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John Carver

Thoughts on Klinsmann and Carver


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.

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  1. Jonathan

    April 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Kartik to a certain extent, I agree with you. Nonetheless, the perception of American foothold would not be fully appropriate to Klini’s case. Notice how messed up Bayern is. Before Klinsi came over, it was a mess, and it continues to be one.

  2. Skinn

    April 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Uninformed. I liked Carver–to a certain degree … however, to call him a “top class manager” is more than a stretch. His experience of managing a club–rather than coaching–was extremely limited.

  3. Cavan

    April 29, 2009 at 10:26 am

    That is one reason why I stopped officiating (amateur men’s and high school games) after 13 years. I just got sick of having my credibility questioned by fools who have never been in the middle and don’t really get the strategies and limitations of refereeing soccer. Any fool can complain to the ref. It takes someone a cut above to ask why he/she might have seen it that way. Also, to ask what the implications of making a certain call are.

    Having seen officiating in other leagues and at the international level, I don’t see how our officials are worse than any others. “Bad” calls happen all the time. However, most “bad” calls are merely good calls that didn’t go in your team’s favor. Coaches are paid good money to complain. It’s good media theater. You don’t play the game if you can’t deal with officials.

    Anyway, I’m off topic.

  4. Cavan

    April 29, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Blanco did that to mock the officials. He’s a bully and is always seeking a way to humiliate officials. He did that because he knew it would make them look dishonest. That does not mean those calls were dishonest. Perhaps erroneous, not dishonest.

  5. BC

    April 29, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Speaking of questionable officiating, check out this story in the Columbus Dispatch about Saturday’s Crew/Fire game and tell me if this is a big problem for MLS or not:

    If this story is what it seems to be with Blanco dropping off a Fire jersey to the referees, isn’t this a hit to the league’s credibility? Look at how the game played out in the 2nd half with Padula’s straight red card, etc. Is there a legitimate way to address this issue of questionable and now possibly unethical officiating? I’m an MLS supporter, and will defend the league on many issues, but the league should really do something about this if there turned out to be improper conduct on either side.

  6. Lars

    April 28, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Cavan, I want you to go through the MLS Match Centre games, watch every TFC game the entire way through. The calls are mindbogglingly against TFC.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    April 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Carver was whiny but I think it is very fair to say that TFC got more than their fair share of bad calls last season. I can count at least 8 pts TFC dropped because of strange calls, and none they earned because of similar calls. For every other team it tended to balance out.

  8. Cavan

    April 28, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    He was just using the officials as a scapegoat. It’s a common technique used by coaches in all sports at all levels. It’s hardly unique. Over a whole season, officiating tends to balance out. The EPL and Mexican league coaches make the same complaints. It’s just what coaches do.

  9. Lars

    April 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Toronto deserved JC. I say this as a TFC fan. Carver was what the league needs. A passionate coach who speaks his mind. Sadly, he wasn’t jiving with Garber and the atrocious MLS officiating, so he left.

    It’s the way things go in this business. It’s a shame the officiating is so bad though. I often suspect there’s a subtle bias against TFC due to it’s status as a Canadian team on the part of the refs…

  10. Cavan

    April 28, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Carver was about arrogance as much as anything else. The same is true of the German press’s views about Klinsmann’s “Americanization.” It doesn’t matter what the truth or reality on the ground is. The foreign sporting press will use that arrogant line because it’s more convenient and easier than actually looking into the truth. As long as there are fools who lap that stuff up and buy papers/ads because of it, such columns will continue to be written.

    That won’t change for many years, probably not within our lifetimes. The more we worry about European perceptions of our league, the more disservice we do to ourselves. I’ve said it before in comments: our national team could win the World Cup and those European sportswriters would say the same arrogant braindead stuff about how bad we are and how we just don’t “get” soccer. The English will then go off on some sort of half-witted tirade about what losers we are because we call it soccer because football=pointyball in our general culture.

    Carver can go back to England and bask in the glow of his legacy there. Let him make a mint spewing drivel in the tabloids about how horrible our league is because it operates under a completely different set of circumstances. Toronto deserves a coach who wants to be there and build a team within the unique rules of our unique league.

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