Oceania Football Confederation > News > FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Stage 1 > Rongen: It’s been a spiritual journey

Rongen: It’s been a spiritual journey

“I’ve changed a lot in a short amount of time and have gone through a spiritual journey,” he says.
“I’ve never been very religious but how can you not believe and think there’s maybe something out there when this kind of thing happens? How can you not be more connected with human nature?”
Rongen’s journey began when he answered a call to take over as American Samoa boss – an opportunity that arose after talks between Football Federation American Samoa and U.S. Soccer – in October and ended with a 1-0 loss to Samoa in Apia on Saturday in the last match of the Stage 1 qualifying tournament.
There was no shortage of drama in between, including the country’s first ever win in FIFA World Cup qualfying – a 2-1 success over Tonga – and a 1-1 draw with Cook Islands, also a first for the tiny United States territory.
Those remarkable results put American Samoa, the perennial underdogs of Oceania football, on the verge of qualifying for the second stage with only a win over neighbours Samoa required to create another piece of history.
But the fairytale did not have the ending Rongen and his men were hoping for as Samoa finally broke through their opponents’ stubborn defensive effort to score with one of the last kicks of the game and thus secure their passage to Stage 2.
Despite the loss, Dutchman Rongen says his week in Apia was one of the most rewarding experiences of his coaching career – a significant statement from a man who led the United States to the quarter-finals of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and coached DC United to an MLS Cup win in 1999.
“This nation can now be very proud of their team,” he says. “For me, it’s allowed me to go back to my roots because these guys play for the pure love of the game and that’s how I started in the Netherlands. It’s been a great experience for me, both personally and professionally.”
The 55-year-old will now return to his home in Florida and has several possibilities to mull over before he plots his next move.
“I have a few offers out there, both with my current federation U.S. Soccer and some MLS teams,” he says.
“There are also some European options and hopefully some options within OFC, in particular with American Samoa. I’ve really enjoyed my time in this part of the world and it feels like a natural fit.
“The Dutch like to travel and explore, and a part of that is also to help and to build. I can maybe help to raise the standard and level of play in this region but it’s nice to have some options as a coach.”

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