By Paul Kennedy
) Jurgen Klinsmann
is at it again.
After the USA's 3-2 loss to Chile, he blamed the second-half collapse on his players being in preseason form, weeks behind the Chileans --
the domestic-based Chileans who form La Roja's "B" team and who had begun the Clausura season three weeks earlier.
Now he says some of his players weren't actually in preseason form,
blaming a lack of "culture" for certain players not doing enough in the offseason to get themselves fit.
Klinsmann, widely regarded as a fitness freak, said American soccer players lagged
behind their counterparts in the NFL and NBA in the way they treated their bodies, reported
“It's difficult for me now to get them out of vacation," Klinsmann said. "Some of them played their last game in October. In October! I want to help them get back
into shape, get back into rhythm, but, oh, by the way, we're going to play [two friendlies]. So some learned over time and prepared themselves really well, and some don't have that knowledge yet.
“They don't have that 'Oh, OK, at the beginning of December, go to Athletes' Performance in Phoenix and get myself fit.' That culture we don't have yet. What the other sports are doing
really well, they use their preparation for preseason, four to six weeks prior to going into preseason with their NBA team, NFL team of whatever, they go to these fitness institutes and they get
The problems with the MLS schedule should come as no surprise to Klinsmann. It's not the players whose teams are challenging for MLS Cup who are the problem, but
the players whose teams didn't make the playoffs or were eliminated in the play-in games -- those players who last played at the end of October.
Of the 22 players who have been in the
January camp and played in MLS in 2014, eight finished their MLS season at the end of October. And of those eight, five didn't accompany the national team to London and Dublin in November. The point
is that a key group of players faced long layoffs.
“They've got all the material," he said of the exercise regime players were given to work on the offseason. "They should have done
that [work] twice a day, but reality is still different. Reality is, education-wise, we are not there yet, that they understand, 'Oh, I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' It's a lot to discuss.
It's fine. It's just where we are right now, and we want to keep improving.”
If Klinsmann was so worried about the fitness of the players, U.S. Soccer should have sent them to
Athletes' Performance. The U-20s faced a similar issue, so U.S. Soccer organized a fitness camp for 10 U-20 candidates in Florida in early December. Sure, the time frame was slightly different -- the
U-20s went to Honduras in mid-December and reassembled a week before the national team to get ready for the Concacaf tournament in Jamaica. But if some kind of fitness initiative was good enough for
the U-20s, it should be for the senior national team.
The phrase that stands out in Klinsmann's last remarks, though, is "It's fine." It's one his favorite expressions along with his
SoCal speak like, "It's cool" or "It's a bummer."
Either, it's fine or it's not fine. If he was so upset that certain players didn't follow his workout guidelines, why didn't he send them
home right away? Saying "It's fine" smacks of an air of resignation about the national team and the environment in which it operates.
Nothing Klinsmann says is wrong. It just misses the
point. The fitness of the national team is not the problem. MLS was in-season for the four previous friendlies, in October and November, when the national team was outscored, 7-0, in the second
If the USA isn't winning, either the players aren't good enough or the coaching isn't good enough, or a combination of the two. No, it's not Klinsmann's fault that three starters
against Chile -- Jozy Altidore
, Bobby Wood
and Brek Shea
-- had started a
combined eight league games in the previous six months and changed clubs during the January window. But why does he bring them into camp, let alone start them?
Klinsmann is respected.
He's well-spoken. And he's enthusiastic. All qualities that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati
saw in him when he gave him the bully pulpit to exact reforms on
American soccer. But there is a diminishing return to Klinsmann's incessant lecturing. He's starting to lose people, which is not what you want when your team is mired in a slump.
should tell Klinsmann's players to take the bully pulpit with them and give it an imaginary toss into the Pacific Ocean on their next morning beach run.
Klinsmann's bully pulpit has
become a distraction.