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It’s Klinsmann – Is He the Right Choice?


Photo by Giftraum

The U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed today what many had expected – Jürgen Klinsmann will be the next manager of the men’s national team.

After reportedly twice trying to hire the German for the job in the past five years, Sunil Gulati has his man.  The federation will hold a press conference in New York on Monday and his first match as head man will be against Mexico on August 10.

“We are excited to have Jürgen as the head coach of our Men’s National Team,” said Gulati in the press release. “He is a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the program. Jürgen has had success in many different areas of the game and we look forward to the leadership he will provide on and off the field.”

Klinsmann’s resume is long and impressive.  The 46 year old former striker played for a number of major European clubs in his impressive playing career, including Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur, and Bayern Munich.  During his international career he led West Germany to their 1990 World Cup victory and helped a unified Germany win the 1996 UEFA European Championship.  He was twice named German player of the year (West German in 1988) and was also awarded the Football Writer’s Association Player of the Year in 1995.

Of greater interest to American fans is his record as a manager.  He was brought back to Germany as head coach of the 2006 German World Cup team and, in the two years prior to the tournament, completely reorganized the German youth system.  Although many felt the team underachieved by finishing third in a World Cup they hosted, his improvements to the German system have revitalized the country’s youth system and has made them, behind Spain and Brazil, one of the favorites to win the 2014 Cup.  After he left the German team and was rumored to be in line for some of the biggest club jobs in the world, he took the reigns of Bayern Munich in 2008.  He led the club to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, where they lost to eventual champion Barcelona.  The board, however, dismissed him towards the end of the season due to difference of opinion.

His ties to the U.S. are very deep.  He has lived in the States since 2000 and even played lower-division soccer under an assumed name.  During his stint as head coach of the German national team, some German newspapers accused him of lacking focus due to commuting between the U.S. and Germany.  He was a finalist for the LA Galaxy job that went to Ruud Gullit and has served as a consultant for Toronto FC since 2009.  His wife is an American citizen and Klinsmann has been heavily involved in American sports marketing.

He has described his style in the past as attacking, so the national team may not see much of a different style of play that was initially seen in the Mexico match last month.  It will also be interesting to see if the team continues to turn to dual-citizen German players for squad depth.  Regardless, the U.S. team will attract more international attention thanks to the name of the man leading it, and if he can succeed in rebuilding the U.S. youth system, this could be a defining moment in Gulati’s tenure.

What do you think of the hire?

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  1. Casualfan

    July 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    If he’s not “right” then it’s time to try some “wrong.”

  2. Roger

    July 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    If Klinsman wants renovate the youth system, he’ll need helpfrom the leagues. By “leagues”, I’m not only talking about the MLS, but also from the USL and NASL. Not very city in this country has a professional or semi-professional soccer team or at close proximity to one. For that reason, they should attempt the best youth player production. The best coaches and tactics taught from young age.

    • DanB

      July 29, 2011 at 8:06 pm

      I’m willing to give JK 8 years, Because he seems to have a clear vision of what he wants to do to change US Soccer for the better. I agree with the doing away with the pay it forward because some of our best youth soccer players with the most drive end up playing in the rec leagues and don’t recieve that technical training of the game. Even if we don’t make it out of the group stages of the 2014 WC i will not push the panic switch. We need patience and trust that JK can get us to where we need to be as a soccer nation.

  3. BamaMan

    July 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Anyone read the Sam’s Army blog on the hire?

    Sheesh. US fans that know what the heck is going on are excited not so much about Klinsmann as a gameday coach – and he is a good one – but about Klinsmann as someone who can fundamentally upgrade the infrastructure and change the culture of US soccer. That is a long term project. I do not have high expectations for this WC cycle (I expect to qualify, anything beyond that would be a bonus) because we are at a low ebb of US talent. The scary thing is that there is very little demonstrated talent coming down the pike after Donovan, Dempsey, and Howard. But I think Klinsmann can really challenge some of the sacred cows in US soccer in a way that Bradley or Arena never would (or could, to be honest). He has clearly thought about this job for a long time and I imagine he has a clear idea of exactly what he wants to achieve with it.

    My dream would be that the US outperform expectations this WC cycle but that more importantly the foundation would be laid for a real run at success in 2018.

    • short passes

      July 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      Rather than posting anything I’ll just start putting a ditto after bamaman!! The sam’s army post was quite naive, soccer-wise. He just repeats hearsay about JK’s resume and the then ignores the potentially biggest impact of JK and that is on youth development. My concern now is that many of the people cheering for JK will expect a WC final 4 — that ain’t gonna happen!!! However, if his efforts are successful, we will be able to visualize a future where that WILL happen.

      • Alan

        July 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

        I think the final 4 COULD happen. We should have been able to make the QF with Bradley involved. If we can get things turned around in 3 years, who knows. I think that making the QF needs to happen and a run
        the SF, regardless whether it will happen or not, is possible. There is a lot to do though. Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard cannot underperform. We need to find more potential talent and really focus on developing them. The problem is our lack of quality strikers more than anything. I have otter thought if we could push our midfield to the next level, we could get Donovan and Dempsey up front because they are the best we got. Add a couple of quality defenders and we have the start of a better team for 2014.

        • dan

          July 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm

          I like your idea about using Dempsey and Donovan up front and developing our midfield stronger. We already have excellent defensive mids (Bradley, Edu and Jones) plus we also have an incredible up and coming talent for an attacking mid (Holden) all we need are the great wings. Bedoya looks very promising. Chandler is another great positive sign to think about.

          Future looks very promising and i’m incredibly excited about Klinsmann. Wish we could see the difference he will make against Mexico coming up but he has not time to shuffle anything, will be interesting to see the lineup he picks.

        • adam

          July 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

          The problem with reaching the qf based on how we did this year dosnt take into account that howard, donovan, and many of our current squad will be 30 or older in 2014.

        • BamaMan

          July 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

          It would take a very fortunate draw for us to have even a tiny shot to get to the round of 4 next WC. We’ll be an older, slower squad up front and we’ll have a lack of experience in the backline. Klinsmann cannot fix the looming talent deficit with just a snap of his fingers. My hopes for this US team are for us to raise our level of play to where our potential is.

          The only real barometer I would put out of that is that we ought to qualify for the WC without going to a playoff. Once in the WC, it really depends on the draw. Get put in another group of death and I don’t think the talent level will be there for us to survive it this cycle. Get another group like in 2010, and there is no excuse not to make it out. My big hope for the USMNT this cycle is that, if we lose, I want it to be because the other team actually is better than us, not because we underperformed or made stupid mistakes. I want us to simply play to our potential and lay the groundwork for future generations of US soccer players. This is not a quick fix.

  4. CTBlues

    July 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I thought this should have happened after last summer’s World Cup, so I am happy with the move. I want to see how people react if we loose to Mexico on August 10th. If people start calling for his head or complaining after a lose after being the coach for what 12 days should have there head examined.

    • BamaMan

      July 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      Exactly. That is a meaningless exhibition game. I would love to beat Mexico but even if we beat them 10-0 it wouldn’t erase the fact that they defeated us in our last meaningful competition.

  5. The original Tom

    July 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    When does World Cup qualifying start for the U.S.?

  6. Charles

    July 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I would love to know how he “revamped” the Germany youth system. I would doubt it would pertain to the US, they have some good basketball players, but that is a soccer country…still I would want to know the details.

    IF he can get rid of the “pay to play” starting now in elementary school for kids, he will improve US Soccer greatly. He has stated his dislike for it.

    It is a joke of a way to have youth soccer, that weeds out anyone without means ( and many with parents that are smart enough not to spend $1500 a year on a 5th grader playing soccer ). The number of athletes chosing other sports from 5th-10th grade in this country is criminal. This isn’t tennis, you shouldn’t be only finding the best rich kid.

    Not sure how he is going to do that however.
    The beauty of US Soccer as it stands right now is we have colleges support thousands of soccer players and draw from many different countries. It is free to US soccer, paid for by profitable sports and other students.
    Any plans that I have seen people want to implement tend to be MORE restrictive, not less. For instance, many are for acedemies, but they tend to exclude almost all potential soccer players. Deciding at teenage years who should play top level is just dumb.

    Plus, it is still not even clear how much power US Soccer gave him.

    Morons, He will not have power to change MLS, so quit your “I could do it so much better, so hopefully someone other than me will do it my way” fantasies.

    • Robert

      July 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      Charles, I agree that the USA system is pricing out talent with there astronomical fees. Living in San Diego and 10 miles from the border you will see kids playing soccer with a basketball on a basketball court. These are the kids that we should try to develop and not lose. When they score a goal 10 times out of 10 they pretend they are Chicharito scoring at Azteca. Belive me, I was one of those kids pretending to play for Mexico and not the USA.

    • Dave C

      July 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      I think we’re all agreed on the pay-to-play front. I think as long as “not being rich” presents a significant barrier to receiving good soccer coaching, the US is never going to be as good at soccer as it could be.

      But I think the only way to end pay-to-play is to create more of an incentive for MLS teams to develop players, thus the MLS teams will pay for the training, rather than have the kids pay for it. Unfortunately,the only way I can see of providing that incentive is to abolish the single-entity structure of the MLS (and I don’t want to lead the discussion down that road again). If clubs could train their own youth players, promote them to their first teams, and then a few years down the line, sell them for a few million $$ to a European team, there would be an incentive to develop players as assets. But right now, am I right in saying that any transfer fee goes to MLS as a whole?

      I’m also interested in how JK changed the youth game in Germany, and how he could do so in the US. Did he really make any changes to the whole youth coaching culture in Germany (i.e. development from the very earliest ages, accross the whole country), or did he just alter the way the German national teams from u-17 upwards played? Because it is it the whole culture in US youth coaching (including the pay-to-play scam) that needs overhauling – simply telling the u17 nat team to play a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 isn’t going to make any difference to the underlying problem – the talent pool available.

      And to be honest, even if a national team coach could change the whole coaching culture of a nation, I don’t believe it’s something any coach would spend much time on. Such changes would need at least 8 years to come to fruition, and it’s rare that a coach sticks around that long anyway, so why would he bother pursuing such a long term goal?

    • Dave C

      July 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm

      Any plans that I have seen people want to implement tend to be MORE restrictive, not less. For instance, many are for acedemies, but they tend to exclude almost all potential soccer players. Deciding at teenage years who should play top level is just dumb.
      Why do the academies exclude potential soccer players? Are we talking about pay-for-play still, or something else?

      And what do you mean about “deciding at teenage years who should play top level”. Any kid with the potential to play top level can usually be identified as such by mid-teens (I’m not saying they all go on to fulfill that potential), and need the appropriate coaching at that age. Nothing is “decided” at the teenage stage, but if you’re not already on the right track, you probably never will be.

      • Alan

        July 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm

        Pay to play is bad for any sport. We should do away with it. Relying solely on academies is dumb too when so people’s closest MLS team is 12 hours away. If it were more accessible to those not living by an academy, I would be all for it.

        • Dave C

          July 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm

          Problem is: if we don’t want players/parents to pay for youth training, and pro-clubs are too thinly spread out across the country to provide accessible, free training, then who is going to pay for training?

          • BamaMan

            July 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm

            You don’t have to take the current youth programs and make them free; almost all of those programs – which are prohibitively expensive for poor families – are more focused on results than tactical development anyway. The better avenue in my humble opinion would be to build a new infrastructure of decentralized, free youth programs focused on tactical development, not winning matches. That is something where the USSF could partner with local park and rec associations to help reshape their approach to the game from a very young age. The flipside of that is that those kids who can play need to have a place to do so once they get in their later teens. That means we do have to have an expanded club system in this country even if it doesn’t reach all the way up to MLS, but their has to be senior level games at the grassroots level. Long term, I’d like to see high schools and colleges transition from men’s soccer as a school-sponsored sport to a men’s soccer as a community-sponsored club sport (BYU has already done this). It would open up a ton of Title IX room and allow guys who have the chops to play pro soccer to be doing so in their prime instead of waiting around to finish college. Just my two cents.

        • Robin

          July 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm

          Dave: Well usually the clubs around the world like in England or Spain would pay for the kids training themselves by using the revenue they get from there first team and they would use the money they get from training camps which is what I think is the only thing we should pay for here in America. It is stupid that we have to pay in order to get into a team but I am all for paying in order to join a youth camp because it happens around the world to

      • Charles

        August 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

        Solving this problem ( pay to play ) will not be easy.

        Nothing wrong with saying some guy may make it at the teenage years, unless it is more restrictive to do so. Eliminating those that are not superstars at that point. I believe that is what is happening.
        It is restrictive, because there is VERY little money in US Soccer. Thus very few playing in academies that do not buy their way in.

        College fielding thousands of teams is WAY less restrictive than 20 acedamies with very little money. Plus they play in competitions the players care about, so MLS teams can see who can actually perform.

        College is going nowhere anyway, not like parents are suddenly going to say to their kids, hey instead of getting an education and playing soccer, you should play video games and play soccer.
        That way after your lucrative MLS contract that probably won’t come, you will be prepared for life. See Ryan Hermann for the Sounders for a perfect example.
        You will play for our acedemy team
        No I am going to college

        It is the gap between everyone playing soccer in 5th grade, to almost exclusively the rich playing by the time college rolls around that is the problem.

    • DLH

      July 31, 2011 at 11:58 am

      Charles, Klinsmann’s revamping to the German setup is easily accessible via your Google machine.

      Germany’s national team was at a major low when he took over, horrible run of results culminating in failing to get out group stage (while not winning a single game) at Euro 2004.

      Players with international-level potential are identifiably at the pre-teen/early teen ages… of course not all of them make it, but the pace of development has to be dramatically accelerated. While they are generational talents, remember that Iker Castillas signed with Real Madrid’s academy at age 9 (and started a Champions League final at age 18). Messi went to Barcelona’s academy at age 13, he’s 22 now and would be entering his senior year for Akron or whatever in a system that relied on colleges.

      And folks, please stop citing Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard as examples. I love our boys but they are not “stars” in the big scheme of things. Name another starter for Fulham, quick, without looking it up. Yeah, that’s about the profile Dempsey has. Donovan was a role player at a mid table EPL team. They play their guts out for the USA, and I love ’em for it… but we need to develop truly world class players to keep pace with Mexico.

      • Robert

        July 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm

        Great response DLH and great research.

        I am personally a fan of having a youth system/league that would be similar to Little League and Pop Warner. These leagues offer low barriers to entry and allow boys and girls to play and just have fun. I’m sure a majority of us on this board have been involved in one of the two leagues i mentioned and never become professional ball players but we had the chance and learned the fundamentals of the game.

        • Charles

          August 1, 2011 at 10:59 am


          Were you being sarcastic ? I hope so.

          Great research ? He basically said if you are Messi and sign with Barca, you should skip college.

          wow, rocket science.

          Oh yeah, then he had to rip on US National team members as not good enough to use as examples.

          • DLH

            August 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

            Charles, don’t you have some Sounders attendance statistics to get all hot and bothered over?

            Run along now, the adults are having a substantive soccer discussion.

          • Charles

            August 1, 2011 at 1:44 pm

            Just keep putting down US Soccer to make you feel good about yourself DHL.

            If you are going to venture outside of temporary solving your personal insecurities, and I don’t recommend it for the rest of our sake, could you actually post something, not just recap a superstars rise to fame ?
            This isn’t the Biography channel.

          • DLH

            August 1, 2011 at 1:53 pm

            You know that Charles can’t support his position with any actual facts when he lashes out with personal attacks and insults.

            Yeah, the development background of world class players is totally irrelevant to a discussion on… the development of world class soccer players.

            I’ve attended more college soccer matches that I can count, many featuring guys who later played for the USMNT. Yeah, I’m a hater I guess. Whatever.

            I want the US to develop world class players so we can challenge for a World Cup title. US college system has never produced a world class player.

            You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

  7. Robin

    July 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    From what I heard and from my research about Klinsmann I am starting to see that he is a great choice for the coach. At first I was against it because I thought that the only reason Americans wanted him as coach was because he is German and you know, all European coaches are great and all that but now I think this is good. Hopefully he could try to get more power over not only the USMNT but also the MLS and maybe help with developement.

    • short passes

      July 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm

      Robert — congratulations on an even-handed summary of JK’s resume. Way too many trash his involvement with Bayern without checking on the upper management conflicts that actually resulted in his termination. After his departure, Bayern spent over 12M euros to bring in 7-8 new players including Arjen Robben.
      However, I do have one Quibble — his run at the World cup was totally unexpected given the youth of the German team. Germany was ecstatic over their performance.

  8. Robert

    July 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I’m excited to have a coach to tell it like it is. He has been very critical of the upside development pyramid in the United States. Hopefully he can re-organize the youth system and hopefully USSF will demand further changes that extend to MLS.

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