The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 1): A Sorry Experience for American Soccer

By Paul Gardner

Sunil Gulati has done the difficult thing, fired his buddy Jurgen Klinsmann -- someone he had been relying on to open up a bright new era of winning soccer for the national team.

A relief to be savored. Gulati, a worthy president, should have ditched Klinsmann years ago. His loyalty to the German obviously has its praiseworthy side, but that is almost fantasy soccer. In reality, Klinsmann’s blunderings were endangering Gulati himself.

So we have, from Gulati, the usual regretful praise for the departed, telling us of Klinsmann’s “considerable achievements,” his “historic victories,” and how there will be “benefits from Klinsmann’s work for years to come.”

When the truth of the matter is that Klinsmann has quite simply been downright incompetent. Worse, he has consistently produced a U.S. national team without the remotest sign of any style or elan, he has shown an unpleasant tendency to blame the players for his own deficiencies, plus an equally egregious habit of absurdly inflating the team’s modest successes into heroic triumphs.

He has spread his own incompetence by importing his German friends as his assistants, climaxing in the arrival of Austrian Andi Herzog as the U.S. Olympic coach. A job for which Herzog had not the slightest qualification -- a glaringly obvious “buddy” appointment. Herzog, predictably, made a mess of things and the USA had to sit out the Rio Olympics.

Doing things the German way seems to be Klinsmann’s only modus operandi. We were quickly made aware that American players were not good enough, that MLS was not good enough. His criticisms of MLS, publicly aired, provoked a pugnacious reply from Commissioner Don Garber who accused Klinsmann of damaging the prestige of the league.

Nor did Klinsmann think much of the U.S. youth soccer set-up. American-produced youngsters were not good enough for him, he had to cull the world -- which meant, mostly, Germany -- for foreign-trained players, many with only a slender claim on U.S. citizenship.

He repeatedly proclaimed that, to be more competitive, U.S. players needed two things: they must play in Europe (preferably Germany) and they must learn to be “nastier.” He went so far as to advocate injuring opponents: “Maybe we're still a little bit too naive, maybe we don't want to hurt people, but that's what you've got to do.”

In the midst of this farago of ineptitude and tiresome drivel, the national team blundered on, continually improving (according to Klinsmann) without actually getting any better.

What did Klinsmann accomplish that had not already been done by Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley? Absolutely nothing. Klinsmann liked to crow about how his team had survived the “group of death,” the “worst of the worst” in the 2014 World Cup. Of course, it was Klinsmann himself who had used those labels.

But qualifying for the knockout round of the World Cup was no novelty. Both Arena and Bradley had done it - and better. Arena’s 2002 team reached the quarterfinals, while Bradley’s, in 2010, topped its group. It did so when it beat Algeria on a masterful goal scored by Landon Donovan. A goal scored with the neat immaculate coolness that hallmarked Donovan, who has a strong claim to be considered the finest American-born and trained player ever to play the game.

I mention that because of the appalling insult that Klinsmann landed on Donovan, by leaving him off the roster for the 2014 World Cup. In soccer terms it made no sense at all. It came over as a petty, spiteful jab at America’s most honored player.

There is a convenient yardstick with which to measure the “progress” of Klinsmann’s national team. It is called Costa Rica. Klinsmann, quite deliberately, exaggerated the USA’s task at the 2014 World Cup with his talk of the group of death: Germany, Portugal and Ghana. He might have noticed that in another group Costa Rica’s opponents were England, Uruguay and Italy -- all three former World Cup winners. So what was that then? The Super-Duper-Death Group?

The USA squeaked out of its group in second place on goal difference. Costa Rica, amazingly, finished top of that super-death group. And won it by playing good, stylish soccer -- thereby exposing Klinsmann’s wild claims for what they were -- balderdash.

More recently, Costa Rica cropped up again. That 4-0 defeat. The scoreline was brutal enough, but it contained a message that made a mockery of another of Klinsmann’s claims. In that fatal game Klinsmann’s team contained four of his favored German-Americans, including Jermaine Jones, who was also one of four current MLS players, two of whom -- Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore  -- had also spent time playing in Europe, a big plus for Klinsmann. But Costa Rica, with four current MLS players, thoroughly outplayed the USA, leaving another of Klinsmann’s pet theories in question.

I cannot see, in that catalogue of failures and excuses, any sign of those “considerable achievements” that Gulati extols. To win games in Italy and in Germany were achievements, but not “considerable” ones -- given that these were exhibition games, with make-shift team selections and questionable commitment from the opponents.

I have been casting an unfavorable light on the Klinsmann years -- all five of them (and that is an unusually long time for a national team coach to keep his job). During those years I began to detect -- or so it seemed to me -- signs of amateurism in the way that Klinsmann handled things. In particular, his constantly changing team selections suggested ad hoc thinking rather than rather than a carefully thought-out approach.

The worst -- really, really bad -- example of what I perceived as amateurism came in 2012, at a game in Landover, Maryland, in which Brazil mauled the USA 4-1. The game itself was bad enough -- the USA looked inept and, well, amateurish -- but Klinsmann’s post-game press conference was deplorable.

He simply had not done his homework. Looking harassed and flustered, he immediately weighed in with complaints against three referee decisions. All three of his accusations were wrong -- Klinsmann had not bothered to watch the replays. The press, of course, had seen them, and knew that Klinsmann was floundering, looking to blame the referee for his team’s feeble display. For a top national team coach to face the press (something he knew he was going to have to do) and then, without having viewed the replays, indict the referee ... amateurism is probably too charitable a word.

The Klinsmann interlude (Dictionary: “an intervening period of time or activity that contrasts with what goes before or after”) has been a sorry experience for American soccer. I have found much wrong with it in this column -- but so far I haven’t even mentioned what I consider to be the most damaging of Klinsmann’s flaws.

Next: The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 2): Total Failure to Acknowledge Latino Presence

43 comments about "The Klinsmann Interlude (Part 1): A Sorry Experience for American Soccer ".
  1. Theodore Eison, November 30, 2016 at 4:20 p.m.

    Mr. Gardner, you criticized Klinsmann, true, but you've criticized Bradley & Arena in the past as well. You haven't had anything positive to say about the USA at any time other than the Algeria goal, & you above all others engage in fantasy about the way soccer should be played. I already know what part II will say. You've written it so many times before -- employ an all Latino team w/tika taka style & all will be okay

  2. Thomas Sullivan replied, November 30, 2016 at 9:08 p.m.

    Ted E, PG is a voice of reason not blatant rah rah homer. JK has made many bad decisions - the only thing you have to know to understand this is ask, in what world would you have chosen Julian Green over Landon Donovan in the 2014 WC? Oh yeah Green scored - but it was a total mis-hit luck goal.

    JK prides himself on his unorthodoxy but sticks with Kyle Beckermann and Jermaine Jones wayyyy past their expiration dates. Beckermann makes tons of errors all the time and Jones is just dangerous.
    I could go on...

    Gulati must feel like he fell into the most amazing job ever. He should definitely go. There is no accountability for that guy.

    PG keep it up.

  3. Al Gebra replied, December 1, 2016 at 11:18 a.m.

    Teddy ... "tika taka" has worked for Mexico, Costa Rica, and many other teams in Latin America and Europe ... except England, of course

  4. David V, November 30, 2016 at 4:46 p.m.

    @Gardner.... Most of this article is pretty good, raking JK over the coals is appropriate. But... 1) U.S. only produces 2nd tier players, which is what the JK German-American players are that he went after (so no need to go for his German-American on the fringe of America players). 2) Your Super Group of Death is not that at all... England hasn't don't anything on the international stage for 50 years and they got lucky then... that's all hype and marketing that makes the USA think England is something. Your points about C.R. though are good despite that. The real group of death included: Spain, Holland, Chile, and Australia... I guarantee you, the weakest teams in the two groups you mentioned, and the one I mentioned (Australia), most did NOT want to see Spain, Holland, and Chile... that was the real group of death. The then current World Champions and European Champions along with Australia discovered this.

  5. David V replied, November 30, 2016 at 5:36 p.m.

    @Jake... Mexico using Amercian kids... 2nd tier teams are just that "tier" teams... a tier is a grouping... so they are both 2nd tier, you can have some at the top or some at the bottom of the "2nd tier". Holland/Spain/Chile much a much, much tougher than England/Uruguay/Italy... no question about it. The only places where you will find contrary views to this are in England and the U.S.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, November 30, 2016 at 7:04 p.m.

    Calling something 2nd tier is really a dispute about the definition of the tiers. In the case of the world cup, qualifying (being one of the 32 teams) is a tier. Logically the round of 16 makes an objective test for a tier too. Based on the USA consistent qualification for the finals using the above tiers you would be justified in calling the US a 2nd tier team except that the US has gotten out of group play several times making an argument that the US is already a top tier team in the 205 men's teams in FIFA. Are we in the top 10% yet? Subjectively, no, but objectively based on performance, yes.

  7. Caxamarca ZVX replied, December 3, 2016 at 9:37 p.m.

    Interesting point concerning the Group or Groups of Death, I think you have rightly identified the true Group of Death, however the "Group of Champions" as the writer has stated was surely better top to bottom than the US group. I would also argue for a group that included semi-finalist and host Brazil, Mexico and a strong Croatia team and a perennial African rep Cameroon as being at least as tough as ours.

  8. David V, November 30, 2016 at 4:53 p.m.

    @ Theodore: Does Gardner say "latino" teams (whatever that means) are Tiki-Taka? South American teams don't play tiki-taka (although they have some players that can play t-t, such as Leo Messi, or Macherano, or perhaps even a Alexis Sanchez), nor do central American, nor do Mexican play tiki-taka. Chile has the high-press that the once-dominant and all time best team in history (Spain) used to employ. But none of these "latino" nations play tiki-taka as the European Spain could, or is capable of.

  9. Richard Broad, November 30, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.

    Why did we expect any different? Jurgen Klinsmann was an EXCEPTIONAL player and seems to be a decent man. He could be an excellent ambassador for the game. However, HE IS NOT A COACH! His track record, especially at Bayern Munich, demonstrated that. Ask Philip Lahm! Until we start selecting people-----at all levels: players, coaches, administrators, etc.----based not on reputation and celebrity rather than on merit and capability, we will never be a top level soccer nation.

  10. Kevin Sims replied, November 30, 2016 at 7:39 p.m.


  11. David V, November 30, 2016 at 5:29 p.m.

    Richard, your point about selection is well-taken, but, as I've said in a myriad of places on Soccer America, we only produce 2nd tier players, and only ever will, even if the right choices are made (as you say)... that is, we only ever will if we don't have a different youth culture (pick up games (or somethign that emulates them), and this would include (alluding to your comments) placing a premium on soccer players (technical, intelligent, etc) over starting out in the selection process with what would make a great American (or English) Football player.

  12. frank schoon replied, December 4, 2016 at 10:32 a.m.

    REMEMBER! To blame Klinsman is like blaming the poor structure of the house on the roof instead the foundation

  13. sterling yates, November 30, 2016 at 5:33 p.m.

    Paul: I cannot wait to read what your "Part 2" contains. As a long time - 58 years playing and officiating - fan (but not rabid) of the men's game, it was evident very early that Mr. Klinsmann was NOT the answer. To be honest, it appeared from the outset, he was merely going through the motions just as many and most professionals in any U.S. sport, players AND coaches, who have GUARANTEED big bucks contracts are apt to do. Arena is a positive return but my thoughts have been focused at perhaps some of the more successful U.S. college coaches, at least as assistants if not the top slot.

    I still fear that until the politics of US soccer especially in the youth sector are dealt with and sorted out, I shall be long, long gone before we are a force to be reckoned with in the big boy world of the sport.

  14. Ric Fonseca, November 30, 2016 at 5:42 p.m.

    Note: Part two: "Total Failure to Acknowledge Latino Presence (sic)" I too "can't wait" to read the next issue, but before he sets pen to paper, perhaps Mr. Gardner, pleas also tell us just what in heck happened with his former amigo, friend, freund, Martin Vasquez, who had shared the coaches side and supposedly had his confidence? Why did he get rid of him in the early years, so that he could bring over his amigos alemanes? It will be a certain and interesting read!

  15. David V, November 30, 2016 at 5:43 p.m.

    We will NOT be a world force for at least a GENERATION... and that is if the youth culture changes right now, today, and we had the premium on the right things today, and we had youth playing creatively and freely, and in the streets and back yards, and on the playgrounds today... we are AT A VERY MINIMUM, a Generation away... I don't mind the talk about JK doing a better job, I agree with it, I think and posted on this site many times, that he should have been fired years ago... but realize, changes to the coach will not take a 2nd tier soccer nation into the 1st tier... it CANNOT happen... the material that shows up to the national teams at 18,20, 22 years of age etc, can't be improved into tier 1 status that late in the process

  16. David Huff, November 30, 2016 at 5:54 p.m.

    So now you are getting Klinsmann out of your system will you be doing a piece on retread Bruce Arena who famously stated as his closing press conference at the end of the 2006 WC, after being asked about a lack of victories, that his job was not to win games at the tournament but to have merely qualified the team to be at the World Cup? I can't believe that the USSF brought back this arrogant buffoon as our MNT coach.

  17. Rich Blast, November 30, 2016 at 7:36 p.m.

    I believe getting rid of Klisnmann will help, but only so much. What we really need is a cultural and development change. That will only come from a new man in charge. Sunil Gulati has proven hs is not the right man over and over. It's time for a change there.

  18. R2 Dad, December 1, 2016 at 12:23 a.m.

    What has not been mentioned is perspective. BA is happy to dominate CONCACAF, show up at the World Cup and give it a go. JK understood CONCACAF/the Hex is something to survive, but our country's true measure was how well the USMNT performed against the top European/SA sides. In the big tournaments, we've done well enough with JK as the player pool has expanded with younger pros. BA will focus on dominating the rest of the schedule with old MLS players because getting to the World Cup finals is the only real goal. Incidentally, Mexico's coach is riding the same fine line as JK was, trying to enlarge the player pool while getting results--he has avoided the chop so far. Top coaches can do both win and develop players. JK wasn't the best but worked in the right direction. BA is a huge step backwards. Am curious how many new pros get a cap over the next 18 months. Zero? Say goodbye to Carter-Vickers. I guess we also don't have to worry about MB fanbois getting their knickers in twist, since BA has already declared him untouchable/important/"special". I used to have hope our soccer world was improving, but everything is in retrograde: USL will become 2nd Division, US Women's U teams are playing kickball like it's the early 90's, JK has been replaced by Bruce 4-4-2, our national referee pool appears to have weakened. What's next, MLS signing Usain Bolt?

  19. Ridge Mahoney replied, December 1, 2016 at 3:45 a.m.

    Carter Vickers has zero appearances for Spurs. Geoff Cameron has played more than 250 pro club matches and nearly 50 games for the USA. Who do you play in the Hexagonal?

  20. Bob Ashpole replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:10 a.m.

    Ridge, you won't get anywhere confronting these opinions with facts. The opinions are not based on a lack of knowledge of the facts. I suspect that the opinions are an expression of anger and frustration, rather than logic. A reasonable dialog is not likely. A lot of people are venting, and it may not even be soccer that created the sense of frustration and anger. It may be a symptom of something wider in the national mood. I am speaking more generally than any one poster or even just angry posts on this forum.

  21. Theodore Eison, December 1, 2016 at 7:36 a.m.

    I've wanted Klinsmann gone for years, but I don't give Paul Gardner credit for that. If you got a copy of the NBC broadcast of the hand of God came, you can hear Paul Gardner rant on about professional fouls. He's been giving the same tired commentary for over 30 years. Soccer is a sport, not the ballet. Teams play to win, not to entertain Paul Gardner

  22. Al Gebra replied, December 1, 2016 at 11:30 a.m.

    Teddy ... focus on the message, not the messenger

  23. Kenneth Cabral replied, December 1, 2016 at 5:47 p.m.

    They come to win and entertain. All sports are a form of entertainment and fans are the audience.

  24. Kent James, December 1, 2016 at 8:45 a.m.

    PG is a bit harsh, but not inappropriately so. Bruce Arena is probably a good choice through the WC, because he knows the American players and has proven he can get the most out of them (which was JK's biggest weakness). After that, we need to go more long term...

  25. Pasco Struhs, December 1, 2016 at 9:11 a.m.

    I agree that Klins struggled to make progress with the USMNT, but I don't think it was for a lack of trying. Perhaps he is not the best coach. Great players don't always make great coaches, and keep in mind that coaches and managers can only work with the players they have or can acquire. Does anyone think that Phil Jackson is a great basketball coach/manager? Good thing the Knicks picked him up (sarcasm intended)! But I digress. If I'm a new coach at any sport, the first thing I am going to do is look at the team I have and decide whether I can improve the talent pool. At least Klins looked around and decided to bring in some new talent from foreign teams. Teams that play at a higher level than MLS teams, at least for now. The next thing I would do is try to improve and intensify the training. That is much easier to do if I have a pro/college/high school team that will be together every day for the season. However, improvement through training at the national team level is much more difficult, if not impossible, for any country. That said, I fault Klins most for appearing not to have a solid, well thought out game plan for the players he had, the time available for training, and the different tournaments/cups he was expected to win. My fear with BA is that he embodies the same old US mentality the he grew up with. Perhaps he is at least a better coach than Klins and, for the short-term, an adequate stop gap for the task at hand. I don't think he is the long-term answer.

    I do think that we have made some progress with our youth, despite the flawed and inefficient system we have, which I agree needs to be changed before we can be truly competitive internationally. Last night I watched our US U17 men's team embarrass Portugal with a 7-1 victory. Now granted it was a friendly and they played Portugal, not exactly a soccer power. However, they looked very good - high press aggressive play - lots of ball possession - just quicker and smarter than Portugal. I don't think I saw one long ball all night. Perhaps it was a fluke, but I am hopeful that this is our future and it appears to be just around the corner.

  26. Kevin Leahy, December 1, 2016 at 9:36 a.m.

    For anyone looking to get rid of Sunil, you must understand the politics of the USSF and how that, position is filled. Bruce's job is to qualify the team for the WC. The future will belong to someone else. Any coach needs talent to succeed but, it is the ones who get more from the talent they have then they should that impress.

  27. Nick Prodanovich, December 1, 2016 at 10:45 a.m.

    I feel we are way too much influenced by a herd instinct to go too far one way or another. When is bad its all bad and when its good its all good. The USMNT I believe is significantly better than it is currently showing. Klins was a great player but an incompetent coach. Far too often under Klins the team played as less than the sum of its parts. Players who were playing at a very high level for their clubs under Klins looked lost and confused. BA is an interim step to get the US back to what i would call its baseline level. A moderately talented team that is very athletic, organized, very quick on the counter and difficult to beat. That level is good enough for the US to consistently qualify in CONCACAF, but it is not good enough to consistently challenge the top team in the world nor necessarily play the most beautiful game. I believe BA will succeed in getting us back to that point and Russia. The real question is then what. The single solution that is bantered around whether German American foreign based players or all our problems will be solved with Latin player is bunk. It remains to be seen how we as a soccer nation get the right leadership to bring together all of its diverse elements to make the sum greater than its parts.

  28. Luis Gonzalez, December 1, 2016 at 11:38 a.m.

    Instead of looking to England or Europe, as so much of youth soccer here in the US does, we need to hire a coach from Argentina and look at what countries in South America are doing....Consider this, Uruguay, a country of only 3 million people (less than Los Angeles County) has over 40 players playing in European First Divisions...Look at the top three or four players on most clubs, regardless of the league, chances are at least two or three are from South America...It's time to hire a South American coach for the National Team AND, more importantly, for youth development!!!

  29. frank schoon replied, December 3, 2016 at 4:14 p.m.

    I'm all for hiring foreign coaches for each of the MLS teams and including the National team. The fact that they have to rehire Bruce Arena again shows you the lack of depth for coaches capable for National team experience in America
    But don't overestimate what Latin foreign coaches are able to do when you consider the material they have work with when coaching here for I'm willing to bet Uruguay's coaches would not have done so well if their players were the quality of the US players....

  30. Kris Spyrka, December 1, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

    Now that we are all 'unpacking' on JK. Some comments above recognized some things I've been posting since early on in the JK adventure. USMNT made a hiring decision based on some glorious bravado about the 'pyramid being upside down in the USA', the whole pay for play JK made on ESPN during the 2010 WC, (BTW, I don't see pay for play ending anytime soon, unfortunately). Had the USMNT had him fill out an actual job application and submit a coaching resume, and gotten some player referrals (Lahm, Kroos, come to mind), they would have possibly averted the past five whatever years of stagnation.

    The commentary from Germany (back then) was just as harsh from his european critics as Paul Gardner's indictment in his article. His sacking from Bayern was based on a lack of tactical expertise (and it didn't take FCB five years to figure out the emperor has no clothes), so when he took the job here he hired Berti Vogts, and probably grabbed the latest edition of Tactics for Dummies.

    If Bruce Arena is a bandaid, that next boss needs to be properly vetted, and that's on Sunil Gulati (full time professor, part time president). But, maybe that's what is really missing here, 100% engaged leadership at the top, not a part-time volunteer.

  31. Kris Spyrka, December 1, 2016 at 11:44 a.m.

    Luis Gonzalez - I like where you are going!!!

  32. Kris Spyrka, December 1, 2016 at 11:46 a.m.

    I meant player references in my post above.

  33. Kevin Kelly, December 1, 2016 at 1:13 p.m.

    There ARE Latino players in our national team program. Are they just not the ones that Gardner wants? While not every German American has worked out, most have and having an American dad is not a "slender claim on U.S. citizenship."

  34. Julio Moreira, December 1, 2016 at 1:15 p.m.

    The guilty party in this shamble and comedy of errors, German 2nd division players, adverse results, placing JK intimate friends in charge of USA Olympic teams, has Klisnsman to blame, but the worst offender to the detriment of Soccer and to have put us back 10 years in becoming a respected soccer nation in the world has one name and one name only SUNIL GULATTI who was placed as President of USSF by the outgoing president, Alan Rothenberg after he received $ 10,000.000 million dollars and retired. SUNIL who never knew that a Soccer ball was round, should be removed ASAP.

  35. Ric Fonseca replied, December 2, 2016 at 3:39 p.m.

    Julio, first, accept it as fact that Gulatin was the best choice - then - for the US Soccer presidency, and though I do not know who ran opposite him, that Rothenberg opted not run was because he had accomplished what he set out to do way back in the day when he beat out the incumbemnt USSF President and won in an election held in Beverly Hills during a USSF Annual General meeting, for the purpose of preparing the US for the WC in '94. Gulati "won" election because his opponents did not have the "soccer machinery" and thus won two successive elections, and ran for a third and won by acclamation, in other words no one opposed him and those assembled at that AGM, just went on ahead and "elected" him president. That Rothenberg got $10m and then retired, as I remember, Rothenberg's millions came as result of the success our WC USA1994, and shortly afterwards, the Women's Cup. Yes, AR got some good bucks, but mi amigo it wasn't because he helped Gulati "ascend" to the US Soccer throne. Anyhow, just sayin' (and oh yeah, I know 'cause I was at those AGM,s one when Gulati was first elected? and the one in Beverly Hills, plus other US Soccer events...)

  36. Kris Spyrka, December 1, 2016 at 1:39 p.m.

    Julio Moreira - Yes!!!

  37. aaron dutch, December 1, 2016 at 1:42 p.m.

    What magic was JK going to do to make the top 7 players who left Europe including Donovan to play in MLS and then all have become below average players was that not going to happen no matter who coached the team. My guess is if all of us together coached the US team we would have had the same results except (Copa - which JK made his top priority). How would Bradley/Arena going to get top form from Dempsey/Donovan/Jozy/Bradley/ who all left starting mid & attacking roles all within 18 months and come to MLS for $$ and proceed to be collectively horrible. How was that getting fixed? That group was key to our covering up the rest of them except for Howard who are below avg. or worse. How was any coach going to fix that with magic soccer greatness dust. Speaking of Costa Rica (are we kidding they are a whole class above everyone in CONCACAF because they have better players, better development, better team balance & play better in europe, ligaMX, MLS, South America.

  38. Kris Spyrka, December 1, 2016 at 2:09 p.m.

    Consider every national team coach of every federation faces the same dilemma, that is they have to assemble a squad from clubs globally, on an ever inconsistent basis. Clubs and fans hate the international breaks, it's a disruption to what they hold near and dear.

    You used to see (in Europe anyway) where a country would select a majority of it's side from one or the other successful club teams. The US doesn't have this legacy, because our pro leagues were always in flux. Now, that's even harder, why? Because top clubs are international. Every eleven maybe only has less than half domestic players starting.

    Will CL and attempts to start international Super Leagues diminish the relevance of the national team play?

  39. K Michael, December 1, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.

    Everything changes exponentially for the better by the 2022 WC Cycle...
    Basically, set expectations realistically for all national Teams >=u18. They primarily grew up in rigid training environments in which the early pubescent athlete was selected for "top" team training over the late-bloomers (who often develop a more technical, higher IQ game due to necessity). They did not have regular TV access to the world's greatest teams/players until they reached 13-14 years old or older. They did not have free-play opportunities at recess, on the playground, etc.
    For our teams <= u17, the opposite is true. practically EVERY major footie team/league/player is on TV on practically a daily basis; most of their coaches at most top training levels (travel, ODP, et al) had/have at least college playing experience. They regularly play at recess, on the playground, they are as technically advanced now at age 12-13 as most of our CURRENT crop of 18-22 year-old college players. I realize we've all kept our eyes on the horizon for that first wave of truly "organic" players for decades, but that water line on the horizon this time is no mirage. Warts and all, we are 4-5 years away from growing to young adulthood as a soccer nation!

  40. Tim Gibson, December 1, 2016 at 3:42 p.m.

    Mr Gardner, Instead of grasping the easy nuts from the lowest branches, why not go out on a limb & tell us the best ways to right the ship - meaning our entire program from Soup-to-nuts? With all your years in this and all the wisdom that seeps from your powerful pen, do something positive & put it all on the line for a change. Now's your chance to out-guess Bruce BEFORE he messes up, then you'll really get our attention for a change.

  41. Frank Cardone, December 1, 2016 at 5:12 p.m.

    Paul Gardner is correct from A to Z. I was excited about JK's appointment but have called for his dismissal since before the start of the 2014 World Cup.
    His tenure as MNT coach has been a sad one. I am delighted to see him leave.

  42. Kenneth Cabral, December 1, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    Before JK took over the team they were ranked 14th in the world. They are now ranked 28th. That should tell you something.

  43. Will Lozier, December 2, 2016 at 1:19 p.m.

    PG on your usual whining rant. You lost all credibility (in this article) at "Gulati, a worthy president". Yes, JK has lost the plot and has always been a peculiar tactician - I can even say seemingly incompetent at times. But, to totally downplay reaching the 2nd round of the 2014 WC and wins against Italy, Holland, and Germany is negligent and proof of your perpetual grumpiness and dissatisfaction with all things USSoccer. Cheers

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