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Wynalda: Klinsmann will be fired if US doesn’t win World Cup game

World Soccer Talk’s Bo McMillan recently sat down with Eric Wynalda, the third all-time leading goal scorer for the United States National Team and current FOX Sports soccer analyst and co-commentator. Wynalda is also the Technical Director of the NASL (US Second Division) Atlanta Silverbacks. 

Here’s the transcript of the interview ahead of USA’s game against Ghana:

Bo: How important is the United States’ performance in this World Cup in terms of the popularity of the sport here? How will their performance affect the growth of soccer in the US?

Eric: We are judged every four years on where we are as a soccer nation. Most countries aren’t on this fast track of growth. Most countries have maybe even hit the ceiling already in terms of fan support. But what ends up happening is their countries get excited at the idea of having a wonderful World Cup. For us, we’re always kind of just sitting there waiting to see what happens. I’ve never seen this country this excited about the game. I’ve never seen this kind of fan support. But you’re talking about the casual fan? Americans don’t get it if we don’t win the whole thing. That’s just the mentality. Jurgen’s quote didn’t help, “We’re not going to win the World Cup.” That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say to the American people, especially the casual fan.

Bo: With the difficult group that we were drawn into, does Klinsmann get a free pass for this World Cup?

Eric: No. No he doesn’t. And he shouldn’t. If you notice, as soon as we saw the draw, his argument was it was that it was unfair for him to be evaluated with his group. So what did he do? He immediately negotiated for four more years, and changed things around quite a bit. He has his people around him now. It is a whole-new look federation. I mean, we all have different opinions on what will make this a successful World Cup. I’ll just tell you this. If we don’t get a win, if we do not win a World Cup game, he will probably be let go.

Bo: With this roster, we have a mixture of veteran players and young talent. Who will need to step up and shoulder more of the weight in this tournament?

Eric: You look at a guy like Graham Zusi who’s a bit older, but playing in his first World Cup. That’s got to be invigorating for him. He’s going to go through a whole slew of emotions. He’s going to run a little faster, he’s going to be a little quicker. We’ll find out in a hurry how good we’re going to be. I actually think this team will play a lot better than expected, especially in that first game. Because, one, we need to. And two, right down the spine, we do have enough experience. Guys like Dempsey, Bradley, and Howard will be the calming voice in the locker room and probably get us through those first 20 minutes.

Bo: The current system of finding young talent in the United States relies heavily on colleges and young travel team programs. Do you think this current system is adequate to discover that next big talent?

Eric: No. We’re nowhere near it. The infrastructure that you see in Europe is far more organized than what we have. My argument is, instead of looking oversees to see what players we can find, it might be more advantageous to start looking into some backyards here in America. There are a lot of possibilities we’re overlooking on a continual basis. I’ve got a kid on my team (Atlanta Silverbacks) right now, and I’m not afraid to talk about him. His name is Poku and he’s from Ghana and he got married to an American girl. Poku is American. He’s 21, 6’1”, and he’s one of the best soccer players, obviously in this league (NASL), but he might be too good for the MLS too. He can play anywhere. He literally lives down the street in Atlanta. He happens to be living here because he had a school visa that expired and he had to figure out a way to stay in this country. Now he’s here, and he’s legal, and he’s good.

Bo: So what changes do we make?

Eric: You hire the right people and you stop being lazy. Stop being afraid. Just because you got an email that said you have to put your jacket on and go to some division one game, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Watch that division three game, or the Mexican league game in East LA that happens to have a 20-year old kid who looks pretty good. People will say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and give you a million reasons not to give him a chance. But there are a million reasons TO give him a chance. We’ve missed the boat a lot. Our coaching in this country is not good. Let’s just say that. The moment that we finally discover a player, the moment he’s been discovered by the powers that be in this country, is the moment we start destroying him. That’s what happens. Nobody wants to admit it, but we’ve got a bunch of coaches that over-coach and turn players into what they want them to be as opposed to letting them become who they are. Power trips and PowerPoint presentations are dictating the show right now. There aren’t enough soccer minds out there making soccer decisions.

Bo: You’ve seen a lot of success in your career both on and off the pitch. What kind of legacy do you want to leave with United States soccer?

Eric: To be fair, I think I can have a far greater effect on the game in the next 10 years than I’ve had in the last 20. What I was able to accomplish as a player… well, it has its good moments, and it has its bad moments. It’s all experience that, if I don’t use it, if I don’t pass it on, it’s useless. The frustration for me has been exclusion. Maybe people don’t like the truth. Maybe people don’t like to…. I don’t know, maybe people don’t like solutions. Because if you come in with a solution, what does that mean? It means you’ve probably just got 10 people fired. So those people are going to protect their jobs. It’s a dangerous path that you walk if you’re a guy like me who just wants to make a difference. You kind of have to play ball and play that political game of not saying anything to make sure that people trust you enough that they’ll be able to put you in a position where you can help but know you won’t say or do the wrong thing in the wrong moment. If anyone has been paying attention to my career as a coach, I don’t think I’ve had very many missteps.

Eric Wynalda spoke to World Soccer Talk on behalf of Sony’s sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup.

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  1. Ken

    June 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Whoa- the anti-Wynalda, pro-Klinsmann fanboys are out.

    Actually, I thought Wynalda made very measured, common-sense statements about what needs to be done. And a very accurate assessment of managerial longevity: you’re only as good as your last result.

    Well, the Klinsmann fanboys don’t have to worry. The US got their win. And with a little luck, they’ll be successful against Portugal too.

  2. biggiotown

    June 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

    It’s just soccer? Who cares? No one in the U.S., for one. And no one ever will.

  3. Smokey Bacon

    June 16, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Dare I say it but he is far more interesting in print than he is on TV. He makes some excellent points here and clearly knows the US soccer scene better than he does the. European game or the EPL. There is clearly a guy with something to say behind the lazy unprepared analyst we see on Fox. Just keeping it real.

    • Flyvanescence

      June 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Told ya smokey. About 2 years ago he gave a speech at the national coaches convention that really exposed many of the things wrong with our federation and system, from the top down, compared to the successful countries (Germany in particular, where he has played and turned down coaching offers).

    • Jeff

      June 16, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      It would be worth FOX using him as one of their man guys for their MLS/US Soccer coverage from next year. It seems he might fit better doing those games

  4. NC

    June 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I like how he sold out his buddy Poku. His visa expired so he got married to an American girl. Good luck on your future interviews with the immigration folks Poku!

  5. JamieU

    June 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    It’s sort of pointless is what he says is correct because he never actually gives a possible means at correcting it. I mean in finding players he say essentially ‘try harder’ or ‘work harder’. It’s a top down infastructure problem that needs money and organization. He doesn’t offer a solution, nor is he honest in admitting that Klinnsman has said that finding players in the vastness of the US is a difficult problem that the US Federation is trying to solve.

    Just like his in game analysis Wynalda just wants to ACT like he knows what he’s talking about.

    • R.O

      June 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Actually Wynalda has provided solutions to US Soccer Fed often over the last years but because Wynalda is “honest” and a bit abrasive, US Fed doesn’t listen.

      If you look at what he’s done 1st at FC Cal and then at Silverback, he went out and ID’d talent that had been overlooked by MLS and other and brought them in.

      He has been saying for a long time to look at US born latin playing in local leagues, etc.

      So he has given solutions, but when the powers that be aren’t willing to listen and they are in control, nothing changes.

  6. R.O

    June 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I understand that many (most) don’t care for Wynalda as a Soccer (Football) TV commentator/announcer, and that’s not his talent.

    Having said that, Wynalda knows the game and what he said in the interview is correct. Let’s be fair. US Soccer Federation doesn’t look for talent outside of Travel Teams and Colleges.

    Families who can’t afford to send their kids to Travel Teams, etc lose out and their kids/teens may be really good.

    Lower level coaching is also sub-par. Has it gotten somewhat better, yes but just barely.

    So while Wynalda’s TV talent as a game announcer/commentator isn’t star quality, let’s be honest that he knows the football side of things and what he is saying about the state of finding talent, coaching and youth level is quite true.

  7. Tim

    June 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I love Wynalda! People cant take him because he is brutally honest where we are as a country.

  8. t

    June 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

    well we know this is really going to happen, given Winney was told by Gussy. Fux sports definitely again shows why it is the clear leader in soccer coverage.

  9. Kevin

    June 16, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Couldn’t care less what Wynalda thinks.

    • R.O

      June 16, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      So you want to stick your head in the sand and your dislike for his TV announcing skills (lack of) is blinding your rational thinking by not being fair and objective.

      Ok, your choice.

  10. CTBlues

    June 16, 2014 at 11:13 am

    If Wynalda wants to make an actual difference maybe he should give up the gig at Fox and become a full-time coach.

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