Klinsmann and the Gurus: Weird is the Word

By Paul Gardner

Jurgen Klinsmann's coaching methods have always struck me as having a rather weird fringe to them. Remember the fitness gurus and the team chants with the German national team? Then the curious case of the Buddha statues at Bayern?

Well, OK, if that stuff works, so be it. It worked for Germany, but Bayern was unimpressed and Klinsmann got himself fired. Now, while both Germany and Bayern seem to be getting along pretty well without Klinsmann, we’re getting a close up of his methods as he mentors the USA.

Frankly, the weirdness is still much in evidence. Not that it would matter, not if the USA were winning games and playing sparkling soccer. Klinsmann has had couple of good results. But winning in Italy and in Mexico are wins that look good in the stats, but those were exhibition games and the awkward truth is that the USA did not play exactly riveting soccer in either of them.

But the USA’s two most recent games were almost in the anti-sparkle category: An insipid 0-0 tie for the “B” team against Canada, followed by a characterless 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras. Two games in which the USA struggled and stumbled and stuttered and was frankly boring to watch.

When the results are not there, then the coach’s training methods come under scrutiny. Klinsmann has let us know, repeatedly, what he finds lacking in the make-up of American players. They don’t play enough games, they lack the every-day challenging, competitive environment that youngsters face in all the major soccer countries.

A criticism that certainly has merit, though I find it extraordinarily odd that Klinsmann has so little to say about college soccer -- still the training ground for the majority of American players, and the perfect example of what he is complaining about: a short season and a comfortable ambience.

Klinsmann doesn’t like the comfort-zone atmosphere. He’s also let us know about how he would like to alter that. The key word is “nasty.” That’s what he told us after the USA got mauled 4-1 by Brazil last summer: "We need to get an edge, [get] nastier." Any attempt to soften Klinsmann’s word is ruled out by his follow up: “Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do.”

And if there are any doubts remaining, you can just take a look at the player whom Klinsmann lauds as the ideal of this presumably super-fit and certainly nasty profile -- the German-American Jermaine Jones. I can find nothing positive to say about Jones, a player with an appalling disciplinary record in the Bundesliga, the player whose gratuitous and nastily and dangerously vicious foul on Neymar during that Brazil game should have led Klinsmann to disown him. It did not -- Jones still plays for the USA. A triumph for nastiness, and a clear spelling out of what Klinsmann means by it.

The demand for more games might also be viewed with some suspicion, given that there are plenty of coaches around -- World Cup coaches -- who feel that players are involved in too many games. It has become a commonplace to excuse players who do not perform well in the World Cup by saying they’re tired, they’re “coming off a hard season.”

Of more immediate impact are a couple of aspects linked to the number of games: physical fitness and diet. Klinsmann has plenty to say on these topics. The health gurus are in evidence, and there is now a nutritionist. Can a national team coach, who sees the players for very limited periods, really control things like fitness programs and eating habits? Come to that ... are we being asked to believe that, in this day and age, young American athletes don’t know how to eat properly? I doubt that Klinsmann is confronted by a gaggle of fast-food-munchers and soda-guzzlers whenever he calls a national camp.

Well, OK, attitude, nastiness, eating right and keeping fit -- I’ll get back to them shortly, but for the moment, let’s listen to what Klinsmann has to say about the soccer. Speaking before the Canada game, Klinsmann emphasized “We want them to enjoy themselves ... play fast-paced soccer, be there for each other, do a lot of movement off the ball.” He told the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman of some aspects that had improved during his time in charge: “The passing pace, the movement off the ball, playing out of the back with confidence.”

Playing out of the back is, to some extent measurable, by taking note of what the goalkeeper does. Does he belt all his kicks way downfield -- or is he prepared to throw or roll the ball to a teammate? The Canada game was not a good occasion to assess this, as the U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson had very little to do. But against Honduras, Tim Howard saw plenty of the ball and had numerous chances to initiate “play out of the back” sequences.

Did he do so? He did not. Howard had 31 occasions to put the ball into play (including goal kicks, free kicks, clearances) -- and for 23 of these, he used the long ball, towering high kicks sent way down field. Only four times did he throw the ball to a teammate. When 75% of the goalkeeper’s distribution efforts are blind whacks upfield, it’s hard to detect any great inclination to “play the ball out of the back.”

Klinsmann’s wish for “a lot of movement off the ball” would no doubt be shared by most coaches. For sure. No coach wants his players standing around. I once asked the Dutch coach Rinus Michels, the putative inventor of the “total soccer” style, for his thoughts on the matter. He replied “It is not difficult to get players to do lot of running. But to get them to move intelligently ... ah, that is not so easy.”

I’m not at all sure how one measures intelligent running, except by looking at a team’s rhythm and at its results. The poor U.S. results against Canada and Honduras strongly suggest that all is not well in the movement-off-the-ball department.

In the Honduras game, the USA was opposed by a strong team playing on its own field. Losing that game was no disgrace, but it’s surely OK to feel that Klinsmann, in charge of the team for a year and a half, should be giving us something better. What we’re getting does not look detectably better than -- or different from -- either Bob Bradley’s or Bruce Arena’s teams.

From that point of view, it seems to me that heavy criticism can be visited on Klinsmann not for the loss in Honduras, but for the tie with Canada. After all, the U.S. team, “B” team let’s call it, was not patched together in five minutes. Klinsmann had selected these guys, and they were good players -- in fact, five of them had been part of the MLS All-Star team in July.

Crucially, and tellingly, Klinsmann had these guys in camp before the game for three and a half weeks. Evidently, that is not long enough for Klinsmann to get them playing the way he wants. Which is pretty bad news, because Klinsmann will not be getting any group of players together for much longer than that.

Just before the second half of the game, Klinsmann was on TV, explaining a tactical switch he was about to make, then adding that he wanted the team to play with more urgency. The attitude of the players, then, was too relaxed.

But how could this be so after those three-and-a-half weeks, when Klinsmann must surely have brought that up, one of his pet peeves after all, again and again? And is not Klinsmann supposed to be a dynamite motivator?

Something is wrong here -- either the master-motivator is not so master, or the American players fatally lack the competitive streak. Or maybe they’re just too nice? That is, not nasty enough.

I strongly doubt the latter. As for Klinsmann’s coaching and motivating methods, that gets us back to where I began. To the weirdness factor.

Consider the topics -- Klinsmann’s topics -- that we’ve been looking at: mental attitude (including the nastiness thing); fitness; nutrition.

There is a strong thread running through that group. They are all self-help topics. Your local bookstore will offer you dozens of books dealing with them. And each book will claim to represent the ultimate wisdom. Just do what we tell you -- the right mental exercises, the correct diet, the proper fitness routine and you’ll be conquering the world and leaving the wimps behind. We have entered the world of gurus.

When Klinsmann told the WSJ: “I certainly feel part of the American life style. I adopted a lot of components” he must have been talking about the California lifestyle. I’m not about to say that listening to the health gurus and the diet gurus and the motivational gurus is a total waste of time. But I do regard it as a bit weird. And when the gurus are employed to operate in areas where their expertise is unlikely to produce any dramatic effect, I have to wonder why they’re being employed at all.

Over all these guru topics there hangs the unsavory suspicion of hucksterism. A suspicion that can only be dispelled by proof that the gurus are delivering. Are Klinsmann’s gurus delivering?

Back in September last year during preparations for the world qualifier in Jamaica, there appeared at the USA’s national team camp -- at Klinsmann’s invitation -- a motivationist Donnie Moore, who climaxed his rousing harangue by ripping up phone books, breaking baseball bats, and then rolling up a frying pan. Boy, I mean, how inspirational can you get?

Suitably fired up the USA took the field and lost 2-1 to Jamaica in what was probably the team’s worst performance, so far, of the Klinsmann era.

Yeah ... I do find guruism weird.

63 comments about "Klinsmann and the Gurus: Weird is the Word".
  1. jasonbrus jasonbrus, February 25, 2013 at 4 p.m.

    i saw Jermaine Jones played in UEFA and just amazed that he was all over the field, both D and Offense. i think he is amazing. as to weird or normal, being an american of minority descent, i understand and experience the "weird" calling all my life, i actually take it as a badge of honor. but may i address two call outs Mr. Gardner made
    1. re: College Soccer. what about college soccer? -:) problem with college soccer USA is, we are "soft", mostly suburban white kids kicking around not hardcore, school of hard knock, boyz from the 'hood training, like those of basketball, NFL football, baseball... which is the same environment how brasil, argentina even germany "breed" their soccer talents. thus our players are lacking in stamina, both physical and mental. thus you have Donovan calling in for sabbatical to "rest" or "self discovery". most NCAA soccer players are there to earn a degree, not going to EPL. unlike our NCAA basketball players, basketball IS their life long vocation. if they don't make it to NBA, they play lower leagues, go overseas. our white suburban players go on to MBA, grad schools to become anything but soccer. this is GOOD for america, good for them but NOT GOOD for USA soccer.

  2. jasonbrus jasonbrus, February 25, 2013 at 4:08 p.m.

    2. re: diet of pro players. i read that Ryan Giggs is a life long vegan (full disclosure: i myself became vegan 5 yrs ago and totally fixed my own health). speaking from personal experience, diet DOES make a HUGE difference in health, energy and stamina. i am no pro athlete but the energy i have for my daily exercise is 10x improved after i became vegan.

    i am not into preaching anything against white suburban america or pro vegan but just share a different perspective from Mr. Gardner's. i appreciate Mr. Gardner's analysis nonetheless.

  3. David Mont, February 25, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.

    Can't disagree with a single statement in Mr. Gardner's article. The only way to save this World Cup campaign is to get rid of Klinsmann.

  4. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 4:38 p.m.

    I will say it again: It does not matter if you have Jurgen Klinsmann, Pep Guardiola or Sir Alex Ferguson as our National team coach, the issue is how we are raised playing soccer. Jurgen can only do so much with what he has and what he has is pre-programmed robot's playing soccer. Yes, they might be fast robots but this is a special game, if you do not have the skill, composure and creativity to go with it then we will not be able compete consistently with the rest of the world.

  5. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 4:41 p.m.

    Why is it we only produce great goal keepers and not great players. This is not rocket science folks. The reason is players from a young age abroad are playing in the streets dribbling, doing tricks in tight spaces, trying to meg players, making up there own moves, juggling, kicking off a wall, a curb, getting pushed, playing until they can not run anymore (correct fitness training). Keep in mind, there are no coaches screaming, they are making their own mistakes and learning from them, winning a trophy has nothing to do with it (their bragging rights is megging their friend), and by the way the friend that just got megged is infuriated and works hard to win the ball back - it is a war on the streets for them.

  6. Dan Phillips, February 25, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.

    I am afraid hiring Klinsmann was a huge mistake. No wonder he was fired at Bayern Munich. 20 different formations to where no one knows what they're doing. We obviously cannot have a lone striker up top, yet Klinsmann insits on this, game after game, instead of going to the traditional 4-4-2, which US is used to. Where is the offensive punch he was supposed to bring? Nowhere. Where is the improved passing game? Nowhere. Where is that we are going to be proactive instead of reactive? Nowhere! The guy sucks as coach. Makes Bob Bradley look great!

  7. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 5:04 p.m.

    You are missing the issue/the problem/the point. You need players - Forget about tactics. We have fit/fast college players at best. Thats it? Any good player can play anywhere on the field, any good team can play players in all different positions and it does not matter. The problem is players, not the coach or tactics. Once a player steps onto the field it is up to him to show himself and all we can show is the physical side of soccer. We have NO dribblers, NO skill, NO technique, No composure on the ball, NO creativity - Just robots. I can tell you what a player will do with the ball before he even gets it. That is pathetic. The problem is we need to make a paradigm shift from Sunil & the Federation. Period!!

  8. Derek Dunmire, February 25, 2013 at 5:14 p.m.

    bitch bitch bitch you are never satisfied always crabbing about something. Klinsman is doing what he can give the man a chance

  9. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 5:17 p.m.

    Nothing against Klinsi at all. He has no players

  10. Miguel Dedo, February 25, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.

    College soccer. With what would you detractors replace it? Who would pay for that?
    Other countries have good players because they are out on the street dribbling and playing 20 hours/day on their own? Delusion. Lionel Messi has been in a controlled environment since he was 10 years old.
    My advice to players, enjoy playing the game, in whatever environment your culture provides. If this does not please the 0.05% of the US population that wants you to contribute to their vicarious enjoyment of the US as a soccer power -- ?

  11. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.

    College soccer is counter-productive. It is a waste of any real players time. Either go to Europe ASAP or play for an MLS academy team which has finally started.

  12. Dan Markey, February 25, 2013 at 6:11 p.m.

    I think the writer is reading way too much into the past two results and using that as a means to vent his underlying emotions. What I am trying to do with the boys is to generate a culture of attacking football. Honduras was stiffling and hot, so we we're just outran. Against Canada, I think I emphasized possession too much and Beckerman just kept passing the ball around the midfield with little attacking intent. BTW, why are you picking on Jonezie? My fellow countryman just scored a Champions League goal and this was not a fluke, it was entirely consistent with what he brings to the table. Nasty fouls? That is a problem for other teams, not us.

  13. Alberto Mora, February 25, 2013 at 6:20 p.m.

    Mr.Gardner, What you may see as weird about Klinsmann is the same thing that 90% of the US people may see when you don't know Futbol. In 1994 when the world cup was here in the US I said that will take at least three (3)generations of americans to understand futbol, the good thing is that you won't be around to understand "The beautiful game of futbol".

  14. Dan Phillips, February 25, 2013 at 6:34 p.m.

    Klinsy has the players. We have more players playing in European leagues, and starting, than ever before. We just do not have a decent coach. Klinsmann was the wrong choice, I am sorry to say. And I was all for his hiring at the begining. But I am sorry to say, he has been a huge disappointment. No tactics, no strategy. Just like Philip Lamm said when he was at Bayern Munich. "We looked around at each other and said, he (Klinsmann) will be gone in 8 weeks". Sure enough he was fired before the end of the season. Just because he was a great striker as a player, does not make him a good coach.

  15. Nut Meg, February 25, 2013 at 6:47 p.m.

    Players? Who? Also, name the players playing in Europe on legit teams. I only know about 3. In addition, they have good players around them. You are way off. Its all about the players not a coach. Wow, you can honestly say a coach will make a team/performance. Klinsi has runners, not players. FC Bayern Munich and US National team are apples and oranges. At that level all you are doing is controlling ego's mostly, thats why they call them managers. We have no players. Very simple, but I am sure that is way over your head.

  16. Amused Seal, February 25, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

    So we're still being willfully ignorant about what Klinsy's "nastier" comment meant least May?

    Before it was edited to "[get] nastier" in this article, the phrase was that they needed to play "more nastier". i.e., English isn't his first language, so we should not be reading deeply into the semantics of one single word choice. He and several players clarified what that meant a few days later, and it definitely wasn't "we need to play like thugs."

    Some of those additional comments are here:

    In particular, the players sure seem to understand what it meant:
    "I think we all knew what he meant by nasty – get a little tougher, have a little bit more bite," Geoff Cameron said. "It wasn't a vicious thing."

  17. Dan Phillips, February 25, 2013 at 7 p.m.

    Players? Dempsey, Shea, Stuart Holden, Jozy, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Terrance Boyd, Timmi Chandler, Fabian Johnson,Josh Gatt, Charlie Davies, Herculez Gomez, etc. etc. All play overseas in EPL, Bundesliga, Italien, Scadinavian, or Mexican leagues. We have players. We need coaches to teach them how to play good tactics. Sadly, Klinsmann is not that man! All he teaches is fitness, and how to pray to the Buddha.

  18. David Mont, February 25, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.

    To Alberto Mora: Paul Gardner knows more about soccer than you ever will (btw, there is no word "futbol" in the English language). And being happy about another person's death speaks volume about what kind of person you are.

  19. David Mont, February 25, 2013 at 7:17 p.m.

    It's kind of funny that with Klinsmann's alleged emphasis on fitness, the US team under him appears to be less fit than under previous coaches. If nothing else, the US teams before Klinsmann were always more fit than the opponents. With the fitness guru in charge, we seem to have lost even that edge.

  20. Cathie Currie, ph.d., February 25, 2013 at 8:27 p.m.

    @Alberto Moro: Your comment has no place in soccer. I second David Mozeshtam's remarks on that.

    Coaches, and fans, say our players must get tougher on their plays, to barrel through the opposing player's body and space.

    Whereas it is far more successful to find 'negative space' -- space the opposing player can't even dream of getting into, until after you've left it.

  21. Gak Foodsource, February 25, 2013 at 9:21 p.m.

    I don't think a nutritionist is weird. Discussions of Klinsmann's coaching tactics miss the point. He is the national team coach. He can only manage players. There isn't enough time to develop or train them. All he can do is encourage them to think differently on the field. If Howard doesn't want to play out of the back, it is his decision. One thing I have never understood about criticism of the American game is why it is directed at the wrong people. Klinsmann doesn't control US Soccer - he manages the national team. Klinsmann doesn't sign players to contracts, spend sponsorship money, or certify leagues and teams. Gulati and Garber do that. They control every foundation and structure within US Soccer. Failure falls directly at their feet.

  22. David Mont, February 25, 2013 at 10:27 p.m.

    I find it fascinating that the same people who were so quick to blame Bob Bradley for every failure of the US national team are now so quick to blame everyone but the national team coach: US Soccer, Gulati, Garber, every foundation and structure, all the wrong people. The latter group apparently includes everyone but Klinsmann. And, sorry, but if Klinsmann tells Howard to play out of the back, Howard will play out of the back. No player will dare to disobey the coach, especially in such a matter. Are you saying that Howard doesn't know how to throw the ball a teammate? I think he has shown that he does many times, against Algeria, for example. If he's not doing it now, it must be because Klinsmann, for whatever reason, doesn't want him to. Funny, how when Howard was booting the ball downfield during Bradley's reign, it was Bradley's fault. Now it's Howard's fault.

  23. R2 Dad, February 25, 2013 at 11:44 p.m.

    It's not going to matter what kind of fiddling around the edges JK does if both Dempsey and Donovan are injured/not fit in 16 months. Sadly, I think Timmy and our back line are too old to comfortably play out of the back. Yes, we did it with Algeria but we didn't do it well and once the ball got to midfield we couldn't do much to get it into the attacking 3rd on the ground. Algeria is ranked 34th--how will this play out against higher ranked teams? I think reality has set in. Without access to world class 17-20 year olds or a system that can provide them, JK sees that our players can play a possession style against weaker opponents but will need to resort to kick and run to counter against teams that possess better than we do. So, at least we have a plan B, which is better than what BB could offer. Maybe that will come in handy in Brazil? I think JK misjudged the latitude that came with this job, which I suspect has more juice in the German version. What he really needs is Gualti's job, but Sunil is only 53 and can survive another 25 years building the national leagues but basically doing nothing for the youth systems that so desperately need more structure and less free-wheeling capitalism at the expense of our most promising young players.

  24. Allan Lindh, February 26, 2013 at 1:14 a.m.

    Deuce, J Jones and M Bradley play almost every day on good teams in top leagues, Geoff Cameron looks solid at Stoke. Cherundalo must be getting near the end of great career. Stu Holden has been out for almost 2 yrs, and who knows if he will ever be back. Altidore plays in Holland, down a step from a top league. I count five real players in Europe, plus two maybes. The rest are marginal, or on second or third tier teams. If we need 15 real field players, where are the other 10 going to come from. None of the young German players, or any of those from Mexico, have exactly dazzled. If they are going to provide the 10 more needed, we might just make the World Cup, but will be out early. We don't have the skill players, that is not JK's fault. Even if Landon comes back, and 1-2 of the MLS hopefuls come through, we still appear to be about a half dozen real players short of a picnic.

  25. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 7:40 a.m.

    Hey Dan, so here is your list of so called players:
    1. Dempsey - Yes
    2. Shea - Just got to EPL - but kind of like him
    3. Stuart another defender - boring!
    4. Jozy - doing well in an only an ok league - but finally playing well
    5. Jermaine Jones - will give you a yes, but I do not like him that much - too focused on the physical
    6. Bradley - yes
    7. Terrance Boyd - who is that
    8. Chandler - another defender rah rah player - Boring. We have 100 of them
    9. Fabian - another defender - bottom of bundesliga - boring!
    10. Josh Gatt - Norway - please
    11. Charlie Davis - Danish Superliga - please - but I did like him before his accident
    12. Herculez - at least he is offensive minded

    So, like I said maybe 3 players. I guess you call anyone a player who is playing in Europe. Once again, US has no players, just runners. The problem is not the coach like I stated above it is our system and how we play "college" soccer at best. We need to start producing real players but that comes from U10 & up. We do not have the correct philosophy in place and that comes from Sunil & the Fed.

  26. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 7:44 a.m.

    Allan, well said. Finally someone seeing the reality. Check out all my post. I know US soccer and I know the people and players involved. We need a complete overhaul of our mentality and youth system ASAP!!!

  27. Joe Bailey, February 26, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.

    Klinsmann sucks. He's a great player, but not a great coach. A Ham Sandwich coaching Germany in Germany is going to get the team to the semi-finals. And then he ran into Lippi... I still feel he was given a raw deal at Bayern, I do. But the US team is a mess. Let's try to get Bob Bradley back...

  28. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.

    All about the players

  29. Luis P. KIFUTSAL, February 26, 2013 at 9:51 a.m.

    Like some people mentioned, USA players cannot devote the same time as Brazilians and Argentinians devote to soccer. Too much distractions, too much school work to get done. Above all, the competition among them is many times unfair and unrealistic! Youth coaches try to put the best together to win, winning they call themselves great coaches, winning the players think they are on the right path. Sorry tournaments, players who can't trap, pass, dribble, cross, move of the ball, at the age of 14 he has 300 medals and 200 trophies at home. American families are not deeply involved in soccer for generations...despite the fact they are going broke spending on coaches' fees, soccer gear, gas, travelling, food and hotel like no one else in the world! They stop their lives to watch NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB games, but they still don't stop their lives to watch soccer leagues' games throughout the world. We still find soccer players who don't know who the greatest soccer players were or are. They don't watch the game enough. Say they are fan of a certain team and player, but you ask about a nice play or team roster, they don't know can't tell. Most of the professional MLS players are picked from colleges, and the real soccer player he does not have too much time to spend with school, you will not find him in colleges because he can't afford or does not meet the school minimum requirements. How he will get scouted to play MLS and eventually be at the national soccer team roster if he is not attending any college? Mr. Klinsmann is not a magician, and no matter how well he does coaching, training the team, if the team is not good enough, you will be reading stories like this one above until he gets fired! Bring Mr. Mourinho, Guardiola, Ferguson, Parreira, Dunga...he will not do it too! All the answers are all there for you to see them...

  30. Luis P. KIFUTSAL, February 26, 2013 at 9:52 a.m.

    Think about the best coach you know and wish he could be the US Soccer Head Coach! Now, bring him over to Mr. Klinsmann's spot, and you will soon realize again that coach is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem in USA soccer is its youth developmental ages growing up from 0 to 14! Watch the videos from Zico, Maradona, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi...when they were just 9-10 years old. They were already doing things with the ball exactly how they were doing at the age of 25! They simply improved through the phases, got faster, got physically stronger...Now they put the academies together, and they believe they found the problem...Which academy player you know moved up the levels and is excelling at the professional level?Don't be fool by seeing more Americans in Europe! Which one of them play for a top Champions League caliber? Pick an academy and go watch their practices from 12 to the 19s. Same movements off the ball, no CREATIVITY!!! Coaches standing by the sidelines and all the wrong bad habits happening under their own eyes. Also, just now US Soccer is demanding Futsal to all US Academy Clubs by 2014? Who will be doing the Futsal part for the academy clubs? For how long? Three months? Their soccer coaches really never played and never coached Futsal before? If they are going to start to do Futsal just because the federation is demanding them, you can tell who they are and never really saw, felt, believed what Futsal does to to youth players growing up...Oh, let's sign the teams up in a Futsal league! You are doing no good to them at all! When these players get to any decent true developmental coaches, they are lacking the major principles in skills, awareness and true passion for the game. Mr. Klinsmann is not a magician! None of the coaches is!

  31. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 10:09 a.m.

    Amen Luis. read my post above. So far you are the only getting it!!

  32. Andres Yturralde, February 26, 2013 at 10:59 a.m.

    JK and his guru tendencies are kind of weird, but let's not get carried away here. Think one game at a time, one goal at a time. Don't start talking Germany, Brazil, and Argentina. Or telling me Messi and those other supernovas. All those dudes have their own plan and strategy, which fit their own infrastructure. The hard reality JK and the USMNT seem to not want to face is that it is always more difficult to win away from home. Not to mention the competition is not getting any weaker and wants a piece of the action. So plan accordingly: leave your guru stuff at home; get ready for battle when you're away.

  33. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 11:02 a.m.

    blah blah blah - that made absolutely no sense Andres. We have no real players!

  34. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.

    You can say it is not the coach, but the players. But when Bruce Arena took us to the quarterfinals in 2002, we had hardly any players playing in Europe, and starting. And if not for weird handball call in box we might have won. USA was also ranked in the top 10 in FIFA. So don't tell me about players. We have better players now (maybe not best), yet are doing worse! Why, becuase Klinsmann is a lousy coach. Why did he not last at Bayern Munich? They have great players! Because he does not know how to coach. No tactics. Philip Lamm said so in his book. It rings true to me! We may not have top flight players in the world, but we should be doing a lot better, especially in the weak CONCACAF. Stop making excuses for Klinsmann. He needs to get his act together, and soon!!! Or be fired!

  35. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 11:29 a.m.

    You answered your own questions. Bruce had different players & in a diff time. The world has changed, soccer has changed. In addition, FC Bayern Munich & the US National team are apples & oranges. Don't forget, our US National team which is full of mostly fit college players can make any game ugly & win - Soccer is funny that way but they would never be consistent. We need real players not runners and we need another 15-20 years and only if we change our entire system

  36. beautiful game, February 26, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

    Nut Meg gets it. It's a reality check and most of the bloggers are in fantasyland. Great athletes in every sport practice and compete hours every day (i.e.,in the hood), and their passion is the driving force to succeed. The real question is, what qualities does each individual player on the USMNT bring to the pitch, namely, handling pressure, evading pressure, efficacy with and off the ball, and a high soccer IQ; how many are able to play with simplicity and make things happen. So blaming coach JK for his team's latest shortcomings is a bit unrealistic. Besides, we should take solace from the delusional American TV commentators on how great we play.

  37. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.

    You said it!

  38. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 12:08 p.m.

    What a buch of bullshit. What college players? We've had MLS since after the 94 World Cup. Landon Donavan is not a college player. Tim Howard is not acoolege player. Herc Gomez is not a college player. We have had 16 years of MLS. We have had several years of players playing in EPL, Bundesliga, Italian League, etc. What a bunch of stupid excuses. It's the cooach, stupid. Arena and Bradley studied other teams weaknesses and exploited them. It's why we were able to win some big games from time to time. JK all he cares about is fitness. No stradtegy. And ludicrous formations. That's not going to cut it.

  39. Nut Meg, February 26, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.

    I can not possibly have a conversation with you because you have the naive blinders on & have very little education, experience and knowledge about soccer. Its not your fault, you only know what you know from your experience and that is very obvious. See you guys on the next topic which will mostly be the same - lol

  40. Daniel Clifton, February 26, 2013 at 12:27 p.m.

    I agree with all of those who have commented that our youth development has to improve. Someone has commented how children in countries such as Brazil and Argentina are playing in the streets at a young age and that is where they are developing their amazing skills. When I was a kid I was learning to play football at the local school field. What I don't see in our country is children out in the streets or local school yards playing soccer or any other sport. This is a cultural thing in our society. Over the years children apparently have for the most part stopped playing pick up sports including soccer. Our youth sports are too adult oriented now. I don't know how you change that environment. As for Klinnsman as a coach the one criticism I level a him is the use of too many defensive midfielders in conjunction with the use of the 4-3-3, which is clearly not working.

  41. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 12:39 p.m.

    Dude, I play soccer in an Amatuer Adult Soccer League. I know what I am talking about. Klinsmann is not the man for the job. Read Philip Lamm's book about his stint at Bayern Munich. It is eye opening. USMNT is in trouble with this coach, unless he makes a drastic trunaround!

  42. Jamie Nicewander, February 26, 2013 at 2:05 p.m.

    NICE to see some serious discussion!

    "We need to get an edge, [get] nastier." Any attempt to soften Klinsmann’s word is ruled out by his follow up: “Maybe we don't want to hurt people. But that's what we've got to do.”

    THAt was THE quote that got so many people going... with so many comments I figured I just jump on in...I think what he means is... our players need to play less like POOFS and more like players who have pride in their jersey and their country.
    That doesn't mean hurt other players but sometimes is a byproduct. What it means is a killer instinct, the alpha male instinct inside great players that WILL NOT allow another player across from them to impose their will upon them. A 'manning up' if you will. A 'hunger'.
    The 'who wants it more' factor.
    I think that is something that every coach wants in his/her players.

    Now,,, if people are just looking for a reason to complain, I guess you can make more of it, but at this level, it is no longer...'kindly run and give the ball to the opposing team on a throwin' kind of game anymore.

    That all being said, a different approach takes time to develop and Klinsmann should have our support.
    Armchair quarterbacking isn't anything new I guess.
    If I had to lean to one side or the other on this debate,,
    NUTMEG, your camp gets my vote today!

  43. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 2:50 p.m.

    That's nice, but he has not developed that. Nor a proactive approach. Nor more offensive. Nor a better passing game. Nor more tough nastiness. Nor aggression. Nor hunger. Not even better conditioning. They looked listless in the game agains Hondures. And stop blaming heat or field. You're a pro. You should be able to handle any condition. Hell, they play in snow in Europe. And sometimes in mid-August Europe experinces heat wave that gets into 90's. No more excuses. It's time to step up to the plate and perform. Klinsmann needs to motivate the team to do that. If he can't, he should step down. This is riduculous. Bradley and Arena did better jobs with a smaller talent pool.

  44. Ramon Creager, February 26, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.

    We've seen this over and over, in soccer as well as in other sports: new coach comes in, is going to change everything by imposing his distinctive system, cannot do so with the players he's got to work with, and fails. But we also see the other kinds of coaches: they come in, assess the talent, strengths and weaknesses of their roster, and plan accordingly. Usually, this latter type of coach succeeds in getting the most of the roster, sometimes quite spectacularly. (In the NFL, Steve Spurrier is an example of the former, Joe Gibbs of the latter. Their records speak for themselves.) The USMNT simply doesn't have the talent needed to "play out of the back", and to dominate possession. (BTW, the possession stat is a good measure of intelligent running off the ball. You cannot keep possession without intelligent movement; just watch Barcelona FC.) I think that JK, being a Steve Spurrier type rather than a Joe Gibbs type, is not well suited to take this team very far. He got away with it with Germany (and had Lowe). Bob Bradley was more pragmatic, and got the most out of his players. This team just cannot go further without a serious talent upgrade, it's as simple as that.

  45. Joe d. Shaw, February 26, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.

    Talent is not the problem. The problem is that USSoccer has been sold snake oil medicine by a new age huckster named Klinnsman. He is a talker, a con man who has put one over on us all. He simply does not inspire confidence once one sifts through the talk, not unlike a recent President whose incompetence has lead to fiscal catastrophe the effects of which will be felt for some time. The USMNT will not qualify for Brazil under the managment of this fake. Sunil Gulati, it is sad to say because he is a terrific person and leader, has to assert his authority and replace Colonel Klink before it is too late.

  46. Mike McGinley, February 26, 2013 at 4:39 p.m.

    I, like many, have read a lot on Klinsmann since he was named our national Coach. To date not an impressive record. This is the first article I have read that questions his abilities as a coach. And, I believe, Mr. Gardner brings up quite a few points worthy of serious thought on his team's performance - and him as well.
    We all have our own thoughts of what is wrong, how it went wrong and why it is wrong. I look back at other High School sports like football and basketball and know that those players who come out of HS and go into college (and that is exactly where they get picked for the pros)don't do it 24/7. Our country is huge, sprawling and we're not packed into tight spaces where a kid can go out and get together with another dozen and pick up a game, be it football or soccer. Remember Jordan, maybe the best the game of basketbasll ever produced, didn't make his HS team, I believe, until his junior year. We, as a country, bleed off a lot of our highly talented youths into many other sports other than soccer like no other country.
    We can all complain that we do not have great players, but that isn't so. As a country we have some of the very best athletes in the world. Our problem is, soccer is not near the top sport of the young athlete.
    I also believe the club system we currently have that I have seen is more interested in pure skill rather than individual athletism, including speed. Our school's football and basketball programs are highly defined and hugely successful and a huge amount of emphasis is placed on raw talent with a coach knowing how to develop. I don't see much of that at the youth soccer level - 'better have it before you come here or else'....
    We look to Europe as our Valhalla of Soccer gods while we have been so much more successful in other sports developing young talent. I do not believe there is a youth soccer coach emulating a successful football or basketball coach - disaplines are the same, just the differences in developing the talents and skills. But we "need" to do it like the Europeans. If the Europeans are that great, what other sports are at the top of the heap over there - or better yet, what exactly are they better at other than soccer? Not the economy for sure. And if its only soccer, is that an abberation? Or just a coincidence? or luck for playing it a lot longer than us?

    I think Mr. Gardner has opened up a serious discussion that won't be decided in some while. Coaches who are not successful do not survive regardless of fault, knowledge or previous success or lack thereof. Thank you, Mr. Gardner.

  47. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.

    Again, There is a reason why Klinsmann was fired at Bayern Munich. No tactics. He has a month to get it together before Costa Rica/Mexico. If he does not, I believe, he is gone!

  48. Jamie Nicewander, February 26, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

    Nice Creager.
    McGinley...Im not that well versed but...I would point out that I see our colleges are looking for 'bigger, faster, stronger' athletes, maybe its just perspective on where we are at. I don't see the highly technical players at the higher levels, so I'm not sure where they went in the clubs near you that had them. Maybe they are being passed over for bigger athletes, that's a shame if its happening. Speed is always a plus,but you don't have to be big to have it. Speed of thought is even more valuable ie. tactical understanding.
    Europeans are doing it right in some cases and incorrectly in others. With much smaller pools of players they are producing better players/teams.
    There is nothing wrong with taking the 'best' of both worlds...the concepts of the european soccer communities and then instilling an American flair of individuality,hard work, and panache.
    We have never had an issue with any team we (USMNT)have lost to being more athletic then our national team players. Our players are very athletic, they just need more tactical acumen, better understanding of game situations and exactly what Klinnsmann asked for,,that edge....that panache.
    NFL Football is distinctly different in form of coaching. 11 minutes of action where 'plays' are taught to be memorized. Not much room for creativity there. Football created the bigger, faster, stronger, mentality which works great for the nfl but not necessarily for world soccer(at the loss of technical, tactical skills). So,Im not sure we should be rolemodeling much there...albeit, I do coach high school and I have used my impressions and studies of football coaches I admired from the midwest to shape the structure of my soccer program.
    Interesting point, In both the NFL and NBA you have a large majority of one race dominating both those sports. It has become part of an identifying factor of the culture within a culture to be an athlete in those two sports. I see it to some extent here by the border with mexico. I am often told by kids when I am encouraging kids to play soccer.."only mexicans play soccer" and the the other kids (other races) in our area play football and basketball instead. WILD.
    We are such a diverse Nation and I think there is room for everyone but we need a leader in the soccer community at the national level to focus our talents as a whole into one driving force rather then splinter groups, teams, clubs etc..ultimately the goal should be to create a National team that can compete on the National Stage. All efforts should go towards that endeavor.

  49. James Froehlich, February 26, 2013 at 6:36 p.m.

    NutMeg -- you are spot on !! The one point I would add is that JK is trying to implement a paradigm shift in how we play and he is doing so without having a sufficient number of players with the necessary skills. The EASY answer is to go back to the old style of play! In all honesty, that would probably mean some short term improvements but unfortunately Bradley and Arena (and England) have shown how far that will take us. If we really want to move to the next level we will have to bite the bullet now so that future players and the youth coaches will know what the path to the top looks like. As for Klinsmann's stay at Bayern, it's not as straight forward as Herr Lam puts it. I went back and read the newspaper articles during that period. JK was trying to change the entire style of Bayern's play and encountered great resistance from the OLD guard. His weird motivational actions earned a lot of press but were not the real issue. He was not in first place in the Bundesliga but was close and he got knocked out of the Champions league. On the other hand his team was scoring goals and playing attacking football. Also, certain players like Lam were stirring things up. After JK's departure, Bayern spent buckets of money to brting in several new players (Arjen Robin among them). It's only last year and this that Bayern has finally gotten straightened out after numerous coaching changes -- blaming JK is pretty silly when he was only there for 2/3 of a season.
    JK was brought here to change things -- thank god -but you don't do that over night when you're talking about the entire culture and an entire generation of players. He has started by attempting to correct the awful omission of Hispanic players. Take a look at the U-20's. -- and don't even cry about their record !! look at the individual talent!! There are 5 or 6 players there with more passing and ball handling talent than 90% of the MNT. That's the future ands it's now in sight. BTW Mr Phillips, being a current player in the US means that more than likely, you are part of the problem, not the solution. With all due respect.

  50. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 6:52 p.m.

    You are entitled to your opinion. And I sincelerly hope you are right and JK takes us to the next level. But I highly doubt it. Not by his past record. His successs in Germany was due more to Joachim Lowe, than Klinsmann himself. He has had little coaching experience. Other than GNT, and short stint at Bayern, USMNT has been his longest job. That is not a great resume. But we'll see. I really do hope USMNT progresses and makes WC 2014. But right now I am pretty skeptical.

  51. beautiful game, February 26, 2013 at 6:54 p.m.

    ...culture dictates sports and the only aberration I've seen is exemplified by Giuseppe Rossi, a hugely talented a successful player who did not have the misfortune of being coached at home.

  52. Dan Phillips, February 26, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

    If JK does not win at least one of the two games coming up, Costa Rica and Mexico, he should be fired!

  53. David Mont, February 26, 2013 at 8:49 p.m.

    I think it's very likely the US will be 0-2-2 after 4 games and in great danger. And, unfortunately, unless the team loses both Costa Rica and Mexico games, Klinsmann will keep the job for at least one more game.

  54. Bill Anderson, February 27, 2013 at 8:33 a.m.

    Now I find out Mr. Gardner doesn't just hate the English. LOL

  55. Dan Phillips, February 27, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.

    I think Klinsmann will probably tie Costa Rican and lose to Mexico, which after 3 games will give us 1 point. USMNT is in deep trouble with JK.

  56. Ramon Creager, February 27, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.

    I think US Soccer has only one realistic choice at this point, and that is to see this out with JK. We've already played one game of the hex. But then again, we've *only* played one game of the hex, and it's not the end of the world yet. If a change is made, it should happen now. Later would be too late. Even then, change at this point could be worse than what Klinsmann has to offer.

  57. Dan Phillips, February 27, 2013 at 12:45 p.m.

    Maybe so. I guess we are stuck with "no tactics" Klinsmann. Let's hope we qualify for WC 2014.

  58. Dan Phillips, February 27, 2013 at 1:05 p.m.

    “We practically only practiced fitness under Klinsmann," Lahm said, according to excerpts published in German newspaper Bild and translated into English by several outlets. "There was very little technical instruction and the players had to get together independently before the game to discuss how we wanted to play.”

  59. Dan Phillips, February 27, 2013 at 1:09 p.m.

    Lahm, a 27-year-old defender who has played more than 80 times for his country, also wrote, “All the players knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann. The remainder of that campaign was nothing but limiting the damage."

    Klinsmann lasted less than a season in Munich and was dismissed in the spring of 2009. Bayern was three points off the Bundesliga lead at the time and had been eliminated by Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, which was nothing to be embarrassed about. Klinsmann, however, ran afoul of both his players and club management because of several unorthodox methods, including importing American fitness coaches and forcing players to do yoga.

    Players publicly criticized Klinsmann’s tactics, claiming they were too offensive and naïve, and Brazilian midfielder Zé Roberto said one of Klinsmann’s half-time talks toward the end of his reign consisted only of, “You have to score a goal.”

    Klinsmann’s assistant coach with the German national team at the 2006 World Cup, Joachim Löw, often receives the credit for the revamped side’s stirring run to the semifinals. Germany has continued its improvement with Löw in charge, advancing to the European Championship final in 2008 and winning the bronze medal at the 2010 World Cup.

  60. Andres Yturralde, February 27, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.

    Hey hey, you, Nut Meg... It's all about the players? Who cares about the coach?Who cares about tactics? That's what's known as dismissive ignorance. Did you happen to catch Barcelona vs Real Madrid last night? Or, more to my point, AC Milan vs Barcelona last week? It's not just about the players, Nut Meg. And it's not just about the coach. There are plenty of ingredients that go into a match. In the case against Honduras, you are undermining the opponent and the fact that you are playing away from home. It's a different kind of battle, the hobo reminded me, to play away from home. No matter how good you are--even if you are Messi--it will be rough. You can't just come out swinging, trying to look pretty, and nutmeg your way to the goal. There is something to be said for being respectful, for planning and preparing, and for staying focused. Evidently, during this last match against Honduras, JK and the USMNT did not do that. But that was just one game, just their first game. Bear that in mind. There are still nine other games to play in this Hexagonal. Now, if JK and the USMNT don't produce and grab at least four points in the next three matches, then come talk to me--and I'll go with you and get everybody fired. But until then, there's no reason to rant and rave about how so great the rest of the world is and how so messed up we are. Capish?

  61. Luis P. KIFUTSAL, February 28, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.

    There isn't a coach in any sports who can win World Cup Qualifying type of games without having the quality, high caliber players to work with and bring the wins home! The 85% from the players and 15% from the coach make the 100% effort they need in place. Mr. Klinsmann can't do much with the type of players he has. How do you grade the USA players right now? How much you think the players in place can add up? Look at Donovan! He realized no matter how much he works on fitness, nutrition, ball skills and awareness, when he faces the World Class teams in soccer, he knows USA will struggle all together! Donovan is the King of USA Soccer, where did he play or could play in Europe or even Brazil? USA always masked their true qualities qualifying off Concacaf. What if USA would have to qualify off Europe or South America? Do you think they would be coming to any WC at all? The other Concacaf teams caught up to the level, they all want to go to the #1 land of soccer, visit expenses free and play the WC...who does not want to be part of that? USA don't have the best quality group of players. The other Concacaf teams know that, and USA players better catch, leave their lives on the field if they wish to qualify to the 2014 WC. The fear of missing this chance to go to 2014 WC in Brazil is already getting on USA players and staff. Donovan caring less also sounded like a bomb within the USA Soccer and nutrition vitamins to the once weak and now more hopeful opponents...Mexico is solid as always and the USA is the team to beat and be left behind if they don't wake up in time!!!

  62. beautiful game, February 28, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

    Luis makes beaucoup sense. Believe it or not amici sportivi, it appears to me that coach JK is trying to test anybody/everybody in order to get some kind of team cohesion. Problem is that too many players on the USMNT have developed bad habits and can't deliver the goods...i.e., none of our strikers come close to the JK in his playing days.

  63. Frank Cardone, February 28, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.

    It is a comlex, multi-faced problem but one thing I am certain about. I cannot give JK my full support until he takes Jermaine Jones off the roster. In my humble opinion, he does more harm than good and should take his troubles elsewhere. As an original Metro Stars/Red Bulls fan I cannot describe how happy I was when Rafa Marquez was finally let go. I hope Jones is next.

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