Klinsmann's call for dirty play backfires

By Paul Gardner

Maybe we've gotten used to the idea that we have a celebrity character in American soccer who cannot face the idea that he and his team are not the best. David Beckham has -- particularly recently -- given plenty of evidence that he is an utterly poor loser, and his attempts to blame everyone but himself are sad to behold.

One, it would appear, is not enough. Now we have to accept that we have another sore celebrity loser to deal with. Jurgen Klinsmann’s behavior after his team’s recent 4-1 loss to Brazil was so comprehensively unacceptable that he deserves a public censure from USSF President Sunil Gulati.

That won’t happen, of course -- not least because some part of Klinsmann’s self-deception about his team can be put down to Gulati. An hour or two before the Brazil game I listened to Gulati declaiming to the Hall of Fame gathering just how far the game has advanced in this country, which is the truth, and then making the leap to the possibility of actually beating Brazil.

Expectations then, as publicly stated by the USSF president, were high, dangerously high. Based on what? Obviously on the recent 5-1 win over Scotland. On paper, that’s a hell of a result. In fact, it was a result that tells us a great deal more about the decline of Scotland than about the rise of the USA.

Scotland -- once, for sure, a major soccer power -- has sadly slumped to ineptitude. This has not happened suddenly -- the slide to feebleness has been clear for decades, with faltering performances at the World Cup, followed by failure to qualify at all to a situation where one would now find it hard to think of a single Scottish player of world, or even of top-level, caliber.

I say all of that with a heavy heart, because it is sad to see a country with such a glowing history in the game reduced to the sort of performance it put on against the USA. Of course the USA played well -- and scoring five goals in any international game these days is not to be sniffed at.

But was this display -- against an obviously inferior opponent -- one on which to build the massive hopes of being better than Brazil? Even allowing for the fact that Brazil has not been exactly brilliant lately, either.

Well something obviously happened inside the heads of Klinsmann and his players, to say nothing of president Gulati, that transformed sad Scotland into a formidable world power, and diminished Brazil to an eminently beatable opponent.

Yes, you can argue, as Landon Donovan and other players did, that the scoreline was harsh. Maybe so -- and for all I know maybe there were Scots arguing that their 1-5 debacle was a harsh scoreline. What you could not deny was that Brazil was better than the USA, the more skillful, the cannier, the livelier team -- and, in the end, deserved winner.

Yet that was exactly what Klinsmann tried to deny in his quite deplorable post-game press conference. He started off by leveling three complaints against the referee for decisions that went against the Americans. All three of his complaints were wrong. On the early PK call, Klinsmann accepted Oguchi Onyewu’s statement that the ball had hit him in the stomach (wrong -- there was clearly solid hand-ball contact), and then claimed that Onyewu was outside the area anyway (also quite wrong). On Brazil’s fourth goal, Klinsmann said “my information is that the guy was two yards offside,” when replays showed that the guy was being kept onside by Onyewu. That offhand reference to “the guy” also shows disrespect. The guy has a name -- it was Pato, a well-known and highly respected player.

We were listening to Klinsmann making serious accusations against the referee -- and he hadn’t even bothered to look at the TV replays. That was bad enough. Incredibly, it got worse, much worse.

Klinsmann was asked about the play of his designated hatchet man Jermaine Jones. Everyone had seen Jones’s reckless second-half tackle on Neymar. As Jones has a formidable record of dangerous, rough-house play, one can safely assume that the tackle was premeditated. Neymar, one of the most promising young players in the world game, was put in danger of being seriously injured by an undisguised thug, a player who should not even be considered as fit to represent the USA.

The tackle was at midfield, in a situation that presented no danger whatever to the USA. It had only one possible motivation -- the desire of an immature, inadequate player to hurt an opponent -- and quite probably the desire for some notoriety for being the player who put Neymar in his place. And this player, this Jermaine Jones, is the man whom Klinsmann has found suitable to captain the USA on a couple of occasions.

Klinsmann did not criticize Jones -- that was too much to expect. But, by implication, he praised Jones and his dangerous play. These are Klinsmann’s words: “Maybe we're still a little bit too naive, maybe we don't want to hurt people, but that's what you've got to do.”

So hurting people, i.e. injuring - or crippling? - opponents, is what “you’ve got to do.” Is this really Klinsmann’s philosophy of the game? It may be. I recall Klinsmann sitting in as a studio expert during one of ESPN’s 2010 World Cup broadcasts. Brazil had been carving Ivory Coast apart with its tight, close passing -- Klinsmann’s solution to that problem was that Ivory Coast should “do a foul.”

There is no question of any misunderstanding here. Klinsmann means what he says. Get nastier, get rougher, hurt them. His attempt to make what he’s saying more acceptable by calling the U.S. players “naive” is pitiful. It has been brilliantly demolished by Mike Woitalla (see his column: HERE).

Even more pitiful is Klinsmann’s later clarification. Like most official clarifications, this one merely makes matters worse. It thoroughly confirms what is probably the most cynical of journalistic advice -- “Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied.”

Somewhere along the line, Klinsmann realized, or was told, that he had spoken way out of turn. So he compounded the problem with a palpably unbelievable explanation.

Forgetting the words, as we’ll have to, and overlooking just how his players might feel at being dubbed naive, what effect did the episode have on the team’s performance?

Pretty negative, evidently -- against Canada there was no evidence that the USA was prepared to kick opponents up in the air at the slightest provocation. Which was a relief. But there was also little evidence that the team wanted to play -- this was a thoroughly insipid performance, a game for which it should have been impossible to select an MVP (the USSF found one in defender Clarence Goodson), a game the USA probably deserved to lose.

In just nine days the USA slumped from a sparkling 5-1 win over Scotland to a miserable 0-0 tie with Canada. The explanation lies between the games, with that 4-1 drubbing from Brazil. A brutal dose of reality. The fanciful notions of world-power status opened up by the victory over poor Scotland were shattered in that game. The Canada game showed us a USA team trying to deal with its severely dented pride -- and trying to do that while not getting its coach and his “you’ve got to hurt opponents” urgings into further trouble. No wonder the USA looked disorganized and tentative.

The big loser here was Klinsmann -- or a certain part of him. His professionalism. How can an experienced coach go into an important press conference and impute the referee without having seen the easily available TV replays? How can an experienced coach, addressing the media, advise his players to hurt their opponents? Because, after the USA-Brazil game, that is exactly what he did, whatever he later claimed in his lame apologia.

Even so, in considering just how ill-prepared Klinsmann was for his disastrous press conference, one has to ask why that was. Did no one tell him what the replays showed? When Klinsmann says "My information is ..." -- where did that information, which was inaccurate, come from?

Surely, among the copious USSF staff that surrounds Klinsmann there is someone whose responsibility it is to make sure that the coach does not spout whoppers on these occasions? But whoppers were what we got.

Not a resplendent occasion for the USSF. Neither on the field nor in the press conference.

32 comments about "Klinsmann's call for dirty play backfires".
  1. Kevin Leahy, June 6, 2012 at 6:38 a.m.

    If Jermaine Jones is to supposed to help the @ another level, I would rather stay @ the level we are presently in.

  2. David Mont, June 6, 2012 at 8:11 a.m.

    Doesn't happen very often, but I absolutely agree with everything in this column. Jones is a thug and shouldn't be playing for the national team. Making him a captain was a disgrace. Klinsmann was, of course, a much better footballer than Bob Bradley could've ever hoped to be; but he hasn't proven to be a better coach yet. He has shown, however, that he's nowhere near the human being Bradley is.

  3. Bill Anderson, June 6, 2012 at 8:23 a.m.

    Are the Netherlands a "skillful" team? How about Germany? Will either of these teams go onto the field at the Euros and play some of the best football possible?

  4. Bill Anderson, June 6, 2012 at 8:24 a.m.

    Nigel de Jong and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be in the starting eleven, bank on it. Why? Every dog needs a waggily tail, and a little bite.

  5. Walt Pericciuoli, June 6, 2012 at 9:12 a.m.

    I am hoping it is more a case of Jurgen's frustration at an obvious backward step by our boys and not what we should expect as we move forward.I don't think the Brazil match was such a disaster.The hand ball on "Gooch" was harsh and the 4th goal was so late in the match and from a "Gooch" mental error and also well after the game was decided.At least we tried to play attacking soccer and had some good moments that should have produced a goal or two.It was the next game that disappoints.Canada,really 0-0.These are the guys we have to beat to get to the WC.I saw nothing from our team. Too me,this should have been the match to bounce back and show our mettle.Instead,flat performances all way around.Hard to single out a single player for praise.I saw no pride there.
    Yes, Jermaine Jones has to go.

  6. Chris Connelly, June 6, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.

    I knew this article was coming the moment i saw Jones's tackle on Neymar. Jermaine does have plenty of skill, but his consistent track record of thuggery for club and country should have long ago forced him off of the team. Unfortunately Edu hasn't shown up to the task of the holding midfielder, and Bradley is better used going forward, so it seems we'll be seeing a lot more of Jones for the upcoming games and beyond.

  7. Kent James, June 6, 2012 at 9:36 a.m.

    I agree with most of the commenters (esp. Kevin & Walt). I had not seek Klinsman's full quote: “Maybe we're still a little bit too naive, maybe we don't want to hurt people, but that's what you've got to do.” I'm not sure how that statement could be misinterpreted. Good teams don't need to hurt people to win. If we're not good enough to win without hurting people, we should work on getting better, not finding players (Jones) who are willing to hurt people to win.

  8. Walt Pericciuoli, June 6, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

    Chris,I think Edu works better with Bradley and covers for him when he gets into the attack,which we need him to do. He is also used to working with Bocanegra and I think can cover for him as well.If he was given just those simple tasks,I believe he would be the holding MF that keeps the MF and Def line together.Jones wants to be an attacking force and seems to me too undisciplined to play any kind of holding MF role.Edu in a more defined defensive role would free up Bradley more to partner with Torres,Dempsey and Donovan,in the attack.

  9. R2 Dad, June 6, 2012 at 10:03 a.m.

    Oxymoron: "important press conference"

  10. Rick Berlin, June 6, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.

    I completely disagree with all of the furor about this in the media. Football's a man's game. This isn't little league, you'd think America was run by soccermom's the way everyone is bent out of shape about this. Compare this to American football, you think Jerome Harrison or Ray Lewis might not make the hall of fame because they're too nasty? Would any team even blink if someone said those teams needed to step on peoples toes? Please. I don't want us to be a dirty team but we need some grit if we're going to be successful. Look what's happened to Arsenal since Viera left if you want to know what teams look like without a little nastiness.

  11. Steve Scherrer, June 6, 2012 at 11:32 a.m.

    I love how this one statement by Jurgen, taken completely out of context, has taken on a complete life of its own, with Soccer America falling over itself in criticism. Perhaps I am too willing to give JK the benefit of the doubt here (especially considering that English is his second language, although I will grant that what he said was, perhaps, inelegant. But *I*, for one, interpreted his comment as, you have got to stand up for your self on the field, that the good teams find a way to get into your head, and that they have a heck of a lot more experience and savvy to get away with it.

    And sometimes they don't, like when Ramos got his skull cracked in 1994 against Brazil, or Cobi Jones got the beat down in 2002 against Mexico. I would think this crap is happening all over the field, and JK, to me, is just saying that the US has to find a way to deal with it and dish it back. Under that interpretation, I see nothing wrong with what he said.

  12. Carl Walther, June 6, 2012 at 11:38 a.m.

    Rick, If your idea of 'manhood' is rooted in violence, then you should switch to watching hockey.

  13. David Mont, June 6, 2012 at 11:59 a.m.

    Steve, if Klinsmann's statement was taken completely out of context, can you tell us what the context was, other than the one your chose to make up yourself? And what was the context for Klinsmann's absolutely baseless accusations against perfectly good refereeing decisions? If he wasn't sure, as he apparently wasn't, he should've just kept quiet until having a chance to view replays.

  14. Carlos Thys, June 6, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.

    Thank you, Mr. Gardner, for saying exactly what has to be said. As Mr. Woitalla has several times here since last Wednesday. I do appreciate Mr. Gardner's remarks above. Mr. Klinsmann is one who has lived with a silver spoon in all his life really, certainly all of his sporting life. He now commands a very top paying (in the millions of dollars with very over-generous bonuses built in) US Soccer salary. He pined for this job for years. He agitated for it. He left no doubts in his hints and barbs and little asides as he commented from California on this or that. He even smirked a few times for all of us to see on camera when gifted the ESPN (paid) commentary job during South Africa 2010 -- smirked when the U.S. team underperformed with Ghana, leaving former coach Bradley's standing then in question. I could say a lot more. I've known Juergen Klinsmann for a long, long time. Not personally, although we have met personally. As I posted here last week under a Mr. Woitalla column, I do not expect to hear ref blaming (multiple times -- all erroneously) and the scurrilous comment about hurting players as if that is "sometimes what you've got to do." (How is that professional sports stance working out for the New Orleans Saints right now?) Mr. Klinsmann launched his VERY IMMATURE series of comments in this post-Brazil sit down press conference with saying he is "pissed." Pissed? Really? He also spoke of ten players -- meaning ten U.S. players -- getting into the face of the match referee. No one has yet addressed that and examined just what mind-numb coach (for a good team) wants to see that. Last time I saw that in full was when Argentina played Mexico at the World Cup 2010 and Argentina's players looked so pitifully petulant and small as they whined at linesman and referee for an offsides Tevez goal to count. That was Argentina immaturity and I NEVER want to see U.S. players doing anything remotely similar. Look, Mr. Klinsmann, the following remarks are directed to you: Your use of "pissed," your whining about the referee, your reference to hurting the other players, the surround the referee with ten so he does not know which one to card -- all of that is not the language of adults in a grown ups world and it is not the language of a leader -- nor one to be respected. Get your gilded life very swiftly in order. And your tongue in line. We've entrusted you, as an honorary American, with a wonderful life opportunity. We expect professionalism and maturity in word and deed -- always. Personally, if the lawyers and accountants at US Soccer told me we weren't digging a bigger hole by doing so, I'd have fired Juergen Klinsmann over those remarks. That isn't a 21 year old college kid speaking into the microphone. It is a grown adult who is well past the years when any of those phrases are acceptable. Juergen Klinsmann showed real smallness last week. It had better never happen again.

  15. Ramon Creager, June 6, 2012 at 12:58 p.m.

    Well put, Mr. Gardner. We don't need this crap in our game. There is a right way and a wrong way to play with intensity, and unfortunately Mr. Klinsmann seems focused on the wrong way. About the only good players like de Jong, Schweinsteiger and Jones serve is to make one happy when their team gets beat. And if refs had any sense they'd have a yellow/red card hair trigger for these guys.

  16. Jack Niner, June 6, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.

    Well put Mr Gardner. It's time to say the obvious - Klinsmann needs to go. He's not what the USMNT needs. It's not to late to dismiss Klinsmann and find a more sutiable manager.

  17. Carlos Thys, June 6, 2012 at 1:17 p.m.

    A comment for Kent James' remarks above: Excellent. Well put. Also a thank you. R2 Dad, any time there is a microphone and any time a leader has opportunity to speak, the words must be right, fitting. Even in a disappointment, setback or moment of frustration, real men don't descend themselves. Two years ago -- almost to the day -- when he passed, this nation honored Coach John Wooden, famed for his many years at UCLA, his coaching, and his work with young men over many decades. I cannot imagine Coach Wooden ever stooping to this level of verbal errors at the age of nearly 48 (and the accompanying attitude and childish bearing Mr. Klinsmann displayed on camera. Haven't we already even heard U.S. players reveal their need / desire to "walk back" their national team coach's post-match press conference words?). Perhaps someone who is now close to him needs to pull Mr. Klinsmann aside and offer to him some of Coach Wooden's fine tips and his books on what this is really all about. The two share California and L.A. in common. Would that more men and coaches would orient a good bit of their thinking and lives toward what Wooden showed us.

  18. robert bagalayos, June 6, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.

    I'll listen to the guy that has actually scored in and won a World Cup, thanks.

  19. Thomas Brannan, June 6, 2012 at 1:22 p.m.

    Carlos Thys 12:41 PM above excellent.
    I will say only one thing more as a result. Jurgen: take it back to the "old country". We are not like that here.

  20. Kent James, June 6, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.

    This debate boils down to whether you think there is hope in the world, or fear. If you think the world can be a wonderful place, then you act in a way to make it that way; you play by the rules, and you expect others to do the same. If your world is run by fear, then you'd better do unto the other guy before he does unto you. Having hope that your individual actions can make the world a better place is not naive, it's realistic. After all, the alternative is to act in a way that you hope no one else does, which is quite unrealistic. Although JK's remarks were inappropriate, I hope that he will rethink that strategy and go back towards a more optimistic approach in which he uses creative players who attack with confidence while maintaining a disciplined defense. Turning to the dark side, even if it were to bring short-term success (and I don't think it would), would set back US soccer decades. I don't agree with everything JK does, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, and credit his statement to a lack of discipline on his part due to his frustration with the outcome of the Brazil game. Time will tell.

  21. Thomas Hosier, June 6, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.

    With nearly 15,000,000 American's Playing Soccer ... surely the USA can discover some homegrown Messis, Ronaldos, Rooneys, van Persies, etc and develop a highly competitive USA Mens National Team? Holland (the Netherlands) makes it to the 2010 World Cup with only a population of 16,000,000 people. Hmmmmmm! See you at the pitch! Taking a coach appart for his choice of words in one interview seems to be the least of our worries.

  22. LaMont Moss, June 6, 2012 at 2:45 p.m.

    I really question if this article is sports journalism. There certaininly is not much factual information. It(this article) smacks of personal opinion. And the title makes a connection the is not based in reason. The result of the US v Canada make is not a reflection on Klinsmann's call for "nasty play". If it were then you would have to say if he has positive results in the future then it is also a result of his call for "nasty play".

    Question? Since some of you are willing to call J. Jone a thug, is L. Donavan a thug for urinating on the field in the stadium in Mexico?

  23. Geno Genowicz, June 6, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.

    Thomas, one of JK's initial reasons for not taking the position (before it was offered to Bradley) lies in your question. As he said back then, our entire system is bass ackwards. For example, Brazilian kids play for free in the bare feet from the time they can stand. A ball (or a facsimile thereof) is always at their feet, and their families and neighborhoods focus in on the joy of The Beautiful Game. In contrast, here in America, we've created an expensive system for kids to play. Furthermore—and I'm not speaking for all American communities—but where I live, the loudest applause in kids' games is consistently generated by someone kicking the ball a long way. Moreover, very many teams are coached by people who really don't understand the game, regardless of how certified they become. The exception to this is low-income, Latino teams, but as a soccer nation, we just don't understand the beautiful game and what makes it beautiful yet. This will take generations and a slow paradigm shift at the local level. JK has chosen some players based on the beautiful-game philosophy, and we've become more creative as a result. As thuggish as Jones is, he's also a creative player. Why JK said what he did only he knows. I can't read his mind so instead will focus on what he does. So far what he's done is focused less on workmanlike soccer and more on The Beautiful Game.

  24. Tadaia Torquemata, June 6, 2012 at 3:22 p.m.

    It's fascinating how Klinsmann's apologists rush to give him credit when the USMNT looks positive or does well, but lays blame squarely at the feet of our own players, even going so far as to insist poor quality rather than poor performance in order to let Klinsmann off the hook. I thought this was about our national team... not about Klinsmann. Stop making excuses for him. While he can certainly be considered one of the finest strikers in recent history, the man has a half-page coaching resume and virtually NO prior experience coaching American players. Apparently he's also clueless about American sporting culture. I do give him credit for having "been there, done that" as a player and perhaps being able to provide vision to the team on the next level we want to achieve. Execution however is another matter. Any coach (adept and experienced... or reckless and clueless) can tell our team to go out there and attack. They're professionals so they are capable of doing so, but coaching and managing the team to be able to do it with success and consistency is what matters. If this is Klinsmann's approach then he can only be given credit if he is successful at it.... not just because he did it.

    I posted this on another blog here but I also have to wonder about the long and short term effects of our "superior" National team coach consistently making subtle and not so subtle public suggestion as to the "inferiority" of his players. More often than not done so to promote and cover his own rear end.

  25. Alexander carels, June 6, 2012 at 8:43 p.m.

    Not that as a Dutchman, I'm inclined to defend one of our forever rivals (think the Bears vs the Packers), but even to the Dutch JK as a player has always been known as a clean, fair and always professional player. And I'm not defending all his remarks at the press conference
    (bad day?), but I do agree with JK that the US team should be more aggressive, which has nothing to do with promoting "violence" or actually "hurting" players as in damaging them. I respect the US team in their all-American fighting to the end spirit, but most of the times they are bland in technical skills, proper aggressive skills and tactical skills. On all 3 levels the US has to still take it to a higher level. Now Germans are known to whine at the referee, make fake dives ( schwalbes or Swallows), but JK is a top, highly intelligent soccer expert and no one on Holland would call him being born with a silver spoon, as much as we'd like to beat the Germans always and ever. And by the way, anyone who writes thatScotland was once a "major" soccer power ???, would be scolded in Holland. Scotland and Who's army????

  26. Hal Hilger, June 6, 2012 at 9 p.m.

    2045 Hours Ohio time and watching two American teams, Sea vs. Cal FC. Those two teams, I am sure are not professionals teams. In Europe they would have a difficult time playing in the 3 division. They would not be seen or mentioned on TV other than in the win or lose column of the Newspaper. I turned the TV, I want to see real soccer.

  27. Cory Leonard, June 7, 2012 at 9:05 a.m.

    Wow. So Klinsman comes in, and everyone knows he's here to change the way we play soccer, and then gets blasted the first time he says anything along that vein in public? After reading this article and the one of Mr. Woitalla, it seems to me that neither one of you has ever played a day of competitive sports in your life. This is soccer, a fast-paced, highly competitive, contact sport. It's not ballet, it's not tennis, it's not a track and field event. People get kicked, stepped on, slid into, and straight knocked down by way of body checking sometimes. Have you ever watched an EPL match Mr. Gardner? Or a Bundesliga match? Or one in Spain or Italy? They can get pretty rough. It's a part of the game worldwide. Did you not see the Brazilians complain to the ref? did you not see Marcelo try to take out Cherundulo? Of course not, you were too busy wringing your hands about the play of Jermaine Jones. Personally, I totally agree with JK's comments. He had every right to be upset with his team. We had moments of brilliance against Brazil but we also had a whole lot of WTF moments. We came out strong, then once the scoreline started to be in their favor, we looked visibly shaken. Timid. Like most of our players were feeling outclassed. Soccer is all about confidence. The more you have, generally speaking, the better you play. Klinsman wants us to step on that field as if we own it, and play that way for 90 minutes. And I know that myself and a vast majority of the soccer fans I know want to see that kind of ball. See us out there playing the game the way it's meant to be played, win or lose. And as much as you rail against it, that involves some rough stuff. I'm not saying we should go out there and intentionally hurt people by any means, but I also don't think we should shy away from challenges just because somebody might get hurt. Would you rather we go back to playing bunker ball? Just sit back and defend for 90 minutes and hope they go away? Oh maybe we'll score on a break, maybe we'll get lucky on a long ball and put one in, and maybe we just won't get beat that badly? That's a losing mentality as far as i'm concerned. I'd rather see us go out and play soccer the way the world does, not some half-assed version of it.

  28. P Van, June 7, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

    Take-aways--Klinsmann had a bad press conference, which he didn't make much better in "clarifying" his comments the next day; it wasn't the first (nor probably the last) time that he's been imprecise with his English. Here, yes, he was even a bit coarse ("pissed off.") Not to be applauded, but in my book not worthy of such bombastic condemnation. I chalk it up to his passion, a bit of arrogance and a learning curve. Let's remember, he's not a writer, like the Soccer America literati. His words are open to interpretation; interpret away--looks like you guys are having fun wielding your soccer moral authority!

    Bottom line for me--he's trying to put something on the field through the coaching of his chosen players that is better soccer than what previous coaches have managed; thus far the results are mixed, but promising in their emphasis on skill (Jones IS one of the more creative, skilled players, even if he constantly is playing red card roulette; his foul on Neymar was a yellow card foul--he got the ball, trailing his leg, but didn't sweep it through particularly recklessly--I'll admit this hasn't always been the case), and a more attacking style of play. Klinsmann's commentary on what America needs to do to move forward as a soccer nation has shown real insight, though there too the wording hasn't been particularly graceful. But the ideas make sense! It's still TBD how things "play out."

  29. Kent James, June 7, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.

    There is a difference (quite a large one) between aggressive, confident, and physical play (all of which I favor) and dirty play (which I oppose). Some have suggested that "it's a man's game", and that that means "doing whatever it takes" to win, presumably whether it's legal or not. Real men intimidate their opponents by "sending a message" with their physical play. JK didn't play like that, and I hope he's not advocating that for the US. If JK thinks we gave Brazil too much respect in the first half, by not being as aggressive as we should have been when they had the ball, I agree with him. But that's actually the opposite of naive. That was because our experienced players knew that Brazil was quick and skillful, and that playing such an aggressive style might open us up for their counters. Naive would be to go out and try to play an open, attacking game against a team like Brazil, and think we could win. But in a friendly, I'd like to see that (which is essentially what happened in the 2nd half), not because I think we'd have a better chance of winning, but to see how we measure up. Beating Brazil by hurting their players, gaming the referee, or adopting a siege mentality and hoping for a lucky break would not be particularly helpful. You schedule teams like Brazil to get better, but to get better, you have to aspire to a higher plane than your current level of play.

  30. Mike Zarn, June 10, 2012 at 10:11 a.m.

    I agree with some of the points in the article. Klinsmann was not very professional in the way he represented US Soccer or himself. Contact sports will always have to walk the thin line between aggressive play and trying to hurt the opposition. It is a nuance to the sport that has to be understood by players and coaches alike. However, the article sinks to a pretty low level to make the point. Specifically where the author is overly critical of Klinsmann’s English. The author claims using the term “guy” to refer to Pato is derogatory. Would it be more acceptable if he had chosen a different word, like “player”? Surely that is subtlety that even a native English speaker might miss. Then later in the article choosing a direct quote of “do a foul” seems to mock his choice of words again. Perhaps, some of the offending language from the press conference following the Brazil game could be attributed to a passionate coach speaking a language that is not his native tongue? Near the end of the article the author writes, “How can an experienced coach go into an important press conference and impute the referee without having seen the easily available TV replays?” However the word “impute” is not correct in that sentence, perhaps he meant “impugn”? As in, when an author is overly critical of the poor English of a non-native English speaker, it impugns his credibility.

  31. Carlos Thys, June 10, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.

    I just wonder how many of us who work real jobs would retain our jobs if we displayed that kind of media oral presentation -- representing our organization to a national and international audience. Ask yourself that. How would your employment superiors view you after those 4:20 minutes?

  32. Kent James, June 10, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.

    Mike: I think PG's point about "the guy" reference was not his choice of words, but rather that he did not refer to Pato by name. I think PG felt JK was disrespecting Pato by refusing to refer to him by name, as if he were not worthy of knowing by name. That maybe a bit picky, but then PG does tend to be hard on coaches...though I think this goes to the lack of professionalism you pointed out.

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