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Time runs out on Klinsmann
by Paul Gardner, June 1st, 2013 2:10AM

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TAGS:  men's national team

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By Paul Gardner

I don't see how losing 4-2, on your home field, can be viewed as anything other than an acute embarrassment. Even when the opponent is Belgium, currently one of the better European teams, playing with virtually a full squad.

But Jurgen Klinsmann and his surely diminishing band of supporters would have us believe that the loss to Belgium had only positives to offer, that even the mere fact of scheduling such a game is a daring adventure, that players need to be assessed, that “this is how you learn” ... and so on.

There is a dash of truth to each of those explanations (which could equally well be termed excuses). But there is another factor that must be considered -- a factor that simply overwhelms all the others: Timing.

We are being asked to believe that the USA men’s national team, Klinsmann’s one and only responsibility, is a work in progress. Still a work in progress, I should say. Klinsmann has been running the show for nearly two years now, and how many certitudes are there on his team? Tim Howard, I suppose, which is OK, and Jermaine Jones, which is downright dismaying. Beyond those two, all is flux.

Klinsmann and his team have run out of time. They are not, at this stage, preparing for the qualifiers. They are slap bang in the middle of them, with crucial games arriving at the double.

Yet what Klinsmann is giving us -- has been giving us ever since he began his work -- does not look like a team. It certainly doesn’t play like a team. But then I can’t recall any time during the past 50 years when that was the case. The USA got through a variety of coaches but all too often looked like a hurriedly assembled bunch of players, not really familiar with each other, and not really up to the task of playing at the international level.

The results, inevitably, were all over the place -- every so often a remarkable win, and equally often an appalling humiliation. When Klinsmann was appointed in 2011, he was undoubtedly expected to put a stop to all that uncertainty and lack of consistency.

As a young man with a smiling, pleasant personality, as the highest paid coach the team has ever had, as the coach who moved in at a time when the playing level of U.S. players is higher than it’s ever been, Klinsmann -- internationally acclaimed as both player and coach -- appeared to be the ideal man to introduce a new spirit and a new professionalism to the program.

If telling players what they should eat and how they should do their exercises and why they should listen to health gurus and why they should play “nastier” soccer are the criteria, then Klinsmann is doing OK. But if producing a functioning team on the field, a team that plays attractive, attacking soccer, a team that is worth watching, a team that fans can rejoice in, then Klinsmann is failing comprehensively.

The USA’s last three games have been painful to watch. That ludicrous game in the Colorado blizzard, the cravenly defensive bore in the Azteca, and now the mauling by Belgium. Three games during which the USA scored only three goals, one of them from a very doubtful penalty kick.

As World Cup qualifiers, those games mattered, and on the scoreboard the USA did its job with a win and a tie. But it is not so much the results -- either encouraging or disappointing -- that are my concern here. It is the almost total lack of good soccer that worries.

Given the advantages that he has, Klinsmann should be producing soccer that can confidently be judged to be at a higher level than that played by either Bruce Arena’s or Bob Bradley’s teams in their better games.

Yet Klinsmann’s team -- despite his importation of a posse of supposedly superior German oriundi -- is not noticeably better. The Germans have made no difference, while Klinsmann’s determination to make unusual and even bizarre player selections are not helping matters.

You can argue -- and many do argue -- that good soccer (the arguers always trivialize it as “pretty” soccer) is not what matters ... just get the points. Functional soccer. OK -- and then what? After World Cup qualification, does the team suddenly start playing differently?  Does it overnight begin to look like Barcelona?  Bah -- it will continue to be faithful to “what got us here,” which puts in grave doubt whether Klinsmann will ever produce a team that plays even half-decent soccer.

The huge problem with merely functional soccer is that it cannot be developed into anything better. It is always an improvised version of the game, applied to the here and now, spending all its time adapting to opponents.

Which is why good soccer does matter. Emphatically so. A team playing with skill and style can form the basis for growth and development, it can provide a template for future and better teams, simply because it is built on the lasting values of soccer, things that do matter. One had hoped that Klinsmann would bring that approach. It doesn’t look like it. As of now, this late in the day, I can discern absolutely no evidence of a Klinsmann style, not even a hint as to what it might look like.



47 comments
  1. Barry Ruderman
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 2:36 a.m.
    Its easy to be critical, a bit more difficult to offer coherent alternatives, but at the end of the day, the progress of US talent in both Europe and Mexico demonstrates that the pool is still shallow, especially at the creative/skill positions. With our top skill players barely making a scratch in the top (and even mid-tier) professional leagues, its expecting a lot of any coach to put together a quality national team side. Wish it were otherwise, but for the moment, the domestic leagues and youth systems aren't producing world class players in sufficient numbers to support the Nats. Even MLS is required to go shopping abroad to fill out the central and creative roles. For better or for worse, to produce a national team that plays beautiful winning football, becomes a numbers game and the numbers are against us for the moment.

  1. Barry Ruderman
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 2:39 a.m.
    ... and as long as the vast majority of our domestic players are enticed to play college soccer, rather than enter professional ranks at a young age, the pool will not deepen any time soon.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 2:42 a.m.
    The "playing level of U.S. players is higher than it’s ever been" -- what a load of crap. The 1998 and 2002 USMNT were superior in every respect, and the results showed it. Reality is we have Howard, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones?, Gonzalez?, and Cameron?. If Stu Holden can get back to his earlier form, and if Donovan is brought back in, that makes 5 players, and three maybes. That's not a team, and no coaching hocus pocus can change that. If Klingsman can't get by his ego problems over Donovan -- still the best player we have -- then he should be fired sooner rather than later. But to pretend the problem is anything other than a lack of horses, is just crazy. Tab Ramos's under-20 team was the most encouraging group in years, and after the under-20 World Cup, the best of those kids should be folded in immediately, before they decide they'd rather play for Mexico.

  1. Karl Schreiber
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 2:55 a.m.
    It is usually easier to be negative than positive. I liked how we almost won against Germany in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup (Japan/So. Korea. Notwithstanding how Jogi Löw had praise for Klinsmann in "Kicker" online recently, I have not detected progress since USSF hired him. But what the heck - I can always enjoy our Women's National Team and their funny videos on ussoccer.com!

  1. Scott Nelson
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 3:18 a.m.
    Oriundi? The Germans have their own perfectly functional word for Jones et al.... Gastarbeiter. Maybe, like in Germany, our guest workers will someday spawn loads of talented, exciting players. Hopefully it will take us less than the sixty years it took them. I wish one of the current guys was as good as Tom Dooley.

  1. Gary Levitt
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 6:52 a.m.
    Klinsmann's effort to change the team is stalled due to the lack of technical ability from his player pool. Bradley identified early on that his players could not handle the pressure bringing the ball out of the back and dominating possession in midfield. His team's won games by doing the hard work: winning second balls, physical dominance in the air, and a winning mindset. Klinsmann is struggling because most of the top teams in the world (and CONCACAF) can either match or surpass the physicality of the USMNT and blend it with technical and tactical superiority. A huge problem for Klinsmann going forward.

  1. Rhys Foster
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 8:19 a.m.
    It is concerning for me to hear commentators and the majority of analysts who speak about the USMNT and seemingly refuse to point out the obvious. The obvious being that the USMNT lacks any quality especially in build up play from the back and midfield. There is a lack of overlapping runs from the outside backs to free space for wide players or provide an outlet to give service into the box. The pace at which the USMNT tries to form an attacking build up is humdrum at best. It is slow and lethargic and frequently ends up with the ball being misplayed or lost somewhere near the midfield line. The biggest concerns that I have seen over the years is that the technical ability of any of our players to routinely make runs off the ball (at speed), make accurate passes with the proper weight and take opposing defenders on with the ball is dreadfully poor and slow. While watching the Republic of Ireland whose fifa rank is 39th in the world play against England it just shows how far behind the USMNT is. Their players were constantly moving off the ball, taking players on, counter-attacking with speed and a technical and tactical ability that for whatever reason the USMNT just does not seem to have yet. As much as I would not like to say this and as many people I feel will be opposed to this happening for the USMNT I think that if the USMNT did not qualify for this years World Cup in Brazil that it would actually force a drastic change in soccer in this country and force the federation to change its politics, tactics and youth development system from the ground up which in the end would force the USMNT to build players and teams the right way and focus on the technical side of the game instead of just trying to get a result. If the mentality changes to where from the youth system up the players are groomed on their technical skills and not just how many trophies or wins they accumulate at a young age that by the time they are ready to head abroad and or play for the national team they will have developed the technical skills, tactical ability and knowledge to allow them to compete at the highest level for both country and club after which more meaningful and relevant trophies could follow.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 9:28 a.m.
    You are all saying the same things. Without world class players, we will not have a world class team.Our failings are not at the MNT level. They start at the U8 levels.Until we change the training methods for developing young talent, nothing will change.Over the past 15-20 years, our talent pool of techincally skilled creative players has decreased.It seems to me that's about when these so called super clubs, academy teams and "professional" trainers came on the scene. Is there a correlation?

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.
    The coach"s biggest failure was not bleeding a real dedicated central attacking midfielder from the get go when one is needed in any 433. 451 system ; and using Boca for so long when it was clear he was not going to make it to 2014. Sure Gonzo was hurt which arrested his development. But Besler was called in too late and Cameron has been moved around too much ..... Pick 4 defenders and leave them. Too late for more experimenting : Conjure any lineup right now. It has Bradley and jones -- two destroyers at heart with no creator in front of them Right now the only fix for that is.............Donovan .... not wide , but as CAM. Dempsey moved further up towards goal where he belongs . Stu Holden and jozy wide. Jozy can only be a 60 minute player as left wide but so what. At least he will be dangerous. Not ideal, but a real team with the best personnel on the field at the same time . Unless radical change happens we may not make it to Brazil

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
    The national teams are products of their national leagues. The best national teams in the world have the best leagues to draw from. Focus your attention and critics on MLS. When MLS clubs start playing stylish soccer, the USMNT becomes stylish. don't expect the national team's coach to transform players.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
    IMHO, USMNT progress depends on the quality of the individual players. In that area we are as thin as can be. The current squad can play with possession in a limited way and tends to cough up the ball when pressure builds or for lack of concentration. I wouldn't be too critical of Jozy who gets no service since there is no 'playmaker' a la Pirlo et al. Yes, we have some individual talent, but it gets dragged down by the lower soccer IQ players.

  1. Peter Skouras
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 11:01 a.m.
    Here we go again...UNTIL WE HAVE COMPETITIVE LEAGUES IN SINK WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD, NOTHING FURTHER WILL OCCUR IN US SOCCER. WE CAN SAY ALL WE WANT!!!! THERE IS NOTHING TO LOSE WITHIN OUR DOMESTIC STRUCTURE. LOOK AT THE U-20'S AND IT'S NOT THEIR FAULT THEY SIMPLE HAVE NEVER BEEN CHALLENGED AT HOME.CURRENT PROFESSIONAL(?) AND COLLEGE COACHES WOULD HAVE NO IDEA ON HOW TO PREVENT THEIR TEAMS FROM DEMOTION OR RELEGATION. IT IS DIFFERENT THOUGH COMING FROM A LOWER DIVISION SUCH AS THE NASL TO GET PROMOTED! HEY PAUL...STARTING WRITING ABOUT THE DOMESTIC STRUCTURE PLEASE!

  1. Stuart d. Warner
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 11:19 a.m.
    Where to begin? How many world-class players to we have? One--Tim Howard. How many quality international players do we have, guys who can play on clubs world-wide, but not the very best clubs? Two for certain--Bradley and Dempsey (Donovan used to be the third). What don't we have on the men's national team? A big time center back; a big-time fullback who can make runs; a true #10; a striker who can hold the ball. What else don't we have? Organized offensive play conducted at pace. What's the problem? Unlike Italy, Brazil, Spain, the South American countries, Mexico, Croatia, we simply don't have a soccer culture. And by that I mean that WE DON'T HAVE THE NUMBERS THEY HAVE, as crazy as it sounds. For most of our kids who grow up playing soccer, they play several other sports, and among them, soccer rarely takes pride of place. The only places I ever see soccer as a game to be played from the earliest ages on up--say three or four--where one always has a ball on the foot are Hispanic communities, but there are huge problems there: a lack of money to join clubs, and a family mentality that doesn't value the highest individual achievement (if you doubt this, watch the film "Goal" again: that gets at a true and widespread mentality in America). So, many of the suburban kids don't play enough soccer and the generally technically skilled Hispanic players face other obstacles. And about blacks in America, about a group of people who have shown exceptional skill in basketball and football, who should be able to be great soccer players, they are virtually non-existent in soccer. We need a golden generation and a diverse group of players--white, Hispanic, black, that might help generate a soccer culture. Absent that, we can pick at this and that, but we will muddle along. Let me correct that: against Belgium we were not muddling--whatever it was we were doing it was incredibly poor soccer. So, Cameron cannot play right back; Goodson cannot play center back; Kljestan cannot play at the national level; Altidore's size allows him to succeed at a certain level of club soccer, but he has neither the mentality nor the skill to play well internationally; Davis and Zusi are not international players, wingers who can create havoc everytime they go at a defender. But whoever we have, those guys have to play together. Yes, a plethora of injuries has hurt us, but the best coaches overcome that.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
    So, Klinsmann is supposed to go. Who would replace him, and what could he change in 12 months? The reality is each MNT coach gets at least one cycle to do his thing. Unfortunately for us, it appears Sunil didn't give JK the latitude to change our youth system, nor 8 years to implement it. So our men's team is stuck, expecting results AND attractive soccer--not so different from our failed youth system.

  1. Joe Linzner
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 12:16 p.m.
    It is inconceivable to me that we sit here in judgment of someone who has been unable to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. It is easy to take a team of great players and assemble a team and eventually hone it into a TEAM. See Germany 2006 a Nation where NO One wanted to take the job of NT coach. Yet a man assembled a Team with a core of established players and infused a cadre of young guns who Now are a fixture of Germany's winning team. No one can assemble a winning US team given the talent available. I agree the College Soccer tradition in US sports may work for regimented American Sports but soccer takes something different than run 155 steps up, pivot, juke left and slant right. It actually takes flair, a thinking seeing athlete with a natural love for the sport. US Soccer is a regimented, stolid, plodding lumberjack sort of sport that if prescribed movement breaks down, the players lack the imagination and flair to ad-lib. There is not a single field player, besides perhaps Donovan-and he is aging and seemingly uncommitted at present) who can think on his feet. If one watched the Mexico/Nigeria game yesterday when we see either team attacking one notices the player with the ball being supported by six or seven forward moving players and when the attack fails an immediate press, to slow the counter and defending en-masse with even strikers tracking back to defend. That does not happen with our Nats. Altidore especially strolls around if he misses his first defensive press where he should track back and continue worrying players and interfering where he can and he is supposed to be our world class striker???? Plebian at best but there we have it, One's opinion of world class is I suppose "barn-blind" but wishing does not make it so. Sad how e continue to blame the coach be it Arena, Bradley or Klinsmann when in fact it is quite simply our lack of quality.....in the mean time we will continue to count down on the lock, substitute a gazillion people rotate out and in and expect them to play 45 minute halves when they grow up. Aintagonna happen.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.
    Chelis yes Chelis, old have deployed Donovan centrally and built the team around him, but still giving Mix half the minutes a year ago just in case. He would have fully incorporated. Joe Corona already. He would have told Jones long ago that he is a # 6 destroyer or get out. He would never have deployed Zusi or Danny Williams wide. He would have bled Okugo, Besler, Cameron, Gonzales, and John centrally 2 years ago. We would know already where the chips fell. The list goes on. Our shallow pool is not the Main problem. That is is a given. It's what you do with it. JK taught the team to TRY to play on the ground. He pretty much succeeded ...But his management and deployment of the personnel is the problem. He is running out of time .... If the team is to play with one striker then Donovan or a dedicated CAM must be on that field

  1. Dennis Lukens
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 1:42 p.m.
    I would agree with most of the comments. We have 3 players currently playing in top leagues in Europe. Bradely plays on and off, so you would have to call him an average player in Italy. Dempsey is in the top 25% of the EPL, not the top 5% and Tim Howard is a top tier keeper in the EPL. Altidore is playing in Holland that now is a 2nd Tier European League (9th among all European Domestic Leagues). Then we have Donovan, who was a better than average player during his time in the EPL. Lets put him in the top 25% of the league. So now those players together with their teammates are expected to beat someone like England. I don't particularly like the England Team. However, everyone of their players is an elite level player in the EPL. Germany the same. Every player they have is an Elite player. Certainly makes it tough for everyone else. Remember when the National Team had like 5 guys from Kearny, NJ. Eveyone of them grew up player street soccer. I am not sure the way we are going at it now is the way to go with so much structure. Living over here in Europe (Ukraine) all the kids are still in the streets playing soccer. I can certainly see that the are better technically than American kids. Anyway, I disagree thae Klinsman is the only answer. We have been made to believe that it has be Bradely, Arena (both who I respect) or Klinsman. Many people in the know will tell you that they were not the best and bightest coming up, they managed their careers very well and were given a chance and took the chance well. Credit to Bruce and Bob. There are American Coaches working at home and in Europe who would be successful in the job.

  1. Dennis Lukens
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.
    I will ammend my last statement by saying we must consider Bruce the best and brightest because his record as the National Team Coach, MLS and College tell us so. What I was trying to say there are other American's if giving a chance could be succcessful coaching the US National Team. It is a difficult road to turn the team in to an elite National Team with our player pool.

  1. Pat Sharp
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 1:52 p.m.
    Someone above got at one of the main problems; soccer hopefuls playing college soccer. That impedes their development for 4 years at the prime of their careers. No other country has this system. Sure they get an education and that is great, but if they really have talent and are trying to develop technical skills, playing for just 3 months of the year while studying and going to class doesn't cut it.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 3:40 p.m.
    Agree with the majority that the essence of our problem is the player pool. However Gary Levitt makes a significant point by highlighting the fact that JK came in with the specific intention of CHANGING the way we play from the standard "hard work, winning second balls, and dominance in the air" to a skill based, possession oriented style. What has become apparent is that we don't have the players to meet that criteria. IMO we have taken the old standard as far as it will go. We either go back to that style and accept 2nd class status for the foreseeable future OR keep plugging away at trying to find/develop the players for the new system and accept less than stellar results for now. For me the answer is easy but I recognize that I'm probably in the minority. I just wish that JK could continue his efforts well into the next cycle because I think it is critical that the mindset of young players is changed so as to make them realize that skillful possession play is the new road to the national team.

  1. John Soares
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 3:47 p.m.
    BRAVO, PAUL!!!

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
    A comment about the hypocricy of Mr. Gardner: for years Paul Gardner has decried the over emphasis on coaching in soccer. Now he has the timerity to blame everything on JK without one word about the abysmal state of the US player pool. The USMNT problem starts with the training and education of our soccer youth. Until that's addressed, we will continue to read columns and comments about rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. No, Paul!, Even the most brilliant Hispanic tactician can't make this team into Barcelona!!!!!

  1. Reuben Valles
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
    Paul, this is one time when i believe you are absolutely spot on! You really made some truthful and poignant remarks regarding the Klinsmann era. Win or lose, Klinsmann promised that he would build an American Style. Our own style which a strong and powerful country could respect and gravitate towards. We would be going forward! Boldly attacking. No more counter attacking (which actually has worked for the USA quite well, especially since we lack the lots of talented ball controlling and attacking players in our player pool). But he promised we would be going forward, it could be a little painful, but we will never develop until we commit all levels of youth soccer to ball possess and go forward. No more youth defensive/result minded youth soccer, and especially not at our Mens National Team level (The one level Klinsmann can actually control) At this point, I agree Paul we do not seem to be trying to play a possesion, ball control, attacking style. I dont see a style being attempted at all. I believe with Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley we had a style of counter attacking soccer. You may not have liked it, but we all understood the style.....including the team. At this point, and i watch every game.....I dont see what our collective style or efforts are trying to accomplish. i.e....I dont see a style, and i dont care about results when i write about this. First and foremost, Klinsmann promised a style...an Approach. I dont see, nor i can even describe what our approach is. Again, I dont care about results here......just what is our approach. Our style or method we are employing here? This is why I agree with you Paul. Results aside, we do not have an Approach or style at all. We just dont. For my eyes, Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena had a style and an approach......it was counter attacking with athletes. Now after 1.5 yrs, I cannot describe to you what is our approach. What are we attempting to do with our field organization? I dont know?

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 6:44 p.m.
    When Klinsmann was hired, I thought the USSF was making a terrible mistake. Klinsmann had very little coaching experience, none outside of his native Germany (i.e. none, to use his own words, outside of his own comfort zone), never coached in a WC qualifier, never coached a non-world class team. While everything said here about the US not producing world class players is true, that has always been the case, yet the US national team has had pretty good results this century, even playing, occasionally, not unattractive soccer. Under Klinsmann the US team has taken huge steps backwards. Before Klinsmann, the US team was known (and respected abroad) for playing hard, determination, grit, sound tactics, superior fitness, and some style. Klinsmann, somehow, has managed to destroy all that. This US team doesn't play hard, has no offensive flow or style at all, hardly manages a shot on goal per game, and usually runs out of gas midway through the second half. It has no style, no cohesion, no conviction. With Klinsmann making about 4 times as much as Bradley did, it's only fair to expect results that are 4 times as good -- a Confederation Cup win, at least a WC semifinal. At this point, I'm just hoping that we'll manage to grab the 4th place in the hex and then beat New Zealand. In a perverse way, I'm almost hoping for a loss in Jamaica and a home draw against Panama (and, frankly, right now I don't see how this US team can do better than that) followed by a long-overdue Klinsmann exit.

  1. Bruce Gowan
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 7:31 p.m.
    Paul got it right and the common theme of most of the writers is correct. The USA is not producing world class players in soccer. The USA does produce world class players in basketball, baseball and football. What is the difference. That's easy. Its about the money. Compare the rookie salary and signing bonus for the other sports to the lousy MLS pay for US players. Top baseball players are given big (millions) signing bonuses right out of High School. I basketball it is most often one and done for college players and football players come out after two or three years. Match the money and the results will be there.

  1. Jim Williams
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.
    I see a major problem with friends of mine whose sons play soccer. They tell me how well he's playing and how aggressive he is and on and on. When I ask what is he doing now in the summer, oh, he's playing baseball or basketball whatever. Play more than one sport, get good at none. I wonder how many of the best players from national teams in other countries played baseball in the summer instead of soccer? Our youth development is a joke.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 1, 2013 at 10:49 p.m.
    It appears that both sides in this disagreement are in agreement that the US player pool is not adequate to currently play a possession style of game. I would certainly agree. If we have gained nothing else from the past year and one-half it should be that there are NO world class players lurking in our top 100 (Dempsey being the exception). The next point of contention is the adequacy of Klinsmann. If we look at points in qualifying, we are in a satisfactory situation, now!! If we look at style of play, the general answer from the anti-JK as well as the pro-JK is a resounding "unsatisfactory". HOWEVER, what is the real problem? IMO there are three possible answers: (1) the player pool is just plain weak; (2) the pool is weak relative to playing possession ball but adequate to playing a more athletic oriented style; (3) JK is not a good coach. Many will jump at number (3) but I would remind them that they have probably already agreed that the player pool is weak. Others will opt for number (2) but then they need to consider the possibility that dependence on the athletic style has serious long term limitations -- namely that this style would likely relegate us to a second tier soccer status for the foreseeable future. This leaves my personal choice (surprise! surprise!) --- (1) I believe that with few exceptions we don't now have the players to execute a possession game but I also firmly believe that that is where the US future lies. While dumping JK would not necessarily mean the end of the attempt to move to possession soccer, it would certainly be a detour since none of our past US coaches even talked about improving our skills and moving to a possession game. JK's successor will face the same problem with the player pool mooving t a more skill-based possession game. With or without JK we need to get past the obseession with making it to the WC because it distorts totally our need to build for the long term. Soccer in the US is strong enough to survive missing a WC but it won't survive if we don't begin to make it skillfull entertainment based on talented players.

  1. tom brown
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.
    USA is in big trouble. it looks like the players don't care. Tim Howard is terrible. Get rid of him & you won half the battle.

  1. fifi Olibares
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 12:58 a.m.
    If klinsman wants players to learn a different way of playing style. He should go a coach academy level soccer this players on the senior national team are already made, they are not going to learn any new ways of playing. that train has come and gone for this players, he needs to find a place in the game where they are going to be effective with their limited skill sets tactically you can find a place for this players where they can function also physically and mentally, but technically is too late for them. we need to invest time and effort into coaching our youth players to develop sound and creative technical levels that compare to the rest of the world. every day I see so called soccer coaches training youth players to be sprinters instead of teaching them how to handle the ball. at the famous la massia in Barcelona the youths spend about 95 percent of their training with the ball, weather is juggling or dribbling or passing against a wall.

  1. Jogo Bonito
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.
    Klinsmann was a great player, but like so many great players he thinks he's a better coach than he is. His player selection is awful and I still do not believe that really understands the American soccer scene (despite living here prior to being named US coach). I think the best coach we have had is still Bruce Arena. He clearly understands how select a team that can win. He messed up in 2006 and I guess it hurt his reputation, but he's still best man for the job in my opinion.

  1. Ramon Creager
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 1:27 p.m.
    If the goal is to get to the World Cup, functional soccer will do. If the goal is to get beyond the group stage, then it won't. The game vs. Belgium is a good yardstick. A team like Belgium is not an automatic WC quarterfinalist. They may get to the round of 16, but I can think of 6-8 heavyweights that would beat them to the quarters. If we aspire to anything better than what The Bruce did or that Bob Bradley accomplished, teams like Belgium are the teams we will have to beat. This isn't going to cut it. Klinsmann is in over his head. Focusing on aspects like nutrition and fitness are dead giveaways that he has no clue. When you're picking the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, supposedly these players already are the fittest players, and have already developed good habits that got them where they are. We need a change, and we need it now.

  1. Gak Foodsource
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 4:20 p.m.
    We aren't going to the quarters with god as our coach - we dont have the players. Klinsmann is doing exactly what we asked him to do. He may be gone before we see the results of this redevelopment project, just like he was in Germany. But we as fans are being unreasonable to snap our fingers and decide that now, after Mexico at Azteca, the blizzard, and Belgium, we have decided its time to see progress. It isn't going to just happen. This WC doesn't matter. The next one does.

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 4:51 p.m.
    The time for name calling has begun. Paul Gardner, you have officially showed yourself to be a moron. I suppose the time has run out on your stint as Lead Commentator on Soccer America.

  1. Stanley Scott
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 7:34 p.m.
    Usually, Mr. Gardner is a bag of hot air, his ponderous reviews wandering till they grudgingly arrive at the heart of the matter. This article was the exact opposite and presents a situation that I concur with completely. Then, the US goes out and beats a German B-team. Regardless, what made the TOTAL difference today was the first half performance of Jozy Altidore, the enigmatic, inconsistent, "gee, why can't he break out" forward. Its the best he's played in a LONG while (obviously, first goal under Klinsmann). If he decides to not impose his will on a given game, we stink. That seems to happen 80 to 85 % of the time. If we had options other than him, I'd have surely explored them by now. The other dilemma I thing plagues Klinsmann is .....sheer lack of talent. If this is the BEST the US has developed over the last 5 - 8 years....We're going nowhere and will be fortunate to quality for WC 14.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 8:22 p.m.
    US plays the Germans, wins 4-3. Barcelona plays the Germans, loses 0-7. [Insert your own joke about the US playing like Barcelona here.]

  1. fifi Olibares
    commented on: June 2, 2013 at 11:24 p.m.
    If Bayern munich plays against this german team that lost to the usa. munich wins 10-0. let's not get to excited about this win. this german team would have lost to mexico by more. this was a favor that the germans did for klinsman. but the us looked a lot better, took advantage of poor defending by Germany in the first goal and clint Dempsey is just a beast in the box. this german goalkeeper was supposed to be the replacement for valdes at Barcelona. I think he lost that opportunity today.

  1. Ivan Mark Radhakrishnan
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 1:45 a.m.
    Jurgen Klinsmann is 'THE TYPICAL COACH' - always 'finding something positive' in the loss! Football to remain RELEVANT got to stop RE-CYCLING Coaches

  1. Bill Anderson
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 8:32 a.m.
    Ivan, today Klinsmann is the "typical coach" finding something negative (and the corrections) in the victory over Germany and plotting a smash and grab in Jamaica.

  1. Rick Figueiredo
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 10:01 a.m.
    Professor Klinsmann would never say this but the most dominant problem with the USA teams is lack of exceptional talent. The USA has Dempsey, a solid player, Landon was above average but flaked out at the worst possible time, Bradley has lost his intelligence somewhere ever since he stopped playing for his father, Howard is an above average goalie but has difficulty with what I call the 3rd sphere of defense (the distance between ball, goalie and upper v's define arc of ability), Jurgen needs to bring in German assistants as American assistant can only go so far (not their fault). So you will never hear Klinsmann say all these things but I am speculating he thinks them. The Germany game was some vindication but Germany was asleep at the wheel in the first half and still dreaming in the second. The Germans must have done a lot of shopping at the malls the days before the game. Very distracted. But nevertheless the USA did recover some dignity. USA's central defense is a problem. Not instinctively schooled in the art of attacking nuances. Without those mistakes the Belgium game would have been a different game. Belgium is no super power. It is tough to try and turn metal into gold. Coaches are not magicians. The talent pool in the USA at this moment in time is dismal. One of the weakest I have seen in 20 years. Though more children play the sport they are still poorly trained. The worst part about it is that there probably is nothing much better hiding in the woodwork. I said this once and will say it again. The USA is 50 years away from truly competing for a world cup.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 10:40 a.m.
    fifi Olibares, agreed that we shouldn't get too excited about this win -- this was the German 'B' team at best. I'm just tired of this notion that the US should try to "play like Barcelona". Even Barcelona are finding it hard to "play like Barcelona" as their squad gets older. IMO, the US would do best trying to play a simple, athletic style *as a team* rather than getting caught up in vain attempts to be something they're not.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
    Many good comments (James, your observation that PG always decries the importance of coaching but is now blaming the coach is brilliant). It is clear we do not now have the talent to compete at the upper reaches of international soccer. Our player pool has greatly expanded, but there seem to be even fewer high quality players than ever before (though arguably, many more journeyman type players). But there are really two things at issue here; player development, and the performance of the UMNT. You can't blame JK for the problems of the former, you can for the latter. I thought Bob Bradley did very well with what he had, so I was not in favor of firing him in the first place (his problem was the same one we now face; a lack of high quality players). But once we fired him, I thought JK might be an improvement. I had hoped that as an offensive oriented player with a lot of high level experience and a willingness to think outside the box, he might shake things up in a good way. Unfortunately, those hopes have not been realized. I've been disappointed in his player selection for a few reasons; one is his over-reliance on German recruits (primarily Jones being a stalwart), since almost by definition, these players are players who are not good enough for a power we hope to compete against (Germany). They haven't been bad, but they're not the solution. The other is the constant flux in the line-up; I mean experimentation is good, but it's hard to even pencil in a starting line-up (and I'd guess this does not help the players cohesiveness). This is not all JK's fault (due to injuries), but he's not helping matters. And finally, his treatment of Donovan. It's almost as if by denying Donovan a place, he's hoping to prove that his USMNT is better than those of his predecessors. Donovan is a unique player, and deserves to be in the mix. That being said, I'm not sure firing JK is the answer, since the bigger problem is the lack of quality. But as PG points out, we're no longer preparing for qualifiers, we're in the middle of them; we need to get an established line-up and work to make them cohesive, which is one thing we've traditionally been good at.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.
    The second issue (player development) is not one that can be blamed on JK. Certainly, it was something that was promised, but JK simply does not have the power to change it. And I would argue that the bigger problem is not the lack of quality coaching (I actually think most higher level coaches in the US are pretty good; maybe they overcoach a bit (as PG likes to point out), but they're not soccer neanderthals), or even the structure (pay to play, college soccer, etc.), though that doesn't help either. The biggest problem is that the US does not yet have a soccer culture; it's improving, but it's not there. The crux of the matter is who (or what) makes great players great? Are great players born or created by their coaches (or the soccer system generally)? Focusing on the developmental system argues for the latter, but I think most of the greatest players are born. They're development can certainly be assisted by good coaching, etc., but their true quality is in their DNA. To facilitate the nurturing of these players we need to do two things; first, get more kids playing for longer, so that we can identify the truly great ones. And second, nurture a culture that encourages kids to want to be great soccer players. To do this, we need to make it inexpensive and easy for kids to play a lot of soccer when they're young. That means instead of paying coaches to intensely train a small cadre of kids we've identified as talented at age 9 (or more often, whose parents can afford to pay the cost of training), we focus on more informal opportunities to play (bigger in-house programs with once a week skill sessions, e.g.). Second, we nurture the soccer culture through the development of fans (not always former players) through the professional leagues. More exposure, soccer specific stadiums, more teams, etc. The latter is harder, but we've made progress.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 2:49 p.m.
    Milwall America: last time I checked, Bayern M did not equal Germany!! Ribery, Robben, Javi and Dante would probably complain about being pulled from their national teams. With all due respect I must congratulate you on being one of the few who actually advocate the "simple, athletic style". The problem with that in the US is that we already have the NFL plus we've been playing the "simple, athletic style" for way too long already.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: June 3, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.
    But what would you suggest, James? Try to "play like Barcelona" with guys who don't have the ability to play that style and crash out of WCQ in the Hexagonal? Or maybe somehow scrape through to the WC in Brazil and then lose every game in the group stage? After a 40 year absence, the USMNT has qualified for every WC since 1990 (and even made it out of the group stages in 1994, 2002 and 2010) by playing a "simple, athletic style". That success raised soccer's profile in the US enough to allow us to set up and maintain MLS. If we keep consistently qualifying, and more consistently make it past the group stages, we will eventually build up the "soccer culture" that Kent James talks about and stop losing our best young prospects to baseball, basketball, football, etc. Then -- *and only then* -- can we think about trying to play a more technically demanding style. I'm with everyone on the end goal of having an attractive, attacking, technically demanding style of football. I just think it's too early to switch to that style given the talent pool currently available. Maybe 4 or 5 World Cups from now we can think about it.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: June 4, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
    Millwall USMNT fallacies: 1)"best young prospects", Lebron playing soccer, blah blah blah. Ginormous athletes do not play soccer and please don't mention Crouch. 2)soccer culture required before possession can be mastered. We hired JK in lieu of having soccer culture--kind of an inoculation of foreign soccer standards. 3) Consistent string of qualifications for the WC finals will build soccer culture--not. Kick-and-run is kick-and-run. No kick-and-run, sorry, counterattacking-only team has won the World Cup in the past 30 years. Continually qualifying without ever mastering the possession game just leads to stagnation. Why should we be so protective of our #40 FIFA standing? It's standing at the bottom looking up. If JK really decided his back line wasn't going to cut it he should have recruited 17 and 18 year olds who could implement playing out of the back to meet his standards--he had 4 years. We have backs that can hold possession, pass and beat opponents, they're just not in the MNT player pool right now.

  1. Millwall America
    commented on: June 4, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.
    R2Dad -- 1) I'm not talking about Lebron or NFL players; they're not our talent pool and they would't be good at soccer anyway. I'm talking about young kids who could be stars who give up the game at age 12 to instead play gridiron, basketball, baseball, etc in high school & college because those sports are more popular. So long as soccer remains a fringe sport in the US, potential stars will keep dropping the game to pursue hopeless and unsuccessful dreams of excelling in some other sport. 2)JK gets access to our players at best a few weeks every year. That's not enough time to teach them much of anything. They have to have the skills before they get to JK, he can't do some kind of short-term Vulcan mind-meld to give them the skills. 3) If you think the USMNT is going to win the WC in the near future, you're out of your mind. We're just not good enough regardless of what style we play. But we'd better protect our #40 FIFA standing, because if we fail to do so (say by trying to "play like Barcelona" in international competition), Americans' current low level of interest in soccer will decline to nothing, MLS will fold and we'll have fond memories of the glory days when the USMNT actually used to qualify for the World Cup. What people don't seem to realize is that soccer's standing in the US isn't guaranteed to improve every year -- it could very easily go the other way if the USMNT fails in international competition. For the good of the sport in the US, we need to be very careful what kind of risks we take with the national team.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: June 5, 2013 at 12:13 p.m.
    R2 & Millwall (I hope you don't mind if I call you by your first names...), you both make good points. Since we don't have the players to play like Barcelona now, is it better to play a style that suits the players we have, try to change the abilities of the players we have, or find (or develop) players that can play that style? I love Barcelona, but they are sometimes too one-dimensional (granted, they are superbly one dimensional). So I think we should adopt much of their game plan (possession w/an emphasis on ball skills), but retain some of the characteristics for which we are known (athleticism, determination). There's also nothing wrong with being good in the air, and the occasional accurate long ball can catch the opponent off-balance. So I think we should play possession against teams where we are more skillful than they are, but perhaps focus on the counter against teams that are more skillful than us (and changing our personnel, at the margins, to fit our opponents), at least until we are strong enough to impose our will on any opponent (yes, that could be a while, but a man can dream, no?). While JK supporters have hoped that he'd be a miracle worker and change the development system, I don't think that's possible for one man to do. Nor should that be the USMNT's coach that does it (though he can set direction). So I don't blame JK for not yet achieving that. I do think JK can be criticized for player selection, since it almost seems random; I can't figure out what he's doing, other than trying a whole bunch of new players (as well as giving more prominent roles to some players who've been on the fringe). As for a soccer culture, success on the international stage is important, but less so than before, when the average American didn't know what soccer was. As long as we're in the world cup finals, that's probably enough (as long as we don't embarrass ourselves). I think now we need to develop areas lower down the food chain (cultivation of the professional domestic leagues), so that soccer is part of the everyday conversation, not just every time there's a major international tournament. For player development, I think it's more structure than coaching. I'd like to see the USSF invest in the construction of futsal courts in the cities, and perhaps pay local organizations to run them (give them grants). I'd like to see the USSF have a suggested operating structure for the courts (clinic time based on age groups, pick-up time, traditional league play time), and make sure that the cost is low, so that no one would be priced out. Pick a couple of cities, and see how it works. Get more people playing a game that encourages ball skills at low cost. Then let the professional (and maybe amateur ones too) identify the talent on the futsal courts and bring them into more traditional competitive environments.


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