052614_vogtsyoda_reuters_rtr2siy5_rtx18qx4 Murad Sezer/Reuters, Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Dispatch from the Bay Area

Berti Vogts Plays Yoda to Klinsmann's Skywalker

The 67-year-old German will serve as Jurgen Klinsmann's mentor, advisor, Jedi master, and, on Tuesday against Azerbaijan, opponent. A very interesting relationship, it is.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
May 27, 2014
10:23 AM
SAN FRANCISCO—Berti Vogts doesn’t need a fancy app to keep his travel plans straight: He's got it all up in his head.

The 67-year-old will be doing a lot of moving around as the World Cup approaches. First, he's returning to his home base in Germany with the Azerbaijan national team after he coaches it in a Tuesday friendly against the United States. Then he's going “by car to Holland to the Netherlands and watch the match Ghana against Holland and Germany against Cameroon. Then I come over and go to Boston and watch the match Portugal play I think Mexico?” he said, correctly identifying the teams in a June 6 friendly.

That seems enough but he just keeps going. He’s in Jacksonville to join up with the United States, then he’s going to Miami to see Ghana again and then Brazil, where he'll be rewarded with a couple of flights cris-crossing the country with U.S. national team.

He never mentioned any side trips to the Dagobah system.

Vogts role with the U.S., like his travel plans, can also seem convoluted, but the former German national team player is clear on his responsibilities both as coach of the Azerbaijan team and as a special adviser to Jurgen Klinsmann with the U.S.

“I’m not a coach, you know,” Vogts said Sunday. “Maybe Jurgen has some question to me about special things. I give him a clear answer. That is my part.”

Klinsmann certainly feels comfortable going to him for advice. In fact, the elder German recalled giving a very important piece of advice to a young Klinsmann early in his playing career.

Vogts said he met Klinsmann in Tatooine when the future World Cup winner was only 16 or 17 years old. At that point, he was playing as a winger, but Vogts thought he’d be better suited elsewhere.

“I told him, no that’s not your best position," Vogts said. "You have to play in the middle. He did that, and then he started a big, big career.”

When Vogts’ agreement with U.S. Soccer was announced in March, Klinsmann said he’d been trying to bring him onto his staffs for nearly a decade and was finally able to make it happen. The new adviser said he had a few conversations with the general secretary and president of the Azerbaijan FA and they signed off on the agreement. Plus, he’ll be able to scout Euro 2016 qualifying opponents like Italy and Croatia at the World Cup. Or, as Klinsmann described it Monday, “he wants to be part of the big music” of the international showpiece.

“For me, he’s been, and I’ve mentioned that before, he’s been a big mentor throughout my life,” the U.S. coach said at a news conference. “He just has an outstanding soccer brain, an outstanding knowledge. The way he reads the game, the way he analyzes things, with his tremendous experience that he is, it’s unquestionable a huge benefit for us.”

But as close as the pair might be, they say there has been no collusion or special requests made to help the United States with preparations.

“No, no, no. That’s not possible,” Vogts said when asked if Klinsmann had made any tactical requests that Azerbaijan play a certain way. “It’s a friendly, you know? It’s an international match. It’s not a match about two friends. It’s a match, Azerbaijan against USA, that’s all.”

Klinsmann did mention, however, that Azerbaijan will mimic some of the styles of two European teams his charges will take on in the three Group G matches, though Vogts cautioned his side isn’t quite able to replicate the speed of a team like Portugal or Germany.

Vogts has been with his own side this week, but the American players got to know him in Arizona when the Stars and Stripes squared off in a friendly against Mexico. “He was around for a few days,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We all enjoyed having him around. He’s certainly somebody who has a wealth of experience, and I think it’s somebody who will be really useful for us to have around going forward.”

While it’s a longshot Vogts will pick up any points on the field Tuesday, he’ll make up for it with his airline reward points in the next few weeks. And though he’s rooting for the Americans to be toppled this week, he’ll hope to get an extended stay in Sao Paulo.

Are there any other Star Wars characters in the United States national team setup? We'd love your suggestions below.

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