Klinsmann needs to slow 'em down

[MY VIEW] The dismal results of Jurgen Klinsmann’s first five friendly games -- just one win – will be rendered irrelevant if his team shines in World Cup qualifying and does more at Brazil 2014 than the USA has done before at a World Cup. But the feeble performance of the U.S. attack -- two goals in 450 minutes – is cause for serious concern.

No doubt the man who was a world-class striker wants an attacked-minded U.S. team. In Klinsmann’s two previous coaching stints, with Germany and Bayern Munich, he produced high-scoring teams.

When he took the U.S. job, Klinsmann inherited an uninspiring team that had scored only 13 goals and won only five times in 14 games since the 2010 World Cup.

Any hopes that Klinsmann would bring a Midas touch to his U.S. job have, after five games, been extinguished. Sure, he had some bad luck. Two legitimate-looking goals nullified by the linesman’s flag. And not yet has he had the two best U.S. attackers – Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey – on the field at the same time.

Donovan has played in only two of the games. But we knew that Donovan Dependency was something the USA needs to overcome eventually. And bad offside calls are par for the course.

So we are left with a coach facing the age-old challenge of turning the U.S. national team into one that can dominate opponents with attacking soccer rather relying on grit to grind out wins. Heck, the USA in recent years hasn't even exceeded the quality of play the USA displayed at times in the 1994-95 and 1999-2002 eras.

Klinsmann has to play with the hand he was dealt and it doesn’t include a lot brilliant attacking players. But it's troubling, despite all his talk of instilling a new style of play, that his team doesn’t look to be approaching the game much differently than it has in the past. The most glaring problem is the impatience when the team enters the final third of the field.

In the latest outing, the 1-0 loss to Ecuador, it was as if once the USA got into the opponent’s half, the aim was to get a shot on goal as quickly as possible.

In the USA, whether it’s MLS, college ball, or youth soccer, the game is plagued by rushing instead of plotting. There’s so much emphasis on speed and athleticism in all levels of the U.S. game -- when what we really need is patient possession in front of the opponent’s goal until a realistic scoring chance can be carved out.

When Klinsmann lines up a team with only three true attacking players, and when we hear him emphasize fitness and high-tempo, we worry whether he’s on the right track to fixing what really ails American soccer.

31 comments about "Klinsmann needs to slow 'em down".
  1. Paolo Jacobs, October 13, 2011 at 7:13 a.m.

    If I can remember well, the US has employed a fairly good quick striking counter-attacking style of offense during the Arena/Bradley era which served the team well. Unfortunately, Speedy Charlie Davis( CD9) had the unfortunate accident....So while Mike say's we need to slow down, the US has always been at their best counter-attacking quickly on the break catching teams napping...I just don't think the US offensive have the offensive prowness to break down good defensive teams... my 2 cents

  2. U M, October 13, 2011 at 7:50 a.m.

    C'mon Woitalla, tell us something we don't know. Seven paragraphs in and you finally make your point. And it's the same point everyone is making. Back to Journalism school with you! Now, on topic: Altitore must go OutTheDoor, Agudelo must start, Davies should be brought back into the fold and my 9-year old son says Brek Shea should be given a chance at striker. I say why not? Strikers who score consistently on the world stage (Klose, Suarez) are rare birds. Regardless of what Klinsmann does in the short term, we will not have a top international striker in place for World Cup 2014, unless a wunderkind rises from the developmental ranks. So, it's Agudelo and Davies or no one!

  3. Efrahim Fernandez, October 13, 2011 at 7:53 a.m.

    It will take time and patience for the USA to change the style of play. The coach must be given the freedom to experiment without concern of results. The article points out his record in "friendlies" and lack of scoring. The USA from my point of view have looked more daring and have attempted to play more possession style. At times it has not looked pretty but players must feel free to express themselves. We have played the safe game(simple passes square or back,long balls when pressured) far to long it is time to be threatening( taking people on and playing the dating pass thru) .. Even if that means the short term results are not evident and at times looking a bit ugly..

  4. Luis Montalvo, October 13, 2011 at 7:57 a.m.

    This team played there best for 80 minutes. Tim Ream Is just not quick enough mentally yet. The team is getting better and they have shown more talent than most believed. Shea, Miller, Jozy will work. Give them a break.

  5. Andrew Bilinski, October 13, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.

    The most glaring problem is your lack of patience. Perhaps you should try your hand at coaching and show us how it should be done. If the preceding comments have any merit; and I think they do!, then the US must accept the fact that the problem/solution is systemic and must seek a strategic solution in a better player development system. In the meantime, Coach Klinsmann has my vote.

  6. B Flow, October 13, 2011 at 8:25 a.m.

    I think this critique is a bit premature and unfair. We have not played one game with our best attacking lineup. Altidore and Dempsey up front. Shea left, Donovan right, and Holden/Torres plus Edu/Bradley in the middle looks a lot different from what we have had on the field thus far in terms of scoring threat. I thought Beckerman was terrible against Ecuador, gave the ball away constantly. How can you play possession ball, play out of the back and through the midfield on the ground, if the guy in front of the back 4 can't complete a pass except to the other team? Altidore is playing much better, and if his year in the Netherlands continues as it started, he may be developing into a legit striker. As for other strike options, Davies is clearly not back yet (scored a few goals in MLS, but many have been PKs and he is too inconsistent), and Agudelo has yet to show me anything to suggest he is ready for international play (maybe someday, but not today). It would definitely be nice to have options up front, but when the full lineup is out there, we won't be that bad off.

  7. Amos Annan, October 13, 2011 at 8:48 a.m.

    Disagree completely. It is more about getting real chances at goal whether they are slow or fast. And it is about having players that are capable and willing to take those chances. Many youth coaches make the mistake of playing a possession game and "slowing it down" without ever attacking the goal.

  8. Amos Annan, October 13, 2011 at 8:50 a.m.

    Loosing a few games by one goal against good competition is not a problem in 2011. It might be a problem in 2013.

  9. Luis Arreola, October 13, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.

    Klins style of play is not the problem. Its the players he has available so far. They are not skilled enough to play this system.

  10. R2 Dad, October 13, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.

    Amos, I've only seen 1 GU16 team that had good possession and no attacking sense, but that's rarely the case with the boys. Even with the MNT, chances have amounted to 1) a run down the left, with a cross in the box by Shea, 2) set pieces, 3) individual skill (dempsey), and 4) picking up stray balls in the attacking 3rd. We need more options on the ground, but don't yet have players with enough skill to provide it. Those players are out there, we just don't have them in the side, developing chemistry yet. THAT's the part that takes years.

  11. Kent James, October 13, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.

    Brendan Flood got it right; we've not yet put our best line-up out there, so it is too early to be overly concerned about the lack of goal scoring. Amos also has a good point; we should have both quick counters and if they're not there, then slow down and be patient. Yes, too often in American soccer things get rushed, but that's not because playing quickly is a bad thing (Arsenal, Man U, Barcelona all play at amazing speeds), it's because doing so effectively takes levels of skill teams often don't possess. And if the quick counter is well-defended, then by all means, slow it down. But remember, possession should not be a goal in and of itself, we should be maintaining possession in order to generate more attacks on goal.

  12. F. Kirk Malloy, October 13, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.

    Sorry, lame article. These results are MEANINGLESS. Klinsi is beginning a long journey of taking a team known for grit, athleticism, and fitness, but ultimately frustration at the international level, and turning it into a World competitor. That will take time, but already we can all see the style has changed dramatically. Look at how few balls Howard is sending long compared to during the Bradley days. Count how many passes are being connected per possession (though the final attacking passes remain too rare). The final third is always the most difficult and slowest to come around. It relies on quickness of mind and foot, intracies of movement with and without the ball, and 3-5 assassins with the skills to beat the best defenders on the planet. Also, many of our best players have not played as a unit yet, which is fine as Klinsi uses these friendlies to evaluate talent and chemistry. Let's all be patient and intrigued as the journey has JUST STARTED. We're on the way.

  13. Mike Barnstead, October 13, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.

    Mike Woitalla has this right-on. Klinsmann is Sunil's guy, the "name" coach who he has been so intoxicated with. He's the guy who will take the same players, or discover all of these overlooked, skilled, hidden, guys... coming from the same disfunctional development system that we have in this Country and somehow take the entire program to a much higher level. We all see the game a bit different. But, nothing new here. We dont have the players. I suggest the issue should be leveled at the US Soccer Federation. What have they really done to change the basic foundation of the development of young soccer players in this Country.
    Klinsman has a long way to go with the US side to prove that he will bring "better" results than Bob Bradley, Novak, Sorber, Marsh did in the last four years. We shall see.

  14. Jay Allen, October 13, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.

    My son, a huge Barca fans, says that if you try and play a youth soccer game like Xavi or Iniesta you'll either be completely frustrated or on the bench.

  15. Roger Sokol, October 13, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.

    Aside from Dempsey, the USMNT's attack is in the hands of some very young and developing players -- Aguedelo, Altidore, and Shea. Despite the "feeble scoring" so far, there is some room for optimism. Aguedelo has shown some ability to poach and score in his short MNT career. But he is very young and raw. He still has plenty of time to develop and mature as a striker. The important thing is for him to get the proper coaching and playing experience. Altidore seems to be benefitting from his move to AZ Alkmaar. Interestingly, in a recent article about Jozy, he talked about the emphasis that AZ places developing his skills as a player. (That's something the Dutch are famous for.) Anyhow, in these games, some of that effort has started to show in his play. Despite not scoring, he did a lot of things to support and prolong the American attacks. He just needs more time and playing experience also. Finally, Brek Shea not only showed a lot of speed, strength, and skill on the flanks. Neither Honduras nor Ecuador seemed able to adequately contain him. He needs the right move abroad where he'll get playing time at the next level. As a result, the US had periods where they created sustained attacks and several shots at goal. The end result wasn't there, but it wasn't far off either. That is a marked improvement from some previous matches where the opponent puit the US under pressure throughout.

  16. Clear the Ball, October 13, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.

    I believe JK is on the right path. A key to improving in the final third is to have chemistry with the players around you. This is achieved through numerous games together. That final pass is going to get better when the teammates know each others tendency better. The style of play is much better that it has been and the result will come.

    Also, re: Beckerman, I thought he struggled a bit with the final pass in the offense, but I thought his distribution out of the back was pretty good. I rate Edu and him as equal at the defensive mid and MB just behind them, although MB is a better offensive player than either.

  17. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 1:13 p.m.

    US soccer has come along way but still has along way to go. Klinsmann, Arena, Bradley, or whom ever else is out there is not going to make a huge difference. The national team will continue to do fine. They will qualify and do their best at the world cup. Coaches don't win championships. Players win championships. We don't have the players to win the big one yet. But we will one day if we start to put certain things in place. Eg., 30,000 futsal courts is a starter. Especially in the inner cities of America. We need Create a playing environment vs coaching environment for kids. Coaching is totally overrated. It is hurting our player's development. Our players need a lot less of adult involvement. Read The Talent Code. Read the section where the Futsal coach is sitting on his butt while the kids just play. That is what we need from our adults. Be there but you are not there. That has always been a good sign of a great ref. He's there but he's not there. The future stars of the US will come from a playing environment and not a coaching environment. Coaches should have a place but later when players have learn the game by playing 7 days a week. It is the environment that needs to be revamped and not the coaching curriculm. I wish JK, his staff and the team the best and they will be fine. Meanwhile what are we going to do for the future stars? That is the question that needs to be resolved. And quickly before the rest of Concacaf catches up to us.

  18. Rick Kurianowicz, October 13, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.

    Obviously this is an article without a base of knowledge on what Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to accomplish with developing a team and the US program. Again obviously these games for lack of a better term, have been a series of tryouts. At no time has what will eventually be our best team been fielded yet. Are these games meaningful….yes for player evaluation, not for counting wins and losses.
    He has been looking at a variety of things in these games. Are wins nice and great for building morale? Yes, but everyone knows they are playing for a place on the team. What is Jurgen looking for?
    1) Skill sets while playing at a higher level
    2) Fitness and conditioning
    3) How they will play in his new style
    4) Ability to adjust
    5) Will they buy into the new system
    6) Will they work hard enough
    This is what I would think he would be doing during this evaluation period. My guess is that the evaluation process will take on a new dimension over the next few matches and we will see a little more consistency in the starting 11 when that occurs.
    Patience is needed. This man has the credentials, but in an immediate expectations society, we are unrealistic to expect consistent wins while he goes through with the evaluations. It takes time to build a program, a style, a system and a new level of play at any level.
    Hearing comments asking if his job is on the line is absolutely ridicules !! The man won a world cup, played at a very high level internationally and has taken the German National team to a very high level finish in the world cup…….let the man do his job and be patient……..watch this program over the next 12 months…….I think we will be very happy with the progress when we look back at that time.

  19. Rick Kurianowicz, October 13, 2011 at 2:03 p.m.

    One other point, the writer states “In the USA, whether it’s MLS, college ball, or youth soccer, the game is plagued by rushing instead of plotting. There’s so much emphasis on speed and athleticism in all levels of the U.S. game -- when what we really need is patient possession in front of the opponent’s goal until a realistic scoring chance can be carved out”
    Without speed and athleticism you won’t win the ball, you won’t retain the ball and you won’t finish fast enough to score……but hey what do I know !!

  20. Andres Yturralde, October 13, 2011 at 2:06 p.m.

    The USA is looking better, that's what I think. Calmer coming out of the back, possessing more, creating more. The goals will eventually roll in, that's for sure. Just cut JK a little slack. He's more focused on building the squad--more focused on blending and mixing, rather than winning. Honduras was an easier opponent because they have a fairly similar system. Plus, let's keep it real: there was more heart in the Honduras game, given the rivalry. It'd make me wanna give just a little bit more. The Ecuador match was another story--for both sides. Ecuador didn't seem to care about tactics--it was more like backyard play for them. That kind of mentality disrupted the flow, and eventually the USA ran out of ideas, got disorganized, and lost control--particularly during the second half. Which goes to show that it's really hard to fight off an opponent who comes into the game believing they will defeat you no matter what. As lackluster as the Ecuadorians were, that's the kind of confidence they seem to exhibit. And they delivered. Just like the Brazilians delivered against Mexico, even with one man down.

  21. Scott O'Connor, October 13, 2011 at 2:27 p.m.

    I think as far as 2014 goes, with this talent pool, we're pretty well a non-factor. Somewhere, anywhere, hopefully there's a 14 year-old striker who's killing 'em. My hope is that we'll unearth these players, who were born after MLS started, who've been raised to play futbol in this country and haven't had the brilliance choked out of them by clueless youth coaches... Let it be so....

  22. Jeffrey Organ, October 13, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.

    I also disagree with Mike on this one. First, it is too soon to throw in the towel on Klinsmann's plan.

    Second, it is clear to a lot of us that the previous US "style" was good enough to get us qualified for the WC and to even, if the draw is favorable, get to a knock out round. Great for us. We have come a long way since 1998. We can see from the friendly against Spain and the Gold Cup final, however, that this is not good enough to make us competitive with top level countries. To get to that level will take more talent and a different approach that forces the talent we have to play much faster and with more intelligence. I am seeing this develop already; witness the first half against Ecuador which was pretty good.

    If we lose a lot of friendlies along the way I, personally, am OK with this. Our goal should be to win a World Cup; not play to survive. Been there and done that. We are beyond that now and should set our goals accordingly.

  23. Alex G. Sicre, October 13, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.

    Lets not be so impatient. This is an experimental process to achieve the best 11 on the field. We,re damn lucky to have a world class coach and I am ecstatic that Klinsman is here. Lets cut the guy some slack and support him instead of second guessing him. Viva Klinsmann.

  24. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 6:57 p.m.

    Remember when Klinsmann took over the German Squad he lost several games and then did well with them in the world cup.

  25. Karl Ortmertl, October 13, 2011 at 6:57 p.m.

    Not much of an article. I like that the defense seems to be getting a little tighter. Orozco certainly has played himself out of the lineup, but it was nice to see Onyewu still has some life left in him. Young guys like Ream and Chandler have some talent and bode well for the "D" altho' they are still works in progress right now. when we get Dempsey, Donovan and Torres together along with a, hopefully, continuously improving Altidor, I think the goals will come. There's definitely some offensive talent there. I may be the only one, but I like Adu. He's small and slow, but is comfortable on the ball and I like what I saw of him in the Gold Cup. Hopefully, he's not on Jurgen's spit list yet. I also like Luis Gil a lot on offense. He showed me a lot on the U-17 team a couple of years ago and then Arsenal scooped him up. Haven't heard much about him since.
    Wasn't too impressed with Williams. Don't like Bradley. Edu hasn't shown much lately either.

  26. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.

    This is a great article to read. It talks about patience and leadership of a particular player but in end it will add a lot to what everyone's comments.

    Didi, the unflappable genius

    Just four minutes had been played in the Final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup™ between Brazil and hosts Sweden at the Rasunda stadium in Solna, when Nils Liedholm struck to put the home side in front. After the ball nestled in the back of the net, Brazilian midfielder Waldir Pereira – better known as Didi – unhurriedly fished it out and tucked it under his arm before walking slowly but deliberately back towards the centre circle.

    In his relaxed body language and serene manner lay the message Didi wished to pass on to his shocked team-mates. Reflecting the coolness on the ball he showed throughout his stellar career, Didi made it clear there was no need to rush, no need to panic; provided they kept their heads, Brazil´s talent would see them through.

    “I was already in position out on the left wing, ready for kick-off, and I saw Didi walking slowly with the ball in his arms. I ran over to him, shouting in desperation, 'Come on Didi, we're losing!' He just said 'Calm down lad. We're still a better team than they are. Don't worry, we´ll turn this game around soon enough,'” fellow Seleção legend Mario Zagallo told FIFA.com. “And once we heard that, everybody suddenly calmed down. We equalised five minutes later and the rest is history. That's what Didi was like: he made everything seem easy.”

    Why sweat it?
    Yet the very same steady, deliberate approach that paved the way for Brazil´s 5-2 win against the Swedes and a first world title had also earned him more than his fair share of detractors. In fact, though the 30-year-old was at that point an established Brazil international and firm favourite at then club side Botafogo, as well as previous employers Fluminense, his composure, intelligence and economy of movement was often mistaken for a lack of both pace and commitment.

  27. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 7:05 p.m.

    Here is the rest of this article.

    This was the case during his brief spell for Spanish giants Real Madrid, who in 1959 swooped for a player widely acclaimed as one of the star performers at Sweden 1958. “The Spanish fans loved players who put in tackles and went to ground, and I never used to tackle anybody,” recalled Didi, in a 1987 interview with Brazilian magazine Placar, of his frustrating time alongside the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas.

    “My shirt and socks would still be spotless by the end of a match and they couldn´t get their heads round it. I used to have to grab a handful of mud and smear it across my shirt. Why should I have to do that, when I could attack and put our strikers through on goal? The fans used to get so angry,” added Didi, who returned to Botafogo in 1960 and won a second world title with Brazil at Chile 1962.

    My shirt and socks would still be spotless by the end of a match and they couldn´t get their heads round it.Didi, Brazil legend.

    What's more, with his laid-back yet determined personality seemingly reflected in every gesture, be it a simple sideways pass or that iconic stroll in Solna, Didi became the perfect muse for Nelson Rodrigues, the writer who, for many, best encapsulated Brazilian football in the 1950s and ´60s. Rodrigues compared Didi´s elegance on the pitch to that of an “Ethiopian prince”, which in time would become his unique nickname.

  28. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 7:05 p.m.

    Last part of the article.

    “Didi treats the ball lovingly. At his feet, it seems to become a rare and sensitive orchid, which must be looked after with affection and pleasure,” was one of Rodrigues´ particularly descriptive portrayals of the midfielder´s class in possession. And though such eloquence may seem a little over the top nowadays, there are few stars whose playing style lends itself as much to poetic license as Didi´s did.
    Respect of his fellows
    Underlining the steel that lay hidden beneath Didi's calm and what some perceived as haughty exterior was the authority he enjoyed amongst his colleagues. This ability to lead served him well once he turned his hand to coaching, having hung up his boots in 1966 on the back of a low-key spell with Sao Paulo.

    His first success in the dugout came after returning to Peru's Sporting Cristal, where he had briefly played in 1963, with victory in the 1968 Peruvian championship earning Didi the opportunity to take charge of Peru ahead of the 1970 FIFA World Cup. Once on Mexican soil, the team he assembled stormed all the way to the quarter-finals, where they exited at the hand of eventual winners Brazil, thanks in good measure to an outrageously gifted 20-year-old by the name of Teofilo Cubillas.

    “Didi was the man who taught me how to score from free-kicks and how to shoot,” Cubillas told FIFA.com, on the coach who handed him his senior Peru debut. “It´s also because of him that, despite being right-footed, I worked hard in training until I could use both feet equally well.”

    As much of an idol as Cubillas was, however, it is the words of another even more legendary figure that best sum up Didi´s place in the history of the beautiful game. “I´m nothing compared to Didi. I'll never be anywhere near as good as he is,” said none other than Pele, in an interview given during Sweden 1958. “He´s my idol, he's the guy I look up to. The very first picture cards I bought were of him.” Need we say more?

  29. cony konstin, October 13, 2011 at 7:07 p.m.

    Magicians is what the USA is lacking. We will get them eventually. Meanwhile support JK and our team.

  30. Tom Jedrzejewicz, October 17, 2011 at 3:55 p.m.

    The conundrum encountered by every coach sooner or later ... their preferred game plan doesn't work with the players on the team. Do you change players, change game plan, or both.

    The USA needs a change in youth coaching, youth refereeing, and player development. Below 12 or 14, 100% of the emphasis should be on ball skills. At all youth levels, coaching and refereeing should reward skill and finesse above strength and speed.

  31. Paul Bryant, October 17, 2011 at 11:37 p.m.

    Gentlemen, gentlemen, the attack starts from the back. In the last two games we have been without attacking midfielders. In the game against Equador (I was there), neither Edu or Beckerman could give good service to Dempsey or Altidore. I have only a slight concern about the USMNT's ability to score. I am more concerned about them keeping the opposition from scoring.

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