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Klinsmann on style: 'America likes to decide on its own what is next'
by Mike Woitalla, August 1st, 2011 11:47AM
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TAGS:  men's national team


[U.S. SOCCER] On Monday morning, in his first press conference since his appointment as head coach, Juergen Klinsmann talked about what style of play the U.S. national team should adopt ...

The 47-year-old German who has resided in California for more than a decade says he will seek much feedback on the style of play question: “Your opinions are important. College coaches' opinions are important. Youth coaches are important. Everyone is involved in that process. Players as well. I’m looking forward to a lot of talks.”

But he believes "that soccer in a certain way reflects the culture in a country."

“Studying your culture and having an American wife and American kids, mainly right now my understanding is that you don’t like to react to what other people do," he said. "I think this is maybe a starting point. I think America never really waits and sees and leaves it up to other people to decide what is next. I think America always likes to decide on its own what is next. This guides maybe towards a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it."

Kinsmann is credited for changing the German national team's style, from a patient build-up game to a quicker, attack-minded approach, when he took over in 2004 and guided Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, at which Germany was the highest scoring team and one of the few that resisted a one-forward lineup.

"We re-defined that in Germany in 2004, which was a very, very difficult process but we worked through that process and now it’s settled, that style of play," he said.

Settling on a soccer philosophy in the USA, he says, is "quite a challenge, because you are such a melting pot in this country, so many different opinions, and ideas floating around.

“Every coach has his own ideas, then you have the whole challenge of youth soccer being based on a very different model than anywhere else in the world. Your educational system is completely different than in the rest of the world. One of my challenges will be to find a way to define how a U.S. team should represent its country. What should be the style of play? Is it a more proactive and aggressive kind of forward-thinking style of play, or is a more reacting style of play?

“That comes with the players you have at your disposal but also with the people who you’re surrounded with and the people who have an opinion in this country, like the media, like coaches – and there’s such a wealth of knowledge in this country. …

“I think it’s important over the next three years and especially in the beginning that I have a lot conversations with people involved in the game here to find a way to define that style.

“What suits us best? What would you like to see? What would you like to identify with?"

Klinsmann cited the U.S. women, who lost to Japan in this summer's Women's World Cup final on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie, but had played exciting attacking soccer in the final.

“I think this was how Americans wanted to see their girls play that game. And they did an awesome job."

There's little doubt that Klinsmann, a high-scoring forward in his playing days, prefers an attacking game, but ...

"It always depends, also, on your opponent," he said. "If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might play differently than maybe against a country in Concacaf, but it is a starting point if you say we want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball. All those components you have to build into your training sessions and have to build it into the curriculum for the youngsters because the earlier they start with that type of work, the better it is. ...

“It will be one of main topics always. Sitting down and discussing that. But it should reflect your mentality and culture."

  1. F. Kirk Malloy
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 8:45 a.m.
    Dear Coach Klinsmann, Although I never played or even watched the game growing up, my daughter has now played soccer for 3 full seasons (she's now a U-10 on our local travel B team, we're so proud!). I also watched 3 complete EPL games on TV last season (wow, those guys are fast!) and I have attended a pre-season "Soccer for Parents" clinic last fall (so that's what offsides means!). Clearly I am highly qualified to be at your side during one of the pre-Cup qualifying friendlies to offer my assistant coaching opinions (very loudly, have you witnessed parents at any American youth soccer games?), with frequent cliches I gleaned from American sports like football and baseball, like "There is no "I" in TEAM" and "You gotta want it!". If you're interested, have your girl call my girl (meaning my daughter), but not M-W-Fri 4PM to 5PM which is the only time my girl plays soccer each week. Welcome to America! Cheers, Joe American Soccer Fan and Parent
  1. Daniel Clifton
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 10:13 a.m.
    I like what he is saying. I hope he follows through. I know what I want, a more possession oriented game. I want to see the Hispanic side of our heritage reflected more in the National Team and the developmental squads leading to the National Team.
  1. beta zeta
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
    When JK infuses a particular style into the MNT, that will be a huge accomplishment in itself, because everyone who has watched them play over the last 10, 20 years knows that the MNT has always been about fitness, grit, and determination, but not much else. A good motivational coach will get them on some nice streaks (i.e., FIFA Confederations Cup) or out of the group stage of the WC, but not much further. And its not very sustainable, as a string of great performances is always met by a let-down against a European power or Mexico. A style will give them consistency and something to build off of and improve upon over time, even if they are not initially successful. I am also hopeful that his international reputation and connections will secure important loan and transfer deals overseas for promising U.S. players. My primary concern is whether JK was able to secure complete control, or whether U.S. Soccer will be a two-headed monster between MLS and the MNT. They have never enjoyed a good coexistence and it’s interesting that, over time, fewer MLS players have been featured. Let Gulati focus on building small, soccer-specific stadia with devoted fan bases and on bringing in personalities and teams (i.e., Cantona and the Cosmos), and let JK focus on developing a team that is as strong and diverse as the U.S.
  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.
    We are all Usonians now that can support the new Usonian way of approaching soccer/football in North America as brought to us by Herr Klinsmann. Ein Volk, Ein USA, Ein Klinsmann!
  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
    (F Kirk Malloy-- when you need him! I love it! You're hired!) Regarding JK, he's already sounding like a president I know: beautiful as an academic, ugly as an executive. Just get your plan, pick your dudes, and foot the ball! The crowd wants results, JK. Sound execution over strategic advice. Entelechy. That's your word of the day.
  1. Andrew Post
    commented on: August 2, 2011 at 3:58 p.m.
    I really appreciate Klinsmann taking this approach to American soccer rather than trying to force a style of play. However, here is my take on the current US situation. The United States has always been the trail blazer in sports and other aspects of life (American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Democracy in a Republic etc..) American's don't like to be told how to do things, we tend to do our own thing. Here is where the problem lies. We have been trying to forge our way in a sport where we are not the trail blazers and are far far behind the rest of the world. American's don't like to be told that Soccer is the world's most popular sport so we as a country have impeded its popularity here. I worry that in trying to forge our own "style" we will, in the process, hinder all the progress we have made thus far. I believe Klinsmann needs to incorperate European style with American tinacity. Learning the European style while maintaining our American will power may help to create our own style.
  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: August 3, 2011 at 5:06 a.m.
    I think it is all a show. He will talk a nice game about inclusion, add a couple of latin players to the roster, and then do whatever he wants. Winning is the only important thing. Win and everyone thinks you are a genius.
  1. David Huff
    commented on: August 5, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.
    @Amos, the next time a USMNT led by Klinsmann plays Ghana, Ghana will lose.
  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: August 8, 2011 at 11:24 p.m.
    Amos, as long as they're American right?

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