Klinsmann: 'Qualification really was never in doubt'

In his first extensive comments since the USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, former U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the elimination will set back American soccer for years to come.

Klinsmann spoke with German sports magazine kicker in its Monday print edition. His comments on the U.S. situation were translated by ESPN FC.

"It's been set back by several years," Klinsmann said of the elimination that followed a 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 10. "That was a huge disappointment. The qualification really was never in doubt, but then the lads had a blackout versus Trinidad & Tobago. They only needed a point, were too sure of that and underestimated that final match."

Klinsmann was fired after the USA lost its first two games in the Hexagonal. Losses at home to Costa Rica in September and at Trinidad & Tobago left the USA with a record of three wins, three ties and four losses for 12 points, its fewest ever in the Hexagonal. 

Kicker dubbed Klinsmann "the father of the 2006 summer fairy tale" for coaching host Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. He said U.S. was nevertheless on the rise and MLS was "a bit like a fairy tale."

"Sure, there are a lot of things to catch up on: in the youth academies, in the universities, in cross-linking the pieces," Klinsmann said. "But MLS is stable after 20 years. It has role-model character. It has a backbone, mostly thanks to [league co-founder] Phil Anschutz. He kept things together when they could have fallen apart. By now, MLS has caught up in the infrastructure. What happened in U.S. soccer in the past 20 years, that is a bit like a fairy tale. It still needs patience, but the league's getting stronger with every year."

Klinsmann has expressed interest in coaching a national team again.

"For me, a World Cup starts with the knockout stages," he said. "That's where I blossom. And if I don't have that perspective, I'd rather fly the helicopter."

In an interview with French sports newspaper L'Equipe, Klinsmann said he'll work as an analyst for the BBC alongside Gary Lineker during the 2018 World Cup. He had been in talks to take over Australia for the 2018 World Cup, but the Socceroos chose Dutchman Bert van Marwijk as their coach for the finals.

30 comments about "Klinsmann: 'Qualification really was never in doubt'".
  1. Bob Ashpole, April 16, 2018 at 9:55 p.m.

    I have to question the ESPN translation. I find it difficult to believe Klinsmann would say those things about qualification.

  2. Kenneth McCarthy, April 16, 2018 at 10:08 p.m.

    So does this mean Italian soccer is now set back several years. There is a man that cannot have a front passenger in his car because his ego is so big. Good luck to any national team that gets him. As a coach you need to adapt to the players you have, not the other way around. Please take some of the blame  Klinsmann!!! American soccer will advance just fine without you.

  3. R2 Dad replied, April 16, 2018 at 11:20 p.m.

    As a middle-school coach you need to adapt to the players you have, not the other way around. As a MNT coach you need to drive the players you have to operate at a higher level, not adapt to the softer and less-stringent standards of MLS. There, FIFY.

  4. Bob Ashpole replied, April 17, 2018 at 2:05 a.m.

    I am lost R2 Dad. Are you implying that Klinsmann coached players to play better or that he failed to do so?

    By the way I disagree with your statement about middle school coaches. Inspiration is almost the entire job when coaching children, especially from about age 10 through the early teens.  

  5. frank schoon replied, April 17, 2018 at 9:24 a.m.

    No , Kenneth, the Italian situation is not a set back for the simple reason their soccer has arrived the US hasn't. They've had some ups and downs throughout history, like in '74. You can't compare what is happening in italy as to what is happening in the US soccer development , it is totally different for Italian soccer is at a so much higher level

  6. R2 Dad replied, April 17, 2018 at 9:04 p.m.

    Klinsmann did both. He wanted the USMNT to play more attacking soccer, but our players weren't brave enough. I remember during an international match watching Fabian Johnson run out of the backfield unmarked, only to be ignored by his teammates. No one in our midfield was able to pick him out with a pass, and we just continued hitting the ball around hoping some magic would turn up from the usual suspects. Johnson schlumped back to his position. I remember Klinsmann gesticulating after the moment had passed, but that felt like his whole tenure in a nutshell. Kenneth goes on about his ego--of course he had an ego! He was a top 10 player in his career, part of what made him a star. You don't achieve great things and score tons of goals because you are a humble servant of the game. But he wasn't able to get our players to hit overdrive, and not bringing a backup for Jozy in Brazil will always tarnish his reputation in my mind.

  7. Kevin Leahy, April 16, 2018 at 11:33 p.m.

    He didn’t get it as the coach or the former coach. The U.S. to me will have a setback if, the 2026 World Cup is awarded to Morocco. I believe since Africa just had one in 2010 it, should come to North America. I think the big American companies like, Coca Cola, Budweiser & especially Nike should make that happen. JK surprises me in the sense, that he has been fired from his last 2 jobs and he stills acts like he is the smartest guy in the room. I know the federation is spending a lot of time on the WC bid but, would like to hear something about this GM position being filled.

  8. Ben Myers, April 17, 2018 at 12:45 a.m.

    To me, Klinsmann's comments are a rebuke of Arena's last stint as coach of the USMNT.  How could these guys not be highly motivated to succeed?  Why did Arena choose to load up the USMNT with MLS players, who, by and large, do not and cannot play at the high level demanded by international play?  Arena was clearly biased toward MLS players, because they are the ones he knew best.  And this leads to the last question.  If Klinsmann was to be replaced, why was Arena the choice?  The international game has gone up quite a few notches since he last coached the USMNT 10 years previously, and one can argue that he was no longer well versed in international play.

    The Italian national team needs to rebuild, too, replacing its now-aged back line with younger, fresher and more athletic players.  Italy did quite well in the brutal Euro qualifiers, losing only one match and drawing a pair, but losing to Sweden in a home-and-home.  Italy did not lose out by much, only one goal, and the team will recover to qualify next time.  The USMNT has a much longer haul, losing more than it won in a group of powerful CONCACAF minnows plus Mexico.

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, April 17, 2018 at 2:22 a.m.

    Ben your MLS-bashing argument may impress causal fans, but it doesn't sell to anyone who is familiar with the two rosters for the T&T vs. USA match.  

  10. frank schoon replied, April 17, 2018 at 10:01 a.m.

    Bob, what are you saying  here, concerning the roster, the US team, etc, I don't understand. As far as I'm concerned the whole history of the US leading up to the qualifications under Klinsman, and under Arena and losing in the end to T&B( unbelievable) in the way they did, shows we didn't deserve to go to the WC, in the first place.
    The only reason for us to go would be  or us to gain experience but  not for our great exhibition of soccer qualities...

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, April 17, 2018 at 5:19 p.m.

    For the US 5 starters were MLS players. (I don't count Arriola as MLS pedigree as he just transferred to MLS a month earlier as a designated player with a $3 million salary.) Of the 23 players T&T had 2 MLS players and 5 at other US clubs. 11 of their players were with their domestic clubs.

    https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2017/09/28/trinidad-tobago-name-23-man-roster-world-cup-qualifier-vs-usa

    https://www.ussoccer.com/stories/2017/10/10/20/48/20171010-news-mnt-v-trinidad-tobago-lineup-notes-2018-fifa-world-cup-qualifying

  12. frank schoon, April 17, 2018 at 9:41 a.m.

    After reading this article,I come away asking myself, why hasn't SA interviewed Jurgen Klinsman, instead of having to read a few crumbs about him in a foreing publication, Der Kicker, of which he really says nothing of importance about US soccer.  Klinsman lives in the US and we have not had a decent interview, as yet, in the SA with Jurgen Klinsman...I don't get it....It's been almost 2 years since he was fired. As I read some of the dislikes and unfavorable opinions of Klinsman, much of this could have been explained and answered by allowing him to talk about US soccer. SA, if they ever decide to interview Klinsman, I would suggest SA to ask the readers of SA to send in questions as well to pose to Klinsman. Let him lay it all out, this could be a great interview for many reasons. 

  13. Kenneth McCarthy, April 17, 2018 at 1 p.m.

    R2Dad,
    I did not mean "softer and less stringent standards of MLS" whatever that means. I meant that he had players in the wrong roles and played formations that did not work with the players he had. Round peg in  a square hole.

  14. R2 Dad replied, April 17, 2018 at 9:16 p.m.

    Funny, Osorio is pounded by the Mexican press for doing much the same thing, and he will most likely be our next USMNT coach!

  15. Right Winger, April 17, 2018 at 3:07 p.m.

    Was looking at Top Drawer soccer page and MNT U17's are in action over in Spain.  They list several players that are not new to the national program but new to the U17's and they give a brief description of the player, background etc.  On one player they start out by describing our style of play which they describe the US play as being up tempo pressing type of play and then they imply this kid doesn't have much of a chance because he a true #10 and can dictate the tempo of play and create chances.

    This right there identifies the problem US Soccer has.  I would think they would be looking for someone who can create chances and control the game at the midfield.  If this is our style of play, is up-tempo,  I would assume that is being taught from the ground up we need to change it because it ain't working.  We need tech players who can control the game and create chances.  Some body help me with this.  If I am wrong let me have it.

    Somebody help me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Wooden Ships replied, April 17, 2018 at 4:07 p.m.

    I’m with you Winger. 

  17. frank schoon replied, April 17, 2018 at 4:25 p.m.

    RW, don't waste your time on this crappola!! These discriptions are about as meaningless as what you hear coming out of the mouths of these tv soccer commentators and socalled soccer journalist... So much of all these terminoligies have little applications in the real world. For example, you'll here a commentator during a MLS state this or that player has vision...yeah sure...just enough to able to see he has two feet. Like Tyler Twellman or whatever his name is sounds he just read a passage out of a soccer book and tries to sound important. So many read of a teleprompter things that was placed there by some laptop coach whose soccer terminologies came out of the latest coaching course....
    You're right, what it really comes down to is for players who have enough skill and display good technical abilities and are good enough to be to able control the ball UNDER PRESSURE and able control the game, AND HOW MANY DO WE HAVE OF THOSE!!

  18. Bob Ashpole replied, April 17, 2018 at 5:41 p.m.

    RW, I agree with Frank. 

    Part of the problem is the issue of false dichotomies. Players can and should be both physical and technical, and team tactics can and should be both "up tempo pressing" and possession oriented. I will stop there, because I could talk non-stop about the game. 

    I for one am tired of the bashing of youth clubs and coaches. At a coaches meeting last night, our club DOC made it clear to all that no one likes to win more than he does, but the kids come first, not the club's match results. People will rant on line about some horrible coach, while the multitude of good coaching performances go unremarked. I may disagree with some clubs' and coaches' ideas, but that doesn't mean I doubt their good intentions.  

  19. R2 Dad replied, April 17, 2018 at 9:23 p.m.

    *yawn*. Bob, let me know when your DOC threatens to fire any coach that gets ejected from a match. Until then, I don't care about good intentions--the LOTG ignore them and the road to hell is paved with them!

  20. Ben Myers replied, April 17, 2018 at 11:01 p.m.

    Yep.  You broke the code.

  21. Right Winger, April 17, 2018 at 4:57 p.m.

    Frank my point is that these types of feeling permiate throughout  US Soccer even those who observe the sport and write about it.  They really think we are doing the right thing with they type of game we play.  Quite frankly I dont know what type of game we play.  To write that someone who can control the game most likely doesn't have a chance to break through in US Soccer is crazy to me.  We havent had anyone like that on our MNT.  That is why our team is riding the bench this World Cup season.  Frank we got a problem and the problem is us.

  22. Bob Ashpole replied, April 17, 2018 at 5:53 p.m.

    RW, the US national teams and USSF are only a part of soccer in the USA. Most players are not USSF affiliated. Every type of soccer you can think of is played by somebody somewhere in the US. In my experience most adult amateur teams are culturally either Hispanic, northern European (German is what I think of), or a mixture. The breakdown actually varies with the location. 

    Personally I never played on a team without at least some Hispanic players. Youth soccer is different because the team's culture is usually a reflection of the coaches' culture, not the players' cultures.   

  23. Right Winger, April 17, 2018 at 7:19 p.m.

    Bob, you are preaching to the choir.  I agree with Frank and I certainly agree with your comment that the players need to be both physical and technical.  I agree. Evidently you either didn't read my original post or, or I don't know what.  Certainly physicality is part of the game but so is the tech side of the game.  US Soccer has always had the tendency to lean towards the physical game weather than the tech game.  The comment made by the reporter, writer etc in The Top Drawer article only hi listed that fact.  That was my point and US Soccer has proved that in the past.

    Go read the bios of the 5 players hi listed in the article and you will see what I am talking about.  Can remember which player they were talking about but you will be able to see what I am talking about.  I don't even know what you are talking about with Hispanic players.  Trust me Hispanic players aren't the only ones adept at the technical game but US Soccer has the tendency to put let emphasis on the tech player and concentrate on big and fast.

  24. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2018 at 3:42 a.m.

    RW, the Top Drawer articles are not publicly available so I cannot read the articles. My comments about false dichotomies were generalizations. I hope that you did not take it as criticism of you personally.  

  25. I w Nowozeniuk, April 17, 2018 at 8:47 p.m.

    Point is that the USMNT has a lot of qualities, but lacks the simplicity of Soccer IQ. It's time & space; execute and deliver are the only elements that matter. A player needs to bring something to the team table, like a chef; texture, flavor, composition, and the elements of cohesion. When the recipe works, the chefs and patrons are happy.

  26. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2018 at 4 a.m.

    The problem with the modern game is that the coaches have so much control that when the team tactics fail to achieve an expected result, you don't know if the error lies in the game plan or in the execution. Of course it could be both or neither. 

    I would rather focus on improvement rather than blame.

  27. frank schoon replied, April 18, 2018 at 9:50 a.m.

    Bob, talking about coaching control. I was just watching on Youtube an interview with the great van Hanegem about his new book which is in Dutch and I won't able to read it until I get to Holland in July. He was asked about the poor state of soccer, today. He stated , "today, if you look at the bench during the game, you'll notice a bunch of coaches sitting together,  of which a couple coaches are taking notes on the game, a goalie coach and an assistant coach, they have a diet coach, mental coach, team psychologist, athletic coach, etc; You would think with all these coaches the game of soccer would have gotten so much better, but it hasn't". Van Hanegem is so right on about this. This game has become one for the coaches and not for the players for players today are not as smart or game savvy as the players of yesteryear and that is why there are is a great reduction of Individualism in  the game for the players from youth on are too controlled by these coaches. This is why Cruyff states coaches have greater possibility to do more harm than good.  Van Basten once stated "that out of 10 coaches a player will have experienced, 6 of them will make you worse, 2 will not improve you, and the remaining 2 will have improved you"

  28. Ben Myers, April 18, 2018 at 12:33 a.m.

    Bob Ashpole, the loss to T&T was only one mediocre result for the USMNT during Arena's tenure.  What about the lineups for the other matches in which Arena was the coach?  IIRC, strong presence of MLS players and lots of changes rather than settling on a stable lineup.  And Arena's overall record of 4 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw plus Klinsmann's two losses is what got the USMNT where it is today.  Not going to Russia.

  29. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2018 at 3:51 a.m.

    Ben, while you think Arena was wrong to start fresh players in the second match of the pairs and develop tailored game plans for each opponent, I think it was a good idea. I don't think doing things the same way with the same lineups every time is appropriate at the professional level. (But then I have had zero involvement with professional soccer.)

    Certainly the US controlled its destiny, but the US didn't qualify because all 3 favorites lost their last match, a really bizarre ending.

  30. Bob Ashpole replied, April 18, 2018 at 4:12 a.m.

    By the way after Arena took over, the USA went 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses for 12 points. Not that it matters much.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_FIFA_World_Cup_qualification_%E2%80%93_CONCACAF_Fifth_Round

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