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US soccer press field softball questions to Jurgen Klinsmann

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After a demoralizing loss to Mexico in a game where the US Men’s National Team put in a very underwhelming performance on the same day that the US U23 team were defeated 0-2 to Honduras in Olympic qualifying, the defeated Jurgen Klinsmann went into the post-match press conference at the Rose Bowl to face the media.

Coupled with the recent Gold Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Jamaica, you would expect the assembled US soccer media to ask Klinsmann penetrating questions especially given his position as both technical director and head coach for the USA.

Instead, what the US soccer press asked were softball questions.

Here are word for word the first four soft questions posed to him in the press conference Saturday night:

Question 1: Jurgen, two tough losses for US Soccer today including the U23’s loss to Honduras. What does this mean for US Soccer?

Question 2: Substitutions of DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood really paid off for you. Talk about what they brought to the team.

Question 3: There must be a lot you’re happy about tonight, though, the way your team came back twice and played really well in a big important match.

Question 4: You look at Mexico’s first goal and third goal. Is there a level of technical skill that they have that the US doesn’t that no matter of organization or tactics or effect can make up for?

These are embarrassing.

Not only are they softball questions, but two of them are framed with so many positives (questions 2 and 3) that even veterans of PR spin would nod their head in approval at their mastery.

Now contrast these questions with the feelings of fans of the US Men’s National Team.

Notice the disparity.

Is it any wonder that Klinsmann’s feet aren’t being held to the fire when the majority of the US soccer press are too nice, not wanting to engage in confrontation and, most importantly, doing a disservice to soccer fans by being so passive?

If this was any other country in the world, Klinsmann would have been grilled in the press conference. Whether you support Klinsmann or not, the US soccer media should be asking challenging questions about the job that he’s doing as technical director and head coach. But they’re not, and ultimately they’re falling down on their jobs, just as Klinsmann and his players have done so in losses to Jamaica, Panama and now Mexico.

Arguably, the US is now the third or fourth best team in CONCACAF based on recent performances. Given the circumstances, reporters should be asking Klinsmann tougher questions to get a better understanding of why many of his players are regressing.

Not surprisingly, the first tough question that was asked by the media to Klinsmann was the next one. This time, it was by reporter Gustavo Mendoza of FOX Sports Radio, who was covering the game from a Mexico angle:

Question 5: A few ex-players said you should go if you lose this game. Others say that you should continue. What do you have to say to tell those guys especially when we saw this great game, but unfortunately the US lost it. What do you say to those ex-players?

By asking the question, it forced Klinsmann out of his comfort zone. He uttered a brief nervous laughter before sharing his opinion.

The next question was from Ives Galarcep when he asked Klinsmann to tell soccer fans why progress is or isn’t being made, which resulted in Klinsmann blaming the refereeing in the Gold Cup as the reason why the team had to play this CONCACAF Cup game in the first place.

By asking challenging questions, Klinsmann is more likely to share valuable insight. Likewise, softball questions generate vanilla answers.

For a man that is paid an annual salary of $2.5 million, four times higher than his predecessor Bob Bradley, the US soccer press needs to be asking tougher questions about the lack of progress within Klinsmann’s program. While as head coach, he can only do the best with the players he has at his disposal, do we have any greater sense of what his vision is for the US soccer program as a whole to give us the confidence to believe that things will improve?

If the US soccer press continues to give Klinsmann a “free pass,” do we have any confidence that Klinsmann and his coaching staff are working as hard as possible and finding all of the solutions necessary to improve US Soccer? Or do we have a feeling that by the media going easy on Klinsmann that he and his staff can take their feet off the gas and cruise along with very little to no accountability until World Cup 2018 when his contract expires? This isn’t a “Klinsmann only” question. It’s a bigger issue that should be raised with the US Soccer Federation officials.

Soccer fans in the US deserve better and want more answers. Unfortunately, given the current climate, they’re likely to be incredibly disappointed.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Pakapala

    October 15, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Just wanted to add my voice to the ones who are saying Bravo Christopher and World Soccer Talk for being one of the very few US media outlet who really go after Klinnsmann and USSF in general.

  2. Sargento

    October 13, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Would you ask Jürgen a tough question if you had the dude in the glasses looking at you the way he is? He must be the one that orders the hits to any journalist that might want to do that.

  3. Michael

    October 13, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Soccer is a team sport. There is so much BS about where players are playing, the status of MLS etc.

    Arena assembled a great team in 2002. He had 11 MLS players and assembled a great TEAM. Were they all the best, most talented players at the time? No. I am sure there were some players who arguably were more talented. But this group of players played the best as a team, worked together and played hard for each other. And they made it further than anyone thought possible.

    We get messed up when we forget this is a team sport. Look what happened after Beckham came to the Galaxy. Those first years were some of the worst futbol the Galaxy has every played. Why? Because people forgot it is a team sport. Arena came in and got the ship corrected.

    Also, on the different side, look what Preki did with Chivas USA. That team was smaller, often slower and definitely did not match up well on the “talent” for “talent” comparison with their opponents but they did well. They played harder (much harder) and more as team than many of their opponents. They made it to the playoffs several years.

    Klinsmann is never going to get on track if he is switching out players and is not laser focused on getting the team chemistry needed. He is also not going to get on track if he does not learn to put together the best team he can with the players he has.

    This sort of thinking requires a coach who can put his ego aside, who can look at the players to see how they fit and what system will work best for them. A coach who wants to create a team in his image is a coach destined to fail and fail many times over (if allowed). Yes, he may be lucky for a while when he has the players that can work together well as a team and fit the structure/style he wants but, as players age and new players come into the fold, he has to be flexible enough to make the changes in the team that are required to keep it strong, competitive and maximize the new talent.

    A coach who can not remove himself from the center — who is so driven by the way he feels soccer “should be played” and who feels that soccer is “best played” based on geography is also destined to fail. He will never be able to see how to form the strongest team with the talent he has. He will always be trying to fit players (may be not even the best fitting players) into his preconceived plans. He will always place himself before his players and the team. The team is set up to serve him instead of him leading the team by serving it in the best way possible — by forming the best team he can from a chemistry standpoint and playing the soccer that they are best able to deliver.

    Not only his thinking jeopardizing the national team, think about the impact to budding soccer players. Inclusive thinking will help development more players in the future. Exclusive thinking, young players need to fit the (his) system, may drive players out or discourage them from playing soccer. Klinsmann may be perpetuating the exclusive thinking at the lower levels which may be a legacy which will haunt US Soccer for generations.

  4. Denuse Vail

    October 13, 2015 at 12:41 am

    What really hurts is we list an opportunity to play some fresh young talent, like starting Bobbie Woods over Clint who would bo yo old yo play in 2028 world cup. We lost the opportunity to start Danny Williams or call up Jordan Morris who all would replace Jones & Beckerman who would be to old for 2018. I much rather see gains like starting youth who lose yet get valuable experience rather than losing with old players and gaining no experience.

  5. Arthur Adams

    October 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Here’s a question: Does it hurt your team that MLS plucked players like Bradley, Dempsey, and Altidore by completely overpaying for them such that no Euro Club would ever touch their contracts?

    Does it hurt your team that players like Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler that are talented enough to start for top four league Euro sides are following the Landon Donovan model and staying at home instead of playing with and against the best talent in the world??

    Was it perhaps unfair of expectations against Mexico to be so high when they have 8 players competing in The Champions League, and we only have 1???

    Who’s fault is that Mr. Klinsmann? That’s correct, those things are not your fault.

    • Jonathan

      October 12, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      That migration to MLS has certainly intensified in recent years too. The only move in the opposite direction that I can think of is Yedlin’s. At least the likes of Dempsey, Bradley and Altidore tried their luck in Europe and all had some degree of success; guys like Besler and Gonzalez didn’t want to take the risk. It’s one thing to not make it in Europe, but to not even TRY… We can all acknowledge that MLS has gotten better, but it’s clearly still nowhere near the top.

    • Denuse Vail

      October 13, 2015 at 12:44 am

      It’s un American to play in other league in the world even if it is in eroarabia.

  6. Peter

    October 12, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    The reporters were likely afraid of being reprimanded by U.S. Soccer if they asked the tough questions. Although, Ives worded his properly. Others should’ve done the same.

  7. Chris

    October 12, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Well, it is never about how crap the team is, always about the manager. Let’s not kid ourselves, Mexico has some real talent, we are below them in talent and competence. Any un-bias person who really understands football would notice this. The only way this team could actually try to accomplish anything is to play how Bob Bradley had them play and that is defensive…any fans who had watched the U.S. team before the 2010 World Cup would know the U.S. always parked the bus and tried to counter attack when the team got a little door open. The problem is, Klinsmann is trying to be different, which I am okay with…and you can see the U.S. team is doing different things as opposed to the past. It’s just the players can’t accomplish it, cause they suck ! that’s the stone cold hard truth.

    The only failure I see from Klinsmann is the Gold Cup, it should be a given according to past standards that the U.S. end up at the final…now, what happens in the final given it should be Mexico is up in the air.

    • chris

      October 14, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      Explain to me Chris if Klinsmann is not “parking the bus” how come Costa Rica and Mexico had 3/4’s of the possession?

      • chris

        October 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm

        Has anybody done their homework and researched why Klinsmann was fired from Bayern Munich? He couldn’t teach tactics to save his life or his job!!!!! Joachim Löw did all the tactical work under Klinsmann’s time with the German national team. Jurgen was in charge of all the motivational speeches…….WTF

  8. Jonathan

    October 11, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Pathetic questions yield pathetic answers. I read some of Klinsmann’s postgame press conference quotes last night and was rather disappointed. Once I learned what questions he was being asked though, I realized the media was partially to blame.

    As a college student looking to become a sports journalist, I’ll keep this article in mind. This soft questioning of any coach/manager/etc will just lead to more and more fans expressing their outrage. I hate to say it, but the media needs to get more…vicious…yeah, that seems like a decent word to use here.

    (Shameless plug: I actually latched onto and dissected a few of Klinsmann’s postgame quotes for my blog, if anyone wants to check it out – https://bluishmoonblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/three-puzzling-klinsmann-quotes-after-concacaf-cup-loss/?preview=true )

  9. Richard

    October 11, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, Christopher. I wrote about U.S. Soccer/MLS for years starting back in 1999, and was always disappointed (at times appalled) by the shiny-happy-family media atmosphere surrounding the sport in this country. Few of us dared to write about the underlying problems endemic in the system, and those of us who did were often singled out and blackballed. I personally lost one writing gig and was also denied media credentials that had been readily approved in the past. I haven’t been in the game for a few years now so I’m not sure what the situation is currently, but it seems clear that the cream-puff questions and kid-gloves treatment haven’t changed much (sadly, it would appear that the retaliation against dissent has had the desired effect). So, I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for calling out the soccer press on their kid-gloves shtick; I know firsthand that it takes courage to do that. Thanks, Christopher, and keep up the good work!

  10. Michael

    October 11, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    This is what you get when you have so many members of the press who aren’t very knowledgeable about the sport covering it. Nor do they know how it’s covered elsewhere so that they could learn from it.

    I’ve also seen critics of Klinsmann go on about how poor he is without giving specifics except that the USMNT isn’t winning a lot. There’s no real dialogue that is informative except people just taking sides for the sake of it.

    • Christopher Harris

      October 11, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Amen!

      • Alex Gago

        October 13, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        We are witness the golden age of soccer as US Soccer is evolving to new levels. It’s stories like this that will continue evolve our soccer culture as it is unique and different then the rest of the world. As a soccer American aficionado that is the way we want it.

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