Commentary

Time to toss Klinsmann's bully pulpit

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

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 MLSSoccer.com's Scott French.

“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 themselves fit.”

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 half.

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.

Gulati 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.
34 comments about "Time to toss Klinsmann's bully pulpit".
  1. James Froehlich, February 3, 2015 at 11:28 p.m.

    "If Klinsmann was so worried about the fitness of the players, U.S. Soccer should have sent them to Athletes' Performance. " Paul, I am going to be very kind and assume that you wrote this article solely to stir up some "hits" and some responses! See, if I didn't assume that then I would have to believe that you are totally ignorant of the history of US soccer culture and completely naive as to the changes in US soccer that will be necessary to make us a real "soccer nation". Your words above are a perfect, succinct, portrayal of the "two practices a week, game on the weekend" mentality that permeates the US soccer mentality and professionalism. "It's not the players responsibility to come to camp prepared to play, the coach should just call some more practices."!!!
    Actually, time to be, not-so-nice. Soccer America grew up on youth soccer and it has never grown beyond that. The culture of your site totally lacks any understanding of the professional environment, yet you insist on inserting yourself into discussions where your "everyone plays" attitude is out of place and down right, naive. There is nothing wrong with a site directed at youth and college soccer, it's needed. But please stick with what you know!

  2. Lou vulovich, February 4, 2015 at 9:21 a.m.

    So now Klinsmann is not allowed to state the truth
    as it is some kind of personal attack on American
    Soccer players. The only criticism I have again is there should be more young players capped from MLS. The same players keep getting games and do nothing with their opportunity so why not bring in some different players and accept that your selection and scouting is not turning out to be very good. There are many talented underperforming young players in the MLS. Maybe one Orr two will step up in a different setting.

  3. Joe Linzner, February 4, 2015 at 9:42 a.m.

    The lack of understanding of what it takes to be a successful professional Fussball Spieler is incredible. Lets just use basketball for an example. How many pro's carried a basketball everywhere as youngsters, dribbled and shot endlessly arcing balls at hoops and got into impromptu pickup games daily, joined leagues as youngsters just as competitive as the NBA where you excel or are shown the door. Conversely, how many AYSO players do that? How do you expect excellence to flourish when soccer is merely a tool to secure a few hours of babysitting where parents drop off their kids and a few even expect the "coach" to bring them home. I know, been there and have done it after every practice, even after games. Was even told that soccer is just a way to participate in School athletics because no other sport would have me..by of all people a coach's son. Soccer has to be played year round, No not competitively but certainly leidenschaflich and for fun. I certainly could not wait to get home and after chores head for the field and play or shoot at the goal from any and all positions, Back to goal, bouncing ball, side of foot, spent an awful lot of time chasing the ball in retrieval until the darkness set in and the ball turned into " where the hell is it. It just does not happen here in the US. THe Pros today did not grow up with such a mentality nor the desire. At best we have dilettantes peopling our National Team who seem to not understand that being a pro means it is their responsibility to stay in shape and the surprise shown at being reminded that it is their own responsibility to stay in shape is laughable and to criticize an individual who points that out is ludicrous. To give a podia to a xenophobe who has no idea what makes a good professional soccer talent is just plain ridiculous. Mr. Kennedy, write about couch potatoes with whom you share verifiable expertise.

  4. James Froehlich, February 4, 2015 at 10:01 a.m.

    Joe L -- thank you! Great insights. I remember stories of Pete Maravich practicing his dribbling while lying in bed and even at the movies!

  5. Kevin Sims, February 4, 2015 at 10:07 a.m.

    You can't handle the truth! ... keep stirring things up, JK ... keep pushing ... keep raising expectations ... keep sharpening ... players who respond will make USA better!

  6. Futsal nation, February 4, 2015 at 10:47 a.m.

    Kennedy, why arent you guys as critical of the Youth National Team"s Coachs, selections, results?? The U20 barely made the World Cup losing to Panama and tying Guatemala. The U16's lost to Norway nd Turkey (both shutouts) in rather weak Algean Cup. The U18's just got eliminated out of group play in Copa Chivas where Mexico's U17 and Chivas U17 did go through. U17's have ,most to Brazil now several times since you guys celebrated the win vs them in Florida Nike Freindlies 1 year ago. Why is all this ignored from you guys?? If you do post you offer no insight on this alarming situation. But Klins speaking truths at Senior level is a BIG DEAL!!! Makes me wonder.

  7. cony konstin, February 4, 2015 at 11:02 a.m.

    JK I have been coaching in the US for 40 years. We have always had good players in the US but we have never had any superstars like Pele, Messi or Best. The problem is not that we don't have good players. The problem is two fold. One that we don't have any great players and secondly the system needs radical change. You can complain until all you want but radical change is only going to come when we have new leadership and a 21st century master plan that is mandated and implemented. Soccer in the US is treated as a hobby and not a way of life. We need radical change to flip this approach to how we treat the beautiful game. How? It is simple we need 300,000 futsal courts in our inner cities and another 300,000 futsal courts in our suburbs. Our kids need a place to play 7 days a week, 365, for free, and with no adult interfence. The kids need a place that is theirs. Their own sanctuary. Futsal can be our version of street soccer. We need to get away from a coaching environment and create a total playing environment for our kids. We are creating robots and not magical warriors. It is time for you to stop complaining how much we suck and start to create solutions. I have been critical about US soccer for 40 years and thru those 40 years I have have done it for free. More coaching, fancy uniforms, coaching dvds, $300 cleats and other smoke n mirrors are not the solution. And please shut down the coaching program. We don't need more coaches. We need teachers and to be a teacher, lawyer, doctor or any other professional you need to go to school for 5 to 8 years. Again soccer in the US is a joke and it is not being taken seriously. Why? Just look around us. The pay to play model is an abomination. We need a REVOLUTION not more rethoric and finger pointing. It is time JK that you start thinking out of the box and start to be unorthox and radical by creating solutions that will really matter. Remember the game must come first and in the US the refs and coaches are more important than the players. We need to see the spectacular on the field of play. The field is a canvass and we need van goughs, Fridas, Davincis, Riveras, creating a masterpiece. JK we need a REVOLUTION!!!! in the US. Do you have the backbone to really shake things up? If not then move over and let someone else make the changes that we so desperately need. The real question is that if you do step down who will step up to really shake things up?

  8. Gunther Charles, February 4, 2015 at 11:28 a.m.

    Paul is right (my opinion of course) the team is not physically in shape, look at Altidore, why even invite him, give him a choice you either get in shape or else. Just being strong is not getting it. But Altidore is not the only one, what did Jones do in the game vs, Chili? He ran around like "I'm it" bull, make him work. Did it ever occur why Germany didn't wanted him? He is nothing, sure he makes some good plays at times but that is not enough to be on a National Team.

  9. Al Gebra, February 4, 2015 at 11:49 a.m.

    Some of what PK says is right on. But his comment "soccer players lagged behind their counterparts in the NFL and NBA in the way they treated their bodies" is way off. When I read that, visions of Shaq O'Neal and grossly fat American footballers sitting on the sidelines sucking on oxygen tanks to get their wind back. And then there's Pablo Sandoval, formerly of the Giants who's a physical disgrace to any pro athlete.
    I watched my son play professionally in Mexico and then come here and play with the Earthquakes. The difference in training regimen was astounding.

  10. Miguel Dedo, February 4, 2015 at noon

    Klinsmann works with players who are – by world standards – mediocre. Whether fit or not they do not hold jobs with Europe’s mediocre teams, much less Europe’s best. (or even Mexico’s)
    When asked why they lose, Klinsmann can reply (a) because they are not good players, or (b) because they are not fit.
    The second of these is the better reply because (1) for the players it is less discouraging to be told they are not fit than that they are not world-class players, (2) for the coaches it is easier to think about making the players more fit than about making them better players.
    We do not have good players because organized soccer coddles players to think that is OK just to participate – and we will not succeed until coaches are not so fixed on winning and pay attention to player development − and players get out of organized soccer and kick the ball against the wall, like kids who play basketball and Lionel Messi who turned pro at age 11.
    Reality: We (the USA) are not good at soccer and we have no idea how to do better. Even so “THIS IS AMERICA!!! and WE BELIEVE WE CAN WIN and WE CAN DO IT OUR WAY.”

  11. beautiful game, February 4, 2015 at 12:23 p.m.

    Passion and dedication are key elements for a winning formula. It's a balanced combination of the physical and mental. The good players have it and it's highly visible in their performances; consistency, efficacy, and attitude.

  12. Derek Armstrong, February 4, 2015 at 12:35 p.m.

    I am happy to see a discussion about the game including our National team . Its Healthy . In this case the coach is talking honestly about the situation he felt was present in this particular game and period - He is a professional and should be able to make some judgments about his players.In a way, he might be informing us all of the situation he finds himself dealing with players who have not learned how to prepare themselves . If that is true we should accept it for what it is . In this day and age I am surprised that players at this level are not totally aware of their responsibilities away from the National teams training . I would think their is not enough time to get players fit in any given "camp"
    This is the National team, coming in unfit should be not a question ,if the coach says some were -so be it

  13. Vince Leone, February 4, 2015 at 12:44 p.m.

    Hey, the USMNT does not need to improve. Let's just keep doing things the way we have been. Above all, don't rock the boat by pressing our players to push themselves as much as possible.

  14. Santiago 1314, February 4, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    @Miguel...Bien Dicho!!! y @Cony; The days of the Houstonians is Over...Nice Idea, before the Pros came along...We are NEVER going to get to your Pipe Dream of 600,000 futsal fields...Even the Rest of the World is Losing it's Free Play...That is why we have so many Mediocre Players, IN ALL THE WORLD...We just have to wait on our "Messi" "Ronaldo" "Cruijff" ... They come from GOD,,, Not Systems or Schemes

  15. Miguel Dedo, February 4, 2015 at 3:55 p.m.

    Please God have mercy on our soccer, just after you put down the Islamic State.

  16. Rick Estupinan, February 4, 2015 at 4:07 p.m.

    JK should be at the helm of the youth national team,shaping the next generation of real good professional players.With the exception of a few,the present men National team should be disbanded.The truth is they can not contribute any more than what they have, in a real competition, against a good professional team like Chile.Most of them never really had the intelligence and ability,two qualities that are very important for been an excellent Football,(Soccer) player.This why there are a few CR's,or Messis out there.Dempsey and Donovan stared playing the game early in their life,which I believe is not the case in the actual MNTplayers.JK is just wasting every body's time.He sees the reality of the situation but is too naive or afraid to say it frankly.Instead he comes time after time up with excuses that are just diminishing his stature as good coach,or is he really a good one?.

  17. Daniel Clifton, February 4, 2015 at 4:15 p.m.

    I appreciate the comments of Joe Linzner and cony konstin. We need a revolution. I grew up playing pick up football, basketball, and baseball. Soccer is perfect for that kind of development. But kids in the US are inundated by the adults and they are not encouraged to just play by themselves. I can remember my son and his friends trying to play pick up soccer and the father of two of the boys constantly getting involved. Pay to play will never work. Revolution is called for. When Klinsmann was hired I thought "the pyramid is upside down in the US" guy would be the perfect fit. Is he bringing about a revolution in youth soccer?

  18. Glenn Maddock, February 4, 2015 at 4:40 p.m.

    We did not lose in Chile because of fitness. That was a stupid assessment by JK. We lost because of tactics and personnel he selected. our Players are the fittest athletes in the World. Not match-fit, which we know is different, but there is nothing they can do about that. Their season ends when it ends. It's JK's job to get them match-fit. The Galaxy players were working out together 3 weeks after winning MLS Cup!

  19. Ric Estupinan, February 4, 2015 at 5:06 p.m.

    Miguel,I agree.Absolutely,I have been saying it all along.The present MNT are not only out of shape,they just don't have it in their blood to play this game.LD said it not to long ago,"if you didn't play Soccer since an early age,(5 yrs ) you would never play the game the way it is suppose to be played.You can not "TEACH AN OLD DOG NO TRICKS",and I believe this is the problem with most of the players in the seniors MNT.This is why I believe JK should have been given the youth National team from the start.Without him the US would have done just good or better in the last World Cup.

  20. BJ Genovese, February 4, 2015 at 7:45 p.m.

    US soccer should not be concerned with developing and molding players at the USMNT level. Its not there job. National team Managers job is to pick the best players from its country's pool and to go play chess with them. Its backwards in the US. In order to become world class or play in Europe you have to have national team time unless you are fortunate enough to have a EU passport if you are from the US. In soccer dominant country's your first priority when developing is with your club. Here the priority is to get to the national team level. Here as it stands a sure fire way to get to the national team is to have dual citizenship. Because we are not looking within. JK is just deflecting his desicion making and tossing his boys under the bus.

  21. James Madison, February 4, 2015 at 8:44 p.m.

    One has to wonder indeed about JK's continued fascination with the likes of Altidore and Shea, despite their lack of basic ball skills, and his new-found attraction to Wood, who gives every impression of being clueless tactically.

  22. Joe d. Shaw, February 4, 2015 at 10:52 p.m.

    What I hear from Kennedy, Mahoney, Woitalla and Gardner - the four most knowledgeable authorities on US professional soccer is that no one is paying attention to our men's national team coach, and for good reason. He rarely articulates a clear picture of what he expects, frequently confusing activity with achievement. From the debacle in Nashville, where he may have foisted the wrong goalkeeper corp on Caleb Porter, to the inept performance in Chile, the US men's program is suffering. The players in Brazil last summer advanced in spite of Klinsmann not because of him. Goodbye and good luck to California Klinsy.

  23. R2 Dad, February 4, 2015 at 11:54 p.m.

    Not entirely fair to characterize the USMNT situation as "mired in a slump." since this slump is self-imposed. In the past our USMNT coaches would line up a bunch of patsies so everyone feels good, post some good numbers--Haiti, south africa, Barbados, T&T, El Salvador, Honduras, Canada, Cuba, Panama, Guatemala. Yes some are CONCACAF qualifiers, but rarely did we play big teams. And now that we are, we're losing. If this is news to you, sorry if it makes you unhappy, but this is reality. We are a top 25 team, and this is JK's program to get us to become a top 10 team. My question: JJ runs a lot, I would have thought he would be perfect as a Dmid in that 3-5-2, especially alongside MB. If he wanted to put JJ in the back line, he should have stuck to the 4-4-2 to give him some protection (as in the 2nd half).

  24. Zoe Willet, February 5, 2015 at 1:14 a.m.

    I am with Klinsmann 100%. Plus, something nobody here mentioned, this was the first Natl Team effort since the Cup, no? What do you expect? One needs to include some of the oldies along with the youngsters for mentoring. I agree that it's the responsibility of the players to put themselves in physical shape- it's like a carpenter keeping his tools sharpened, cleaned and organized. And I really think that Kennedy, and the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the 'media types', just like to 'stir up mess' in order to get people to read their stuff.

  25. Santiago 1314, February 5, 2015 at 1:26 a.m.

    @Joe...Excellent; @Miguel...When GOD puts down the Islamic State, I don't think we are going to be worried about Soccer ,, Something about Fire from The Clouds...jajaja...@BJ...U r Right On...

  26. Andrew Kear, February 5, 2015 at 7:32 a.m.

    In the last few months Klinesman has set US soccer back to the early 90s. The team is a disorganized mess, and is no better than the 1994 World Cup team. In fact it is in many ways it is worse. At least US teams in the early nineties showed forward progression. Klinesman is the first national team coach in a quarter century to take the U.S. backward in a noticeable direction. You really have to go back to the 70's to find a more profound losing streak the U.S. team finds itself in now. Instead of solutions Klinesman now spends more time blaming his players and the US soccer system. Most of the blame is not constructive, but designed to deflect criticism from Klinesman himself. Bill Bradly worked within the same system and got success in the World Cup as well as beating Spain in the 2012 Confederation cup. The blame game has to end and Klinesman must get results or be considered a failed national team coach.

  27. Dan Phillips, February 5, 2015 at 1:37 p.m.

    Time to just toss Klinsmann. I have now come to the conclusion that he is worse than Bob Bradley. Now he calls for 11 month season like Europe? He cant's even do the match. Europe has a 2 month break (mid May to Mid August) and except for EPL almost 1 month in winter. That is 9 months (maybe 10), not 11. The guy (JK) is a complete Baffoon. He needs to be fired. Before he completely ruins US soccer!

  28. Edgar Soudek, February 5, 2015 at 5:41 p.m.

    Most decent people are aware when they are messing up the works...every single US World Cup team from 1990 to 2010 had FAR BETTER coaching, more fire and pride than Klinsi' dismal teams...and he is the only one NOT noticing that something is wrong...things will begin to look up AS SOON AS Klinsmann resigns!

  29. Vince Leone, February 5, 2015 at 6:58 p.m.

    I am surprised that some commenters think the USMNT used to be better than the modern version. Under JK we have played against considerably better friendly competition than we used to, so there is a bit of apples and oranges in that regard. For WC performances we got further once--2002. The 1998 and 2006 versions were horrible. You can debate the 2010 team vs the 2014 team. From 1994--2010 we pretty much relied on counter attacks and luck. How was that so great?

  30. Joe Linzner, February 5, 2015 at 7:42 p.m.

    i was once asked to assess a Highschool Varsity soccer team as to the players players individually, as a team and execution of tactics for their coach at practice and at a game. I began at practice and watched the drills, the movement during the drills both with and without the ball. The coach and I roamed around and simply watched, while his assistants ran the drills. My assessment at this practice showed me two natural athletes, one possible soccer playing athlete. The game proved that to be a correct assessment. Stayed in the announcers box with the coach and reviewed each player individually on a rating chart, touch, movement, vision and ability to understand game tactics and field responsibility both man to man and zonal. Only one player impressed and I told the coach. Boy did I hear it from some parents. Have no idea how it became public. But I was threatened with lawsuits, physically and verbally attacked. The funny thing is not one of those players who went on to college ever played soccer again in an organized fashion, not even intramurally. The point is, we in America are not into truth because we must be the best at everything, we must be politically correct and to tell a parent to save his moneyy because his child will never be and athlete is blasphemy, Just like saying we lacked condition is blasphemy and an excuse by JK,, well sure we are the finest conditioned nation earth, never mind we are the fattest...we are simply people, just like the rest of the people on this earth, Just living in America does not make us the BEST at everything.

  31. Tim Brown, February 5, 2015 at 7:44 p.m.

    Yes we are playing better teams in these friendlies that is a fact this year. How about being beaten by Scotlands B team. Anyone remember that one. So time will tell about JK as the coach. Was Phillip Lahm wrong about Jurgen and his time with Germany? I don't know myself. So we should do better against Panama. Right? Lets also remember how well Mexico and Costa Rica did in Brazil. Mexico was a real force once they changed coaches. I am not ready to can JK just yet. But he is more of a divider than uniter at this point. Go USA. I personally liked Bruce Arena as our leader.JK may be speaking the truth but at some point will he be accountable for his selection of players and his bias towards MLS.

  32. Joe Linzner, February 5, 2015 at 7:52 p.m.

    How is he a divider? Seems to me the only division is among the fans. As far as Lahms assessment? Napoleon Syndrome.....and selling of his book and why may I ask, have none of the other German players also written similarly........

  33. Andrew Kear, February 5, 2015 at 10:40 p.m.

    Is the US really playing better teams in friendlies. Losing to Ireland 4-1 is not a good friendly result. How do you expect to build team cohesion by constantly changing the lineup? If the US does not win the Gold Cup this year then maybe it is time for a coaching change. It used to be given that the US would win the Gold Cup, but Klinesman will have another excuse if the US does not win. He will probably say the competition has gotten better and the US can’t expect to win these tournaments anymore.

    You can make valid criticisms about the flawed US soccer development system, but it does not take away from the fact that Klinesman has made some very questionable decisions regarding the US national team.

    A 0-9 run is something I expect from the Knicks, not the current US national soccer team.

    There is not even a question that Bill Bradley was the best US national team coach ever. Just look at the results.

  34. Joe Linzner, February 6, 2015 at 8:13 a.m.

    how do you expect to identify talent if you do not look for them in friendlies and how do you identify how to optimize positional talent without looking for them IN FRIENDLIES? I do not understand, when we were winning: I read, "THAT WINNING FRIENDLIES MEANS NOTHING", now, when we lose them the SKY IS FALLING??? talk about double talk??? Incredible? Talk about xenophobia and Nationalism.

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