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Klinsmann left with paucity of options
by Paul Kennedy, October 5th, 2011 9:16PM

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TAGS:  men's national team, olympics, world cup 2014

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[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Just how much a challenge Jurgen Klinsmann has as U.S. national team coach is reflected in the paucity of options he had in selecting his team for the two upcoming friendly games, beginning with Saturday's match against Honduras. There are only a few players whose absence from the Miami camp raised some eyebrows, and none of them could be labeled a sure thing. For thoughts of the national team heading into its fourth and fifth games under Klinsmann ...

NOT A LOT OF CHOICES. Injuries to the likes of Landon Donovan, Jose Torres, Stuart Holden and Fabian Johnson certainly thinned out of the options Klinsmann has available. There are only a few players whose absence from the Miami camp raised some eyebrows, and none of them could be labeled a sure thing.

Omar Gonzalez?
The omission of the Los Angeles Galaxy defender is perhaps the biggest surprise. After all, the USA is very thin in the middle of the backline, and Gonzalez is the best young defender in MLS. But he is not the complete package. The excellent "24 under-24 series" on mlssoccer.com ranked Gonzalez eighth among MLS prospects and the best young defender in the league but some technical directors and coaches have their doubts, particularly about his lack of pace. If there is any time to bring Gonzalez into the national team, this month is not it. The Galaxy has counted on Gonzalez a lot, but he and his teammates looked very tired in Tuesday's 2-0 loss at New York. Gonzalez's best chance to step into the national team lineup in the backline may come when Carlos Bocanegra steps aside. But that might not be for a year or two.

Brad Davis? The Houston Dynamo midfielder has 14 assists this season, the most in his career and second only behind David Beckham in MLS this season. But he's never gotten more than the proverbial cup of tea with the national team (four caps) and approaching 30 may be destined to becoming a left-footed version of Steve Ralston, a consummate MLS player who never fit into the national team plans.

START TO FINISH. For the time being, Klinsmann is clearly more concerned how his team plays minutes 1-60 than how it finishes a game in minutes 61-90. (Ironic, of course, since the best it has played in three games was the last half hour against Mexico.) He made only four subs against Mexico, two against Costa Rica and three against Belgium.

That works against someone like Hercules Gomez, who continues to amaze in Mexico with three of his four goals for Estudiantes Tecos off the bench. Klinsmann is unlikely to call on Gomez in the next few months, but if Gomez continues to score in Mexico, he could be called up for the World Cup 2014 qualifiers beginning next summer as an option off the bench late in games.

DANKE SCHOEN. Given the lack of depth, you must wonder where the USA would be if young German-Americans Timmy Chandler, Danny Williams and Johnson had not decided to play for the USA.

It also says something about the U.S. youth system that the majority of players coming into the national team in the last year have few ties, if any, to the United States.

CURRENT FORM COUNTS. After he struggled at left back in Klinsmann's first two games in charge, any chances Edgar Castillo had of remaining in the national team picture in the short term were shot when he was recently dropped from the starting lineup at Club America. He hasn't even been on the bench. (Update: Castillo has been nursing a slight hamstring pull.)

While current form hasn't always counted when players were picked for national team duty in recent years, it will count under Klinsmann.

LONDON CALLING? Klinsmann hasn't talked a lot about the 2012 Olympics, but it will be perhaps the most important test of the national team program in his first year in charge. He played on West Germany's Olympic team that finished third in Seoul in 1988, and he considers the success of that team that also included such players as Thomas Haessler, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Frank Mill an important factor in the success West Germany had two years later in winning the World Cup title in Italy.

Klinsmann will have some tough choices to make. Who will coach the under-23 team? (It would be difficult if not impossible for him to take the team.) Will he bring back such players as Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu, who played in 2008? Will he go really young and look at players like Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil? Will he risk engendering the wrath of Bundesliga clubs and take players like Chandler and Williams? Who will he take as overage players? Gonzalez is too old to qualify as an under-23 player but he could be one of the three jokers. That all assumes, of course, that the USA qualifies. (It will host the Concacaf under-23 qualifying tournament in March 2012.)



16 comments
  1. Ron Singh
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 9:07 a.m.
    Klinsmann needs to take a look at Marvell Wynn from the CO Rapids for center back. Has pace, smarts, die hard spirit.

  1. Mark Greenwood
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 9:20 a.m.
    I would bring the former New England Revolution back who as far as a know is playing in one of the Scandanavian countries.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.
    Paul says it all with this statement "says something about the U.S. youth system that the majority of players coming into the national team in the last year have few ties, if any, to the United States." To be real,if any of these German born American boys had a chance to play for Germany, I'm sure they would. This is what needs to be fixed right now. Otherwise, expect a big downturn in our National Team programs no matter what Klinsi does.It is no longer given that any of our teams will make it out of CONCACAF qualifying.

  1. Robert Rizzuto
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 10:40 a.m.
    Glad to see Brad Davis brought up. With a lack of left-footed options for the USMNT, and his obvious quality, I just don't understand how Brad Davis can't get a good look from the National team. Can anyone enlighten me on why this is?

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.
    It's great to see that Paul "Rip Van Winkle" Kennedy has finally awoken to the fact that the US youth/college development system is dysfunctional. It's too bad that he and the majority of soccer columnists have ignored this fact for the past 20 years. Why does it always take an impending disaster to wake up the soccer media and management ?????

  1. Mark Greenwood
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.
    If I were Jurgenn Klinnsman the system of play that I would use would be positional passing, small combination play (overlap, give n go and takeover) and lastly diaganol runs for the forwards.

  1. jack lighthiser
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.
    Paucity of options. What a great term. James is right on. All these years of youth , club vs high school, etc. and USMNT has a paucity of options. What happened to the promises of the club coaches of taking these players to the highest levels of play. Follow the money. It works every time.

  1. Leland Price
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.
    One only has to look at college coaches to fault the paucity of young players to compete for the national team. Between dreadful coaches with little to no international experience and the whole grey area of recruiters, financial donations, and favors owed (yes, Jack Lightiser, follow the money!!), it's a wonder any quality players emerge from the college ranks. The one program I am most familiar with, has a coach that went from High School to college. That's it. He doesn't get creative play, so he coaches his team to play like a team of future corporate lawyers (read college doners), and the truely talented, creative players get shoved to the sidelines. If you don't play in a slow, conservative fashion, you sit. The one player from this team that was hyped in the most recent MLS draft plays soccer as it's American football - get it to the slow, big guy and see what he can do with the ball. Behavior like this in the college ranks is a pervasive scandal that impacts the pipeline of quality players for the national team. Under our present system, a creative, quality player would be better off to skip college and move to Europe right out of high school.

  1. Rich Perry
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 1:11 p.m.
    uh, James, I guess I must have missed all these articles you must have been reading for the past 20 years where all the American soccer columnists have been talking about how wonderful college soccer is and how it's future of the national team program. From what I recall, college soccer has generally been derided. In fact, I don't think I've EVER seen an article saying that college soccer is good enough to base the national team on. What writers will say is, college soccer has a place in the soccer world, even if it's not a base for the national team - a statement I can't disagree with; for certain individuals, going to college, even if just for a couple of years, is actually the best option for them - also true, some kids need that atmosphere to grow up a little before becoming a pro; you can find quality players for the professional ranks in college - also true, there are a number good players out there who have attended college. But this idea that the soccer media has been somehow talking up the college game as being more than it is is just false. Unless you believe that simply covering the sport is wrong, and that every single article about a college game should be some diatribe against the whole institution, mentioning how it's ruining the national team, the country, and that it causes cancer. Just because it's not as good as the Premier League doesn't mean nobody should cover it at all.

  1. Raveen Rama
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 2:58 p.m.
    Last night I was watching the game between UCSB and Akron both top NCAA Div I teams, and I heard the commentators mentioning two German fullbacks, and I noticed the great Akron striker. I was wishing he was from the US but he is from an African country. There were other players who seemed to be from Africa. I was waiting to hear of a promising American player mentioned but did not.

  1. Leonardo Perez
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.
    As Raveen Rama, I also watched the Akron/UCSB game on TV, but unlike Raveen Rama I also noticed that there were quite a few Americans, like Sarle, Pontius, Garza, Silva on the UCSB team; there was Gallego, Phinney (?) for the Akron team---so there were quite a few Americans the broadcasters were saying that they would be playing PRO somewhere when the left school. Oh, the "great Akron striker" that you mentioned, if you are talking about Mattocks--he's not African. He is Jamaican.

  1. Paul Bryant
    commented on: October 6, 2011 at 9:51 p.m.
    Ron S., Marvell Wynn is one of the poorest technical players in MLS. All he has is pace; no touch; no dribble. He could never play in a Klinsmann system that requires high technical ability from all positions on the pitch. Klinsmann has to strengthen the backline and the defensive midfield.

  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: October 7, 2011 at 8:31 a.m.
    While I don't see it quite as dire as article makes it out, I do think the American system of pay to play is generally a failure. "Select" teams under age 12 and paid coaches (requiring winning) are basic problems. The other big problem is that most all the better athletes are attracted to other sports (where the money is).

  1. F. Kirk Malloy
    commented on: October 7, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.
    American male college soccer is a joke. I've watched a dozen games this season, including vaunted Akron twice, hoping to find quality. Chaos reigns. It looks like the Keystone Kops (remember them), with the poor cops not getting anywhere fast. Frantic, no composure, pinball play, a track meet without the track. Klinsmann has his work cut out for him if the US system is going to produce a pool of world class players soon. Right now the system is dominated at the youth levels by profit seeking clubs and "pros" who, with rare exception, couldn’t give a rat's butt about developing players and simply "go for the green". Until we have a no-cost route for the truly talented youth with real coaches guiding their development our land of over 300 million will continue to struggle against national teams that draw from populations of under 12 million (read, Belgium) or under 5 million (read Costa Rico, can you believe?!?). If they’re identified early enough and properly trained, by the time they reach college age they'll play a quality of game not even a college coach can ruin.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: October 7, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.
    Mark Greenwood's summation is simplicaity and efficacy of play...tough to accomplish when too many players on the USMNT lack instinctiveness to these imoportant elements of the game.

  1. Raveen Rama
    commented on: October 7, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.
    Leonardo, thanks for making the corrections, and it is good to know that there truly are some up and coming players for our national squad. I did like Silva a lot as you pointed out. I disagree with Kirk that college soccer is a joke because the game between UCSB and Akron was pretty good and displayed good attacking soccer. I saw a lot of good constructive play, ball control and skills, movement both with and without the ball.


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