John Carver and Sir Bobby Robson/Getty Images
Jurgen Klinsmann and John Carver left their respective jobs within a few short days of one another. While Klinsmann was sacked, and Carver left voluntarily both are bad signs for the current perception of American football in Europe.
Klinsmann dubbed “California Klinny” by some in the German press was an iconic attacking player for the German National Team. But his 1998 move to the United States and subsequent involvement with MLS and the PDL had German football analysts concerned about his perspective on the game.
When Klinsmann introduced Americanized training techniques which can rightfully be credited with breathing some new life into the robotic German setup when he became National Team manager in 2004. But tabloids led by Bild derided Klinsmann as an American and an interloper and he was never able to convince some of his German pedigree and how Americanized training and nutrition techniques could help German Football regain the edge that has been lost since Euro 96.
Klinsmann was always controversial dropping Oliver Kahn and commuting from California. But when World Cup 2006 rolled around, Germany was prepared and caught opponents off guard with a more open and attacking style. More importantly perhaps, was the joy Germans appeared to be having while playing the game, unlike so many robotic seemingly mechanical German efforts of yesteryear.
When Klinsmann turned down the US National Team job in 2006, it was originally thought by some that Bob Bradley was simply a place holder. But when Bradley’s tenure began successfully, Klinsmann began looking at Germany again for employment.
When he became Bayern Munich’s manager he brought with him an Americanized style and former US National Team and MLS player Martin Vasquez as an assistant. He gave Joseph Ngwenya, whom he had known with the LA Galaxy a trail and took Landon Donovan on loan.
Klinsmann despite being one of the all time leading goal scorers in World Cup history was never going to be fully embraced in Germany because of his Americanization. His perceived failure, despite having little if anything to do with his American influence will be blamed by some on just this: too much integration of American sports psychology and training on traditional football.
Carver though coaching a Canadian side had to deal with USSF trained and graded officials. A protégé of the legendary Sir Bobby Robson, Carver’s experiences most likely affected the comments Robson made about MLS a few short months ago.
Toronto FC built a cosmopolitan side much like the city it represented and went out and hired a top class manager. But Carver’s problems with MLS rules (such as when he had to field an assistant coach and a few other players on one game contract because of scheduling issues) and the league’s referees has undoubtedly left the Englishmen with a sour taste about the league.
My colleague Daniel Feuerstein speculated months ago that Sir Bobby Robson’s comments were actually simply proxy words from Carver himself. The abrupt, and unexpected resignation of Carver is tantamount to throwing ones hands up and saying “I give up.” That’s where Carver likely is on MLS.
Again, probably this is a misperception. Carver may not have realized how high the standard of play was in the league and thus expected to come to TFC and win quickly. When it did not happen, it was convenient to blame the obvious low standard of officiating in the league. However, in my mind no question exists that TFC got a number of bad breaks last season from referees and the legitimate gripe about many blown calls probably exacerbated Carver’s anger.
The sudden unemployment of Klinsmann and Carver while isolated incident that occurred in a vacuum serve to remind us of the difficulty American managers have in obtaining jobs in Europe and the trouble MLS has in attracting top class managers from abroad. Sadly these two events have furthered this perception.