Jurgen Klinsmann Arrived at Just the Right Time
The United States national team manager led the Americans to the World Cup and posted some excellent wins. But how much is about him and how much is a result of the situation?
BY Noah Davis PostedJurgen Klinsmann is getting a lot of credit these days. And he deserves it. The list of accomplishments is long and grows longer by the month. Wins in Italy and Mexico. A trip to Brazil. First place in the Hexagonal. Etc. etc. A great deal of the praise comes from the German's ability to re-focus the American style and deepen the player pool. "This is more of a difficult team to break into. We have more quality on this team. We have more depth on this team," Clint Dempsey said after the United States defeated Mexico in Columbus and qualified for the 2014 World Cup. That statement is undeniable. Landon Donovan made the case even more clear a few days earlier in Costa Rica. When asked if this was the best American team ever, he said a single word: "Unquestioned." But how much of this can Klinsmann actually take credit for? Some, but not all. A math problem: the U.S. has used 47 players in 19 games in 2013. Thirty-nine different men have started at least one match. That's a lot. But Bob Bradley used 58 players in 2009's 24 games, the last comparable year in the four-year national team cycle. He gave starts to 49 of them. The narrative of Klinsmann is succeeding where previous coaches have failed simply because he's using more players is false. What we're seeing, and what is benefitting the new manager, is the growing depth of the U.S. pool. National team managers, after all, aren't responsible for developing talent. That falls to club coaches, whether it be in Major League Soccer or in Europe. And the increased opportunities that Americans have been getting all over the world is paying off with increased talent. Perhaps you could make the argument that Klinsmann has done a better job of retaining dual national talent than his predecessors, but Bradley convinced Jermaine Jones to switch to the Stars and Stripes and was prepared to bring in Joe Corona before he was fired in the summer of 2011. His under-20 coach, Thomas Rongen, did a lot to identify promising young talents and begin to open channels. He famously found Mix Diskerud simply by asking who he was. The point is that Bradley might have been too rigid with his lineup choices at times and favored some players that the American soccer fans would rather have never seen the field, but he did experiment, recruit, and attempt to find the best team. It just wasn't good enough. Klinsmann has famously made practices more difficult and instilled a new level of competition in camps. It pushes players to be their best and, to their credit, most of them are responding well. "They know they have guys behind them in every position so they know if they don't give everything they have the next one comes in and steals his spot. Therefore there is more competition than before," he said after the game against Mexico. But again, that's a much easier thing to do when that statement is actually true. Klinsmann is not a miracle worker. He is simply a smart coach doing a good job. Like any successful manager he is maximizing the talent he has available. It just so happens that the talent at his disposal is better than ever. What do you think of Klinsmann's performance so far? Tell us below, or check out our interactive ASN Matrix and give an in-depth response to the question.
September 11, 2013
September 11, 2013