[MY VIEW] Three weeks after U.S. Soccer re-signed Bob Bradley as national team coach, Juergen Klinsmann said he was courted
but didn’t take the job because he wasn’t guaranteed enough authority. We don't know the other side of the story, because the USSF bosses won’t comment. But it's pretty clear that
Klinsmann isn't the right man.
This is, of course, déjà vu all over again. After the 2006 World Cup, U.S. Soccer let Bruce Arena go after eight years at the helm and came close to hiring Klinsmann. USSF President Sunil Gulati never explained why the deal didn’t go down. But the German, who has now resided in Southern California for more than a decade, commented on the record why the deal wasn’t sealed in May of 2010.
Klinsmann, well known as a shrewd negotiator from his playing days – which included stints with seven different clubs in four countries – alluded to authority issues at that time as well. He said, "There were different opinions, you know, what players could get the permissions in MLS, what role it plays."
A crucial requirement of a U.S. national team coach is for him to appreciate MLS’s importance to the future of American soccer. The pro league is, in fact, more important to the future of American soccer than the national team, which depends on MLS’s progress if it is to turn into the world power it has the potential to be.
MLS must become profitable, so that it can raise its level of play by drawing more foreign stars – and so that it continues strengthening its youth development programs, which are the best hope for producing world-class American talent.
Now Klinsmann says the Federation approached him about the job after the 2010 World Cup – and offered him enough of money -- but the Federation would not, in writing, grant him “full control of the technical side.” He didn’t offer details on exactly what control he wanted. But one can speculate that he wanted guarantees on MLS player call-ups, control over the U.S. national team schedule, and possibly oversight of the entire national team program.
Even when the DFB, the German federation, was desperate to hire Klinsmann to lead Germany at the 2006 World Cup, it didn't hand over the keys and give him the authority over all aspects of the national team program.
And the USA doesn’t need a coach to revamp its system. What the U.S. national team needs in a coach is one who can succeed at the World Cup, where it has hit a frustrating plateau.
The USSF, since Gulati became president in 2006, has made player development a priority, introducing the Development Academy league, which fosters MLS clubs’ youth commitment, and by expanding and diversifying its scouting system.
U.S. Soccer should only have been serious about hiring Klinsmann if it believed he was without a doubt the best man to lead the USA to success at the 2014 World Cup. And we certainly don’t know that.
Klinsmann’s greatest achievement in his short coaching career is guiding a world power to a third-place finish on home soil when Germany hosted the 2006 World Cup – four years after it finished runner-up in Japan.
He was deservedly credited as a great motivator, but his assistant Joachim Loew – the current head coach of Germany – handled the hands-on coaching of the team.
In Klinsmann’s only other coaching stint, at defending champion Bayern Munich, he was sacked before completing his first season.
Klinsmann’s accounts of the most recent “negotiations” with U.S. Soccer are puzzling. Why would he expect to get in writing in 2010 what he didn't get in 2006 when his leverage was much greater? What was different now about his stance to that of Gulati and Dan Flynn, U.S. Soccer's CEO?
His attributes may be convincing. A great playing career that included a World Cup title. An encouraging view of the game – advocating attacking soccer. A celebrity and fluent in several languages, he may be a PR dream for American soccer.
But someone with such a modest coaching resume shouldn’t be surprised when all his demands aren’t met.
Refusing to make the compromises that American soccer needs from its national team coach is enough to know he’s not the man for the job.