Steve Sampson coaches the USMNT at the 1998 World Cup. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Former U.S. men’s national team head coach Steve Sampson, who directed the squad at the 1998 World Cup, Thursday said he was retiring from coaching.
Sampson, 64, made the announcement on his Facebook page.
“With mixed emotions I have announced my retirement from coaching,” he said. “I have been incredibly blessed over the years to work with incredible athletes in the United States and Costa Rica. I am feeling nostalgic but thankful for all the men who have enriched my life over the years. And, through the highs of highs and lows of lows my family, especially my wonder wife, Sheri, and my friends, have been there for me with unconditional love and support.
“I also want to thank all the people in management with whom I have had the pleasure to work with. No coach can succeed without the support of management, and I have enjoyed collaborating with some of the most brilliant minds in soccer and sport in general.
“I look forward to what is next whether it be commentating, consulting, mentoring and spending quality time with the family. To all of my family, friends, colleagues, and players……Thank you from the bottom of my heart. With much love and gratitude. Steve.”
An assistant coach with the USMNT during the 1994 World Cup, Sampson took over the reins on a permanent basis in 1995 and guided the Americans to France 1998. Among his accomplishments along the way was a historic scoreless draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in 1997. The USA had never gotten a result in Mexico until then. It was one of the early turning points of the USMNT-El Tri rivalry.
Sampson started his coaching career at Awalt High School in 1978-80. He also was an assistant at Foothill College for a year before becoming an assistant coach at UCLA from 1982-85.
He went onto to direct Santa Clara University for five seasons, as the Broncos shared the 1989 NCAA Division I with the University of Virginia after playing four extratimes on a cold day at Rutgers University. In an intriguing quirk, the Cavaliers were guided by Bruce Arena, who went on to coach the USMNT over two tenures.
Sampson was named interim USA coach in 1995 and coached the team to a surprising fourth-place finish at Copa America that year in Uruguay, which included a stunning 3-0 triumph over favored Argentina. The Americans also bested Mexico in a shootout in the quarterfinals.
In a controversial move prior to the 1998 World Cup, Sampson dropped USA captain John Harkes from the team that April. Prior to the World Cup, Sampson implement an unusual 3-6-1 formation that many observers felt led to the ultimate first-round elimination of the Americans.
His success ran out in France as the USA dropped all three matches – to Germany, Iran and Yugoslavia as dissension ran rampant through the team. Sampson resigned June 29, 1998.
Sampson coached the Costa Rican national side from 2002-04 and the LA Galaxy from 2004-06, winning the MLS Cup crown in 2005. He most recent directed Cal Poly.