Commentary

Klinsmann handles it well - so far

By Mike Woitalla

Jurgen Klinsmann reacted admirably to the scathing criticism leveled at him in Brian Straus' Sporting News article about how he's coaching the USA.

The coach seemed unruffled. Remained his usual positive self. He didn’t respond with a rant against the media, as so many public figures are apt when criticized. Many coaches have tantrums when a story comes out that upsets them, making themselves look even worse.

Klinsmann did, legitimately, question the veracity of the journalism because it was based on anonymous sources.

“It really doesn’t bother me that much,” he said. “If it’s true, which obviously it’s still a rumor because if you say ‘anonymous sources’ then you gotta name it, then you’d rather prefer as a coach or as individual, no matter who you are, that people talk to you directly if they have something to complain about. It’s as simple as that.”

Of course it’s nobler to tell someone face-to-face if you have a complaint. Anonymous sources are problematic. The reader has no idea what axe the accuser may have to grind.

But how likely would it be that players would go on the record with criticism of the coach who will determine whether they’ll get to play in a World Cup?

Players tend to like their coaches till the time they’re benched. Even those who are starting can be inclined to blame their failure on someone else. Players saying, “He’s not getting the best out of us” might simply not be delivering because of their own deficiencies.

But what if the anonymous sources include players who happen to be correct in their assessments? I have no idea who the players and are, but some of the same criticism, such as his overemphasis on fitness, has been leveled at Klinsmann before. Christian Nerlinger, Bayern Munich’s general manager during Klinsmann's ill-fated stint as Bayern coach, later complained “the team spent more time in the gym than on the field.”

It just could be that some of Straus’ anonymous sources were pointing out some real flaws in Klinsmann’s methods. And it could be that Klinsmann reacts by making changes in his approach that will get the team on a smoother track to the World Cup.

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