Commentary

Klinsmann kicks Bradley when he's down

By Mike Woitalla

There's an old saying that I think makes some sense: "Praise in public, criticize in private."

It’s one that Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t adhere to. We got a lot of it during his ongoing bashing of the USA’s greatest player ever, Landon Donovan.

Klinsmann couldn’t even manage to refrain from criticizing Donovan on the eve of his farewell game.

The latest targets of Klinsmann’s public jabs have been Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. Two men who like Donovan have contributed more to the progress of American soccer than Klinsmann has yet to match.

On the eve of the USA’s 1-1 tie with Honduras on Tuesday, Klinsmann ripped Dempsey and Bradley for returning from Europe to play in MLS.

Dempsey had been under fire before from Klinsmann -- who offered the opinion last year that Dempsey “hasn’t done shit.”

I get what Klinsmann is trying to do -- raising the bar higher in hopes of motivating even such brilliant and accomplished players as Dempsey to not be complacent.

But is disparaging the likes Bradley and Dempsey publicly before a game really going to get the best out of them? It doesn’t seem so based on what happened against Honduras on Tuesday.

Dempsey is in the midst of a pretty darn good season with the Seattle Sounders. Bradley, on the other hand, is going through perhaps the toughest episode of a stellar career while playing with a historically dysfunctional club he’s trying to resuscitate.

Both Dempsey and Bradley took a break during the most crucial part of their club season to play in a friendly game and were greeted by Klinsmann’s criticism -- which of course went viral.

Bradley, who had an ankle surgery a few months before the World Cup, had a disappointing tournament. That must have been a difficult experience for a player whose dedication and efforts for the USA have always been beyond reproach.

Against Honduras, Bradley was making his first return to national team since Brazil 2014 -- days after Toronto’s playoff chances decreased to a sliver and showing signs in recent MLS games of being a man in distress.

On the eve of Bradley’s return to the national team, Klinsmann did what’s referred to as kicking a man when he’s down.

It’s time for Klinsmann to reevaluate his motivational tactics. And while he’s at it, realize that his MLS-bashing comes across as a hollow excuse when he can't lead his team to a win at home against Honduras.

49 comments about "Klinsmann kicks Bradley when he's down".
  1. Brent Crossland, October 15, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.

    I think that Klinsmann's taking a much larger view than just Bradley & Dempsey. It's hard to argue that the level of competition or the quality of teammates at Toronto is anywhere close to that at Roma. Also hard to argue that a player's quality is partially dependent on the level of play he is exposed to day in and day out. Thus -- international players who choose to stay or return to MLS have the additional burden of trying to maintain a level of sharpness that exceeds the game that surrounds them. THAT challenge faces both Dempsey and Bradley . . . and any other MLS player who aspires to play for the national team.

  2. Margaret Manning, October 15, 2014 at 11:50 a.m.

    Sorry, but Klinsmann didn't do any such thing. He goes to press conferences mandated by US Soccer and is asked pointed questions by reporters looking to "go viral." When he gives an honest response to such questions, his response is taken out of context and spun as a hot headline. If you are so worried about players being upset before a big game, perhaps you should not ask questions of Klinsmann concerning what they have or have not done correctly in their careers, because Klinsmann apparently takes press conferences seriously and gives direct answers.

  3. beautiful game, October 15, 2014 at 11:51 a.m.

    What's the big beef? MLS is a second tier league with mostly third division soccer IQ. Good players can't get better in the MLS; look at the consistency level of the better players who have to rely on the efforts of the marginal ones.

  4. Chris Thomas, October 15, 2014 at 11:51 a.m.

    Can we stop the Klinsmann bashing? You have actually 3 players coming from the European level, which came into the MLS. Maybe to improve the MLS level, which it really needs. Still feel like watching 2nd European league when watching MLS. However, for their careers they did, from my perspective, the worst decision ever. Disappointing. Previously you had Top European League level playing in the national team with these 3, that is gone, and for these 3 will not happen that quick again (probably never). Same with Donavan, who is a great player, but did not have the guts and discipline to succeed in Europe, for the glory being everybody's darling in the MLS (and being mommie'd). It is not that Klinsmann want the MLS not to succeed, he wants to bring Top European League level into the national team, not 2nd league quality.

  5. Mike Jacome, October 15, 2014 at 11:52 a.m.

    The fact is that Klinsmann has always understaimate and despised MLS. He always rather pick US player playing in second divion European teams tham MLS players. Klinsmann should think that the growth of MLS means the growth of the US national team. I believe that the return of Bradley, Dempsey and even Jermaine Jones is enriching our league, and thus increasing our potential for the national team (with the right coach in command).

  6. Tim Gibson, October 15, 2014 at 11:53 a.m.

    I like what JK is proclaiming here & aiming it @ Vets like MB & CD is the right thing to do. The message JK is saying goes beyond these 2 & clearly states (to me at least) that for the next World Cup cycle, you will not make the team base on previous accomplishments or resume alone. Ya gotta be IN shape (Uh-hum, Landon) and beat out those challenging for the same spot. The next cycle WILL only include the best 11. Why is that a problem? Using the vets like MB & CD in the press (and they get it as to why) gets the word out to us fans, the media prognosticators AND all the other players vying for spots. Consider yourself clued in now to what he expects from all. GO USA!

  7. Joyce Macmahon, October 15, 2014 at 11:57 a.m.

    Other coaches are shown the road after their failures. Clearly Klinsman doesn't have the USA's best interest at heart. After what he's done to Landon Donovan guess he needs to make his way down the list. Disgusts me and I can't wait until he's been replaced.

  8. Chris D, October 15, 2014 at 12:05 p.m.

    When players elect the comforts of home, and the challenge of raising the bar of MLS play, Klinsy is not required hide his opinion of their decision. Klinsmann is EASILY the best manager the USMNT has ever had, and you think he's concerned about a few players who are in their late twenties and thirties? I'm thankful for Bradley and Dempsey's contributions to the USMNT, but the direction is forward, not in the past. He's calling those guys up because they're still the best players in their positions, which isn't honestly a very good thing. If Klinsmann was our managers for the last decade until now, players like Bradley and Dempsey would be considered third-tier at best.

    No Klinsmann would mean no Green, Brooks, Jones, Williams and so on... We're better off with our coach's tactics.

    The days of guys like Bruce Arena are gone (praise the Lord).

  9. James Buckner, October 15, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.

    Strange how we can criticize others but others can't criticize us.

  10. Bernhard Purk, October 15, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    Mike, cut the crap!
    Don't fault JK's criticisms of his players when they put on a lackluster performance like last night's.
    If Bradley and Dempsey can't do better than that when they're playing at home
    in front of their own fans against a team that coulda, shoulda been beaten,
    they ought to get a verbal kick in the ass, at the very least, or get benched.

  11. Charlie Roberts, October 15, 2014 at 12:36 p.m.

    Klinsmann's job is to develope the national team, not the mls. I think we all would like to see the mls grow, including Klinsmann, but not to the detriment of our national team. The reality is that we can only hope CD and MB mainiain what they have, but it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue developing in an mls environment. Klinnsman is making an example of the senior players in order to send a message to the younger players. These guys are big boys and make a ton of money, they can handle the critcism.

  12. Chris Morris, October 15, 2014 at 1:22 p.m.

    Good discussion here but what has not been addressed is that the choice was not between CD and MB playing in MLS versus their playing for Spurs and Roma respectively. The choice was between being a mainstay in MLS and being a marginal squad player in Europe. Both had dropped down the pecking order at their former clubs to the point where they could expect to play only in domestic Cup games or to be loaned out. We know JK’s position on this: stay in Europe and fight for your place. A good case study here is Geoff Cameron who is trying to do just that but so far this year he has zero EPL minutes. So, to be realistic about it, is our national team better off when someone gets 90 minutes every game in MLS, a second-tier league, or when someone does not dress for games in a first-tier league? That depends on whether you think it is more important to be playing all the time or to be immersed in a highly competitive atmosphere without playing much.

  13. Mark Konty, October 15, 2014 at 1:33 p.m.

    @Chris Morris
    Cameron has been injured all season so that comparison is off the mark. Re: Bradley, he was the #4 midfielder in a traditional 3-man midfielder, which meant he got substantially more than "domestic Cup" minutes. True, he wasn't a starter, though he did start three consecutive games after Totti got hurt in the middle of Roma's record-setting unbeaten run last year (which included a game-saving goal by Bradley to extend the steak).
    No doubt the MLS v Europe is a contentious issue for JK but give him enough credit for taking so many MLS players to the WC.
    I agree with Margaret Manning (above), JK is asked tough questions, answers honestly, then has to deal with a press who takes snippets out of context to stir up the latest viral storyline. Case in point was the "we can't win the World Cup" comment. If you read the entire quote in context it is clear that he is offering an honest assessment of where his team was at that point in time, and frankly anyone who thought the US was going to win the WC in Brazil is a moron. He obviously believes his team can win any single game, but that is not the quote the press was looking for.
    Oh, and he did guide his team out of the group of death and was a Wondo-shank away from the quarterfinals.

  14. Vince Leone, October 15, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.

    If our national team players don't have the mental toughness to deal with the "bashing" described here, we are in deep trouble. U.S-based players are not developing as fast as those elsewhere--does anyone really disagree with that? Do we want the USMNT coach to pretend that it's ok?

  15. Allan Lindh, October 15, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    Jurgen Littleman's cannibalistic attacks on our best players are wearing very thin. Am I the only one who noticed how good the USMNT looked last Friday for 40 min., with LD and a bunch of kids on the pitch? Were it my call, I would ask grumpy old Bruce Arena to come back for a Cameo after the MLS Cup, and take us at least through next years Gold Cup. Better a grumpy old man than a light-weight twit like Jurgen Littlemann.

  16. j bapper, October 15, 2014 at 1:53 p.m.

    This guy Klinsmann is a joke. His motivational tactics are U-8 level. We are not making any progress and everyone knows we were outplayed for the majority of the World Cup and were incredibly fortunate to advance.

  17. EEE 17, October 15, 2014 at 2:12 p.m.

    Do you write these ridiculous articles to get everyone all riled up or do you really think that we should treat an adult professional soccer player like a 10 year old??? Should we say "It's OK little buddy, you're trying your best and that's all that matters". The only players that should be playing pro in their own country are from Spain, England, Germany and Italy. Every player on the planet works towards playing in one of these leagues and those clubs are not watching MLS to scout players. I don't understand why people like you are so sensitive. You take everything the wrong way. We honestly need Klinsman to give it to us straight and tell it how it is instead of people trying to sugar coat everything. To be at the top level it is not alright to play in a league that is full of novice and retiring players and it is not all right to have a sabbatical at age 30!!! Now the next generation of soccer players know that.

  18. Chris Morris, October 15, 2014 at 2:32 p.m.

    Mark Konty, I was not referring to Cameron’s status at Stoke when he was injured earlier in the year but to the past few weeks when he has been declared fit but still has not seen the field. I think JK is right that the team would be better off with Bradley and Dempsey still in Europe, but the unfortunate fact is that Americans do often choose guaranteed playing time here over uncertainty there, Maurice Edu being a recent example.

  19. David V, October 15, 2014 at 2:56 p.m.

    Let's all just stop talking about JK... let's just start talking about his replacement

  20. Charlie Roberts, October 15, 2014 at 3:25 p.m.

    Kids in our country are getting the message. We can read almost weekly of a young teen moving or on trial with clubs around the world. Hell, mls teams are starting to sign high school age kids for fear of losing them abroad. JK is raising the standards regardless of how you view his tactics.

  21. Craig Lange, October 15, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.

    “Praise in public, criticize in private” is a sound practice when dealing with all human beings, but it is especially useful when dealing with young athletes. From a certain viewpoint, what you have stated is true and I have no problem with anything you have written. In saying this, however, I would like to shed light on the topic from a slightly different perspective.

    In this particular situation, Coach Klinsmann is dealing with highly skilled and intrinsically motivated professional athletes with whom he has forged close relationships. These players possess strong character and are not only able to withstand the criticism, but thrive upon it. Granted, to call a player out in the media may seem an unwise decision, but the motivational element cannot be overlooked nor discarded. For generations, top professional coaches of every sport have used the media to transform attitudes and motivate players.

  22. Kenneth Cabral, October 15, 2014 at 3:39 p.m.

    It's Klinsmann that "doesn't know shit". He's down on the MLS and any American who plays in the MLS gets verbally abused. I say Klinsmann can go back to Germany. He won't be difficult to replace.

  23. Rick Estupinan, October 15, 2014 at 4:23 p.m.

    Well,I just finished reading all your comments,and what can I said against or in favor of the once famous forward of the German team.No matter how good he thinks those guys he brings from Germany are,for me they are just mediocre footballers.Yesterday the US team played an awful game.I have seen better games played between American College teams,than this boring ugly game I saw yesterday.I would say that the only one trying hard at times was Bradley.But my god,out of ten distribution passes that he made,seven went to the opposite team The one so precised pas to Altidore who scored a good goal.It was a gem.That pass was a la Pirlo,the great Juventus meddle fielder.Dempsey let go of a terrific shot that if had gone in,would have been a great goal.Too bad there was no replay of that play.That was his only astounding deed of the night.Corona,bad Graham Suzi,very erratic.In sum,a pitiful game to watch.
    Maybe Klinsmann have to look for better player other than in Germany's second division,maybe just here at home.

  24. Edgar Soudek, October 15, 2014 at 5:16 p.m.

    Klinsmann, go back to Germany and your "Lebensborn" forefathers...

  25. Vince Leone, October 15, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

    I have been an MLS season ticket holder since year 1, and you will not find a bigger MLS fan than me. That doesn't mean I'm blind. To me, it's clear that the average player in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and Serie A are better than the average player in MLS, and I think it's because the competition for those spots is harder. All JK is saying is that tougher competition produces better players.

  26. johnny c, October 15, 2014 at 8:52 p.m.

    We are America, and we grow from within, we create and build our own resources and we always succeed. This is why we are the greatest nation. But all I hear from JK is how great Europe is. Our founding fathers believed that we would be the greatest nation and that is the American way. Obviously JK will never understand that because he is not American.

  27. johnny c, October 15, 2014 at 8:56 p.m.

    Please remember, the next Messi is playing in our own backyards today, but JK believes he is playing and eventually should play in Europe. I am sorry but that is not the American mentality.

  28. Kent James, October 15, 2014 at 9 p.m.

    Chris Morris, you're analysis (playing time in MLS v. lack of playing time in Europe) is spot on. To JK, there is only one answer (Europe), whereas I think it depends on the player. What I find most troubling about JK is that theoretically, he is supposed to be the coach looking at the big picture, helping the US gain stature commensurate with our athletic stature in other sports, yet he should know, that in the long term, the US must have a strong domestic league for that to happen, so the MLS is the key. Yet all he ever does is belittle it. Likewise, we need to develop our own players, yet he seems to spend more time scrounging around the German leagues looking for US passports than he does with US development. And yes, answering questions a reporter asks honestly may be commendable, but is not always diplomatic (and JK should know this, since he seemed to punish Donovan for doing that very thing). And finally, if he sought to motivate players through public criticism, it didn't work. So by JK's own standards (the harsh reality of results), he failed. I thought JK might help US soccer get to the next level, but his actions in the last year or so have me worried on that score...

  29. R2 Dad, October 15, 2014 at 11:44 p.m.

    While JK criticized MB in public, he still let him play the AM spot at the tip of the diamond last night (not his natural position), allowing him to show if he deserves to be trusted there (he doesn't, and turned the ball over regularly). It's easy to be critical of JK, but the nativists commenting here shouldn't be so butthurt. JK was hired to make changes and changes to the status quo are going to be painful, uncomfortable and at times humbling.

  30. Edgar Soudek, October 16, 2014 at 7:19 a.m.

    And I can't wait NOT to see his pinched, arrogant, Aryan poster-boy face on the US bench anymore...go away Klinsi-bimsi

  31. ROBERT BOND, October 16, 2014 at 9:02 a.m.

    Klink was as smart about Landon as Loewless is about Kiessling...

  32. Tim Gibson, October 16, 2014 at 9:03 a.m.

    Edgar, Edgar!....c'mon Lad = totally UNcalled for

  33. KC Soccer Dad, October 16, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.

    Klinsmann can say what he wants. The players are going to make choices that make sense to them financially. If he thinks there are better players for his team, Klinsmann is certainly entitled to select them. Despite his machinations, the USMNT is a long way from being a serious threat world-wide.

  34. The Face, October 16, 2014 at 11:06 a.m.

    KC, yes it does and maybe more than that if the MLS doesnt start taking player development seriously. That would be the best way for Garber to prove Klins wrong. There is absolutely no reason why the MLS currently does not have the best dvelopemnt program in the world. It starts with the current system and then followed with the scouting(nonexistent) and coaching (extremely bad) at the youth levels. MLS Academies, at the very freakin least, should easily able to dominate the nonMLS Academies. Where are you at with that one Garber??

  35. Allan Lindh, October 16, 2014 at 3:11 p.m.

    Lest we all forget, in WC2014 the US:
    1. Beat Ghana
    2. Tied Portugal
    3. Lost to Germany 1-0
    4. Took Belgium to OT, could have won in regulation, if Landon Dovovan had been on team.

    Most of our players were from MLS. Where is the evidence of the vast disparity in quality between MLS and the European leagues? Sure MLS soccer is ugly, needs tighter refing, but in head to head competition, we do much better than you would gather from all the negativity.

  36. The Face, October 16, 2014 at 4:02 p.m.

    Allan, USA sucked. Let me put this in perspective. Basically any one of the bottom 20-32 teams could have done the same or better as USA by using the saem strategy. Bunker down and hope to get lucky. Getting dominated by Belgium in every stat while losing in OT is called getting lucky. Same vs Ghana.

  37. The Face, October 16, 2014 at 4:02 p.m.

    Portugal was the worst team in the tournament.

  38. The Face, October 16, 2014 at 4:05 p.m.

    When you see a USA team get more shots on goal than the other team thats when you start believeing you have quality. We celebrate stupid wins like the one vs Costa Rica in 10 inches of snow!! Thats soccer to us!!! After watching Costa Rica really compete (not bunker) do we still belive we were better than them??

  39. David V, October 16, 2014 at 7:34 p.m.

    Everyone knows Europe is much better, why even debate it... La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, even the IPL (International Premier League, Portugal, ... but here's the deal, that's not the point, JK is no genius for knowing Europe is better, everyone knows that... Let's all just stop talking about JK... let's just start talking about his replacement

  40. James Froehlich, October 16, 2014 at 9:31 p.m.

    Margaret Manning, Edie Espinosa, Brent Crossland, and various others -- thanks for your measured, rational comments in the midst of the juvenile name-calling and nationalist rantings. It's interesting that these folks offer no logic for their rantings, they just spew their bile! There are of course some who disagree rationally with JK's comments. It's them that I address. IMO JK has a perfect right to call MLS to account. Despite Garber's attempt to portray himself as the defender of homegrown MLS players, his organization regularly brings in foreign players with higher salaries while at the same time paying little if any attention to the development of young US players. (Thanks to "The Face" for this point). The players in the existing programs are routinely ignored by their parent teams with the rare exception getting first team playing time.b "America-firsters" in the audience might want to chew on this a bit! Back to JK: IMO JK has a perfect right to criticize his players and if they are true professionals, they will handle it. We are not talking about little boys, even if that is who Mike W is used to dealing with! If an NFL coach said that a player or players were making poor decisions or weren't meeting their potential there wouldn't be a ripple of comment. Or if a football coach said that his league or conference was weak, who would start crying about all the bruised egos in that conference? NO ONE! But in the still naive world of professional soccer, this is a firestorm. Time to become professionals! The soccer media first--that's you Mike W!

  41. charles moraes, October 16, 2014 at 9:53 p.m.

    American prodigy , this kid is playing in the club of Brazil, the son of a Brazilian father where he lives since he was 8 years and says his dream is to play for the US Men’s National Team!!
    he was born in Dallas – TX, on 06/20/2001
    link to youtube.com

  42. charles moraes, October 16, 2014 at 10:02 p.m.

    search youtube His name lucas ordonho

  43. Peter Skouras, October 16, 2014 at 10:49 p.m.

    Klinsman was spot on! Finally, someone made a statement: The domestic structure in the US does not produce the standard required. How he said, who he said it to does not matter! What matter is that US Soccer get the "3" Leagues together and create a Promotion/Relegation. And don't tell me about "Economics" between the Leagues. BS. Make it happen! But one place "Promotion" goes below the "3" Pro-Leagues are the Mens Leagues with their "Outrageous" Football. There are "2" or "3" clubs here in Los Angeles in the UPSL that would give the Galaxy a run. So just as in the rest of world, a "League Cup" which is our Open Cup could be beneficial for "coming close to winning it...remember, back in 80's and in prior years the main representatives to CONCACAF qualifications would be US Amateur Teams...LA Macabbee, NY Greek-Americans...etc. But Alexi did say it..."is Soccer embedded in US Mens amateur Soccer? It most certainly was at one time! The entire thing is a "crazy!"

  44. Peter Skouras, October 16, 2014 at 10:54 p.m.

    Edit...FA Cup...US Open Cup

  45. Peter Skouras, October 16, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.

    Someone mentioned JK's replacement...EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO and a new" DOMESTIC COMPETITIVE STRUCTURE needs to be built. This is not AYSO guys...everyone plays but it certainly seems so. Terrible, I am atrocious MLS clubs have no business in the MLS while NASL and USL need to climb the latter. But I understand, unless you've played in this system or lived in a town supporting your local club with a "chance" maybe a "chance" to finish in the top 3-4 and the excitement and stress that goes with it THE AMERICAN SOCCER FAN, PLAYER...WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND. PROMOTION/RELEGATION are foreign words...or are they? These words were never allowed in the US Soccer dictionary. I will say this responsibly and from "true" experience...the Promotion/Relegation system is "one" of the most "elements" of the game that anyone would want to experience!

  46. Peter Skouras, October 16, 2014 at 11:07 p.m.

    "exciting elements"

  47. Peter Skouras, October 16, 2014 at 11:08 p.m.

    You go Margaret!

  48. Margaret Manning, October 17, 2014 at 12:28 p.m.

    Joyce Macmahon : Klinsi most successful US coach to date -- other guy suggesting that Klinsi return to Germany--JK has lived here for decades.

  49. The Face, October 17, 2014 at 2:38 p.m.

    It amazes me that so many of us are so quick to defend Bradley, Clint and Donovan but have no problem shitting on Freddy Adu, who is a skilled player. Could it be that Freddy's development years were lost in the MLS?? And therefore he never really took off as a player?? Maybe We would be talking about Messi the same as Adu had Messi developed in MLS.

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