|Date of birth||January 19, 1957|
|Place of birth||Salt Lake City, Utah, United States|
|1975–1976||Foothill Community College|
|1977–1978||San Jose State University|
|1978–1980||Awalt High School|
|1981||Foothill Community College (assistant)|
|1986–1993||Santa Clara University|
|1993–1995||United States (assistant)|
|‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 22 June 2006|
Steve Sampson (born January 19, 1957) is a soccer coach, currently of the men's soccer program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He is also the former head coach of both the United States men's national team and the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer. By the media, he is nicknamed Uncle Sam.
Sampson attended UCLA briefly before transferring to Foothill Community College, located in Los Altos Hills, California, in 1975. At Foothill Community he earned All-American honors while playing on the 1976 California junior college state championship team. He then transferred to San Jose State University in 1977. He graduated from San Jose State in 1979 with a minor in Spanish, which he later used as coach of the Costa Rican national soccer team.
After graduating from San Jose State, he moved to Stanford University where he earned a masters degree in education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. While at Stanford he entered the coaching ranks with the Awalt High School boys varsity soccer team in Mountain View, California. Then, after graduating from Stanford, he served as an assistant men's soccer coach at Foothill College. In 1982, UCLA hired Sampson as an assistant men's soccer coach. In 1985, he was on staff when UCLA won the NCAA men's soccer championship.
Santa Clara University
At the end of the 1985 season, Santa Clara University hired him away from UCLA to serve as their men's soccer head coach. In 1989, he achieved his greatest success as a college coach when he led Santa Clara to the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship. Ironically, Santa Clara's opponent in the final was Virginia, coached by Bruce Arena who would later succeed Sampson as head coach of the United States men's national soccer team. Santa Clara and Virginia played even through regular time and four overtimes before NCAA officials stopped the game, much to the frustration of the players and two coaches, and named Santa Clara and Virginia as co-champions. When he left Santa Clara, he had compiled a 64-19-19 record and was named the 1989 NCAA Men's Soccer Coach of the Year.
1994 World Cup
After leaving Santa Clara, Sampson became an assistant to Bora Milutinovic on the United States national team in 1993 and was on the staff when the U.S. hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup. In addition to his coaching duties, he served as the Vice President/Competition Management for the World Cup organization.
U.S. national team coach
1995 Copa America
When Bora resigned from the team after the World Cup, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) named Sampson as the interim coach in April 1995. But after leading the US to a surprising fourth-place finish at the Copa América 1995, including a 3-0 romp over Argentina, as well as a victory over arch-rivals Mexico in the quarterfinals, Sampson was promoted to full-time national team coach in August 1995.
The U.S. team had developed an amazing cohesion since the 1990 World Cup. The lack of a domestic league had forced the players to play almost entirely for the national team. As a result, they knew each other almost as well as most professional clubs' players do. Sampson's predecessor, Milutinovic, had micro-managed the team. While this led to a high level of tactical awareness, it often stifled the team's creativity. When Sampson became coach he opted to relax the controls on the teams tactics. As a result, the U.S. played with spirit, which showed in the 1995 Copa America and qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The U.S. lost only one match in qualifying. The lack of quality friendly matches leading up to the 1998 World Cup lead to an unrealistically high expectation for the US team. Sampson coached the team to an historic 1-0 victory over Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup just prior to the World Cup which contributed to the high expectations.
1998 World Cup
Despite this success, the challenges were many for the United States. Playing the likes of Germany and Yugoslavia were significantly more difficult than in CONCACAF qualifying. Sampson changed the formation in the spring of 1998 to an unusual 3-6-1 arrangement in preparation for the Germany match, trying to counter the quality of the German midfield. A tie against Germany, the reigning European champions, would have been considered an outstanding start to the World Cup. The conservative approach almost worked but was not to be as his team gave up a goal on a corner kick in the first half on a mistake by Mike Burns guarding the post. When Sampson changed the system in the second half his team showed promise but was thwarted by an exceptional strike by Jürgen Klinsmann. The team lost 2-0. The second match against Iran showed a spirited team but one that could not find the back of the net. The U.S. team hit the crossbar and post on five different occasions en route to a 2-1 loss in their most critical match. Counter-attack goals got the best of the USA seeking to overcome the Germany loss and the player unrest after that match. The lone goal came from Brian McBride. After significant personnel changes for the Yugoslavia game, the team lost 1-0.
Sampson attempted to improve the team by looking for Americans playing in Europe. David Regis was the most talented of those Sampson brought in but was impacted by delays in gaining his citizenship. Others like Michael Mason and David Wagner did not pan out as Sampson tried to overcome the weaknesses of a young MLS. In a controversial move, Sampson removed then captain, John Harkes from the squad. Sampson gave a variety of reasons, from Harkes lack of leadership to Harkes wanting a more offensive role. to behavioral issues unbecoming of a national team player. Harkes's leadership was missing in the World Cup and one can only speculate that it must have been a serious infraction for Sampson to make such a move. Working against Sampson were injuries to the U.S.'s primary attacking threat, Eric Wynalda and creative midfielder Tab Ramos. The US failed to win a single game in group play, prompting Sampson to resign as coach on June 29, 1998.
In February 2010, Sampson admitted in an Associated Press interview that Harkes was dropped from the 1998 World Cup because of an affair between John Harkes and Amy Wynalda, the wife of U.S. striker Eric Wynalda. Long rumored as the reason Harkes was dropped, Sampson finally cleared the air after Eric Wynalda confirmed the rumors during a discussion about the situation for the English National team in the run up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Many who had criticized Sampson at the time for removing Harkes from the National Team have come forward to express their appreciation for having kept it quiet respecting the involved players' privacy.
Costa Rica national team
In 2002, the Costa Rica national team hired Sampson as its head coach. In his first international post he brought Costa Rica a Central American (Uncaf) Championship going undefeated in 2003. Sampson also brought Costa Rica its highest FIFA ranking ever at number 17 in the world in 2004. Sampson qualified the team for the second phase of qualifying. However, he did not survive the qualifying campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and was fired in 2004 after Costa Rica needed away goals to get past unfancied Cuba. Sampson returned to the United States and was hired two months later by the Los Angeles Galaxy and subsequently won the "double" in 2005.
Los Angeles Galaxy
He was hired as the Galaxy coach, replacing Sigi Schmid, on August 18, 2004. Despite an array of talent, the team was inconsistent the rest of the year and struggled for large stretches of 2005. Many of the players whom Sampson had brought into the team were absent from the Galaxy squad due to national team commitments for the US, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. Sampson was on the hot seat to be fired, but as the season continued the Galaxy improved and eventually won the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup double, the last as the lowest seed in the playoffs. The Galaxy failed to build on their success in the 2005 season and Sampson was fired on June 6, 2006 after Alexi Lalas was hired as president.
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