Klinsmann raises US profile
New coach says patience is needed
The naming of Jurgen Klinsmann as US national soccer team coach was sudden, but Klinsmann plans to take his time in determining the direction of the program.
“I am going to take a couple of weeks to analyze most of the players and also see what is coming through the ranks, and go from there,’’ said Klinsmann yesterday during an introductory news conference in New York.
Klinsmann will not select a staff for “a couple of months,’’ going with “guest’’ coaches for an Aug. 10 match against Mexico in Philadelphia. As he did after being hired by Germany, Klinsmann wants to adapt the team’s style to the nation’s character, a complicated project considering the multicultural nature of the US.
The hiring of Klinsmann, announced last week, should raise the credibility of the national team and inject the players with a new spirit. Klinsmann is an inspiring figure, among the top all-time scorers in World Cup history. And high expectations are second nature to Klinsmann, who grew up in the Swabian town of Goppingen when Germany was producing some of the best teams in soccer history, going on to play for World Cup (1990) and European (1996) champions.
But Klinsmann is toning down expectations for the US, which has won four of 10 games this year, sustaining a decisive loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final last month. Klinsmann described Mexico as “one of the top 10 teams in the world’’ and said the US “has a ways to go still to break into those top 10.’’
“We need to be realistic, that we are not belonging in there right now, or not yet,’’ Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann presents a higher profile than Bob Bradley, who guided the US to the second round of the 2010 World Cup.
“It’s a great thing to have someone who’s been there, who’s been on the winner’s stand at the World Cup, at the European Championship,’’ said US Soccer president Sunil Gulati of Klinsmann. “That’s a unique situation. He’s had a bronze medal as a coach at the World Cup. For us, that’s a fantastic situation that he’s played at the highest level, coached at the very highest level with Bayern and with Germany. But to have actually tasted the success of winning the World Cup, we think is a plus, for sure.’’
Klinsmann, who just turned 47, has had limited coaching experience. He kept a low profile after moving to Southern California with his American wife, Debbie, after the 1998 World Cup, then was hired by Germany in 2004 in preparation for the ’06 World Cup. Klinsmann then went to Bayern Munich for the 2008-09 season. After being fired late in the season, Klinsmann returned to the US and was interviewed for the national team position for the second time.
“When you coach Germany the expectations are to be in the final; other than the final, the country is not happy,’’ Klinsmann said. “I think expectations here certainly are different because of how the game grew in the last 10-20 years. I think a quarterfinal is already huge. I think going through the group stage is really, really important and then going to the knockout stage where anything is possible. But obviously you want to improve, you want to get better, you want to be better than the last World Cup and the World Cup before. But you can’t promise anything because once you’re in the knockout stage, anything can happen.’’
Klinsmann said US youth technical director Claudio Reyna will be involved in preparations for the US-Mexico game. Player call-ups will be announced tomorrow.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the team,’’ Klinsmann said. “They lost a Gold Cup final against a very, very good Mexico team that over the last couple of years became one of the top 10 teams in the world and have a lot of talent. When you come into a situation like this, you analyze every individual player, the team itself, and the program, which I’ll have the chance to do during the next couple of weeks to see how I can develop them further.
“You build on what was built before, and if you look back on the past 20 years in this country, a lot has been built. The US has, since 1990, always qualified for the World Cup. We can build on what has been built by Bob in the last five years, and before that by Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson, and so on.
“I’m proud to get that opportunity. Having played abroad in different countries, Italy, France, and Germany, I have my own ideas for the program. And I will, step by step, introduce the ideas that I have, always double-checking if it suits the American game. I’m not coming in here to be the European guy. I’ve lived here for 13 years, so I think I know a lot about certain issues.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.