Ex-US star Stewart introduced as Union sporting director

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CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Former U.S. national team star Earnie Stewart has fulfilled his dream of returning to the United States.

Stewart was officially introduced Thursday as the Philadelphia Union's sporting director, taking over player personnel operations for the MLS club after spending 10 years as a soccer executive in Holland.

Stewart, who made over 100 appearances for the U.S. national team, most recently worked as the director of football affairs at Dutch top-flight club AZ Alkmaar.

"There have been questions asked about what my next step would be after AZ Alkmaar because things went pretty well over there," Stewart said. "And I've always answered that I have one ambition and that is to come back to the United States and actually mean something to U.S. Soccer in general and to build something that's lasting."

Stewart was officially hired by the Union on Oct. 26 but didn't begin in his new role until Tuesday, two days after the MLS season ended with the Portland Timbers defeating Columbus Crew SC in the final. The Union finished in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the franchise's six years of existence.

Stewart hopes to chart a new course for the floundering club by focusing on player development and analytics — the same techniques he employed while running AZ Alkmaar. Stewart will also oversee the Union's burgeoning youth academy and their new United Soccer League affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC.

"Success is not something that comes overnight," he said. "We're going to work very hard, and that's one of the core values that we have here. We have to do a little more than any other club to make sure that we're successful."

The son of U.S. Air Force airman and Dutch woman, Stewart grew up in the Netherlands before forging a 15-year career with the U.S. national team, starting in the 1994, 1998 and 20002 World Cups. The former midfielder played in MLS during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, winning the MLS Cup with D.C. United in 2004.

"I'm not a big emotional guy," Stewart said. "But at the same time, I spoke to my father, who is very, very proud of his son. I wasn't born here but I played many games for the U.S. national team and once that flag went up, I had the same emotions as all my teammates. My father is a very proud man that his son is coming back to the United States."

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