ perspective forward of Friday’s huge World Cup recreation.

John Krysinsky has coated soccer and different sports activities for a few years for varied publications and media. He’s additionally the writer of “Miracle on the Mon” – a ebook in regards to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the membership, significantly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the main and centered narrative of a outstanding recreation that helped present a spark. for the franchise. John has coated sports activities for Pittsburgh Tribune-Evaluate, DK Pittsburgh Sports activities, Pittsburgh Sports activities Report, served as a shade commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and labored with OPTA Stats and broadcast groups for US Open Cup matches and the Worldwide Champions Cup in the USA. . Krysinsky additionally served as head males’s soccer coach at his alma mater, Level Park College, the place he led the Pioneers to first successful seasons and first playoff berths (1996-98); Northern Catholic Boys Head Coach (2007-08), Shady Facet Academy Boys Affiliate Head Coach (2009-2014).

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