Pittsburgh soccer icon John Kowalski: an instrumental teaching determine in US Soccer’s formidable years

John Kowalski (pictured far left) was head coach of USMNT Futsal group that completed 2nd in 1992 World Championship (Picture courtesy US Soccer)

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Thirty years could seem to be a very long time to some, however by way of constructing a nationwide soccer program and creating a profitable sporting tradition, a mom era in the past, it is not a very long time.

Three many years in the past, the US Males’s Soccer Nationwide Group and the US Soccer Federation had been working with very restricted assets and nearly zero credibility on the worldwide panorama of the world’s hottest sport.

Issues started to vary, however it will take time, persistence and a few very devoted, sensible soccer minds to assist construct issues up, piece-by-piece.

Pittsburgh soccer teaching icon John Kowalski was a type of architects of the US Males’s Nationwide soccer program, who helped flip American soccer from being an afterthought on the world stage, to changing into a decent and aggressive soccer nation.

These primative years although, supplied some important obstacles for US Soccer and lots of people together with Kowalski, who had been tasked with elevating the standard of play and standing of the Nationwide males’s groups.

Living proof, after a visit to Brazil, when he was managing the US Nationwide Futsal Males’s group, Kowalski defined how lean issues actually had been.

“At the moment, we had one set of uniforms. We went to away sport in Brazil. Two gamers traded jerseys, and I got here again and the Federation gave me a number of stink that I had no management over the gamers,” Kowalski mentioned.

“And the subsequent group that should go, which was a ladies’s group, we had been exchanging one set of uniforms for the lads, the ladies, the youth. Gamers had been getting paid 5, ten {dollars} per diem. As coaches we had been getting paid $110 per day that we had been working.”

At the moment, Kowalski additionally turned the top coach of a brand new males’s faculty soccer program at Robert Morris College within the late Nineteen Eighties, after his expertise of being the top man for the Pittsburgh Spirit in the course of the indoor membership’s heyday within the early-to-mid Nineteen Eighties.

By taking over no matter roles inside the US Soccer Federation that wanted his providers, Kowalski jumped in to assist present teaching management simply as the game was going to begin its climb towards unprecedented development on this nation. Carrying a pedigree of success in teaching the indoor sport after a powerful run with the Spirit, US Soccer tabbed Kowalski’s management of US Nationwide futsal groups in 1989 and 1992.

His accomplishments at FIFA’s first ever Futsal World Championships stay unmatched, as they’d be the best of any US Males’s Nationwide groups have ever completed in a FIFA competitors.

In 1989, Kowalski took the shoe-string budgeted US group to the FIFA 5-a-Aspect occasion within the Netherlands, using a mixture of younger, up-and-coming US gamers together with a handful of veterans.

Three years later, Kowalski led the USA to its highest-ever FIFA end, a second place within the 1992 world championships, shedding 4-1 to Brazil within the last.


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After two top-three finishes in back-to-back indoor world championships, Kowalski was named a world FIFA futsal teacher, a part of a choose group of coaches on the time who had been considered the highest-level coaches of the indoor sport.

Kowalski’s 1989 group was the first-ever US group to win a FIFA medal. And the 1992 group, which competed in Hong Kong, is the one US Males’s group ever to compete within the last sport of a world championship occasion.

He’s additionally the one US coach to guide US groups to CONCACAF championships in each indoor (1996) and outside soccer, helping US Nationwide Group Coach Bora Milutinovic when the USA gained the 1991 Gold Cup.

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

Previous to Milutinovic taking up as head coach, Kowalski was the interim coach of the USMNT in 1990-91, main the USA to victories over Olimpia of Paraguay (1990 champions of South America and world membership champions), Canada and a draw with Mexico.

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

He was additionally on the helm for an additional ‘unofficial’ match on November 16, 1988, however one with a number of headliners from the opposition when the USMNT took on Mexican membership Guadalajala, higher referred to as ‘Chivas’ in a pleasant in Santa Ana, AC, in 1988.

Former Higher St. Clair and College of Tampa standout, Peter Smith turned solely the second participant from Pittsburgh to symbolize the USMNT within the final 50 years, when showing for the ultimate 10 minutes of that match.

The opposite participant from the Pittsburgh space who broke on to the USMNT, across the identical time, was former Mt. Lebanon, Pitt and Pittsburgh Spirit standout, John O’Hara.

“Lots of these Chivas gamers had been on Mexico’s 1986 World Cup group,” Smith recalled.

“And lots of the guys on our group, had been key gamers on the 1990 World Cup group: Tab Harksey, (Mike) Windicschmann, Eric Eichmann, Paul Krumpe. John was proper in the course of it.” ”

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

Quick ahead to the current, and Kowalski, who was honored with the Walt Chyzowych Lifetime Achievement Award on the United Soccer Coaches Conference in 2018, who additionally coached within the MLS (Tampa Bay Mutiny within the late Nineties) and USL/A-League, as the primary Riverhounds’ coach, lastly stepped down from a 45-year profession within the soccer teaching ranks when he left the Robert Morris ladies’s program following the 2019 season.

From Poland to Pittsburgh, teaching legend Kowalski lives out ‘American Dream’

Kowalski is optimistic concerning the US Males’s Nationwide Soccer group regardless of among the hiccups of the late 2010s and with having a younger group on the World Cup in Qatar.

“We’re making super progress in soccer regardless of what some folks could not give a number of credit score,” Kowalski defined. “The expansion is super. To check out the place the Federation was, the place the Federation is, what number of thousands and thousands of further youngsters and persons are taking part in and it is actually within the mainstream now.”

Whereas Kowalski was a trailblazer teaching in a unique period, he has an important appreciation for the US Soccer Federation’s immense development

“Now, uniforms are not any drawback and coaches and gamers are getting deliverable salaries — and in some circumstances into thousands and thousands of {dollars},” Kowalski mentioned.

“It is good to know I’ve had a hand within the constructing levels, and adjustments that happened from the Seventies, 80s and 90s, had been unimaginable. The amenities, the soccer fields, hundreds extra youngsters are taking part in, extra referees, it is on tv — it is changing into a mainstream sport. And we nonetheless have methods to go.”


For extra with John Kowalski and Peter Smith, remember to 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, plus they share their ideas on the upcoming USA-England match arising on Friday. As well as, John Krysinsky catches up with Riverhounds Academy East Director and former English skilled participant, James Meara, who offers his ideas and the ‘English’ perspective heading into Friday’s large World Cup match.

John Krysinsky has coated soccer and different sports activities for a few years for varied publications and media shops. He’s additionally creator of ‘Miracle on the Mon’ — a guide concerning the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the membership, notably the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative main as much as and centered round a exceptional match that helped present a spark for the franchise. John has coated sports activities for Pittsburgh Tribune-Overview, DK Pittsburgh Sports activities, Pittsburgh Sports activities Report, has served as colour commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and labored with OPTA Stats and broadcast groups for US Open Cup and Worldwide Champions Cup matches held within the US . Krysinsky additionally served because the Head Males’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Level Park College, the place he led the Pioneers to the first-ever profitable seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), affiliate head coach of Shady Aspect Academy boys (2009-2014).

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