You are using an old web browser. Such browsers do not support modern web technologies and do not offer proper security. Please update your browser or download one of the others suggested for free.
Mozilla Firefox |
Google Chrome |
Internet Explorer |
Slow and steady for Jurgen Klinsmann
By Jeff Carlisle
Jurgen Klinsmann is a man with a plan, but for anyone who thinks results will happen overnight, the U.S. head coach has a message -- the revolution will be televised, but it won't be rushed.
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- There's a story Jurgen Klinsmann likes to tell about his time playing for Monaco under the tutelage of one Arsene Wenger. In the mid-1990s, Wenger had in his squad a talented young attacker by the name of Youri Djorkaeff. Despite the player's ability, Wenger wasn't averse to leaving Djorkaeff on the bench at times. Klinsmann couldn't understand it.
"I had arguments with Arsene," recalled Klinsmann during a roundtable with reporters. "'Why don't you play Djorkaeff? Why do you put him on the bench? He is such a great talent. Our team is not AC Milan.' [Wenger] says, 'Jurgen, because he doesn't get it yet, to be a real focused professional.'
"We didn't win the championship then," Klinsmann added, "but two years later Djorkaeff was a [French] national team player, and a couple of years after that he was a World Cup winner. He actually sacrificed one of our best players to teach him those lessons."
It's a tale that reflects Klinsmann's approach to his latest job as manager of the U.S. national team. This is not to say that the American squad is overstocked with a bunch of brooding youngsters. Far from it. But Klinsmann plans to reshape the national team from the ground up, bringing younger players along when they are ready. This revolution will not be rushed.
Never mind the tactical and stylistic overhaul that is expected to take place under Klinsmann's watch. The former German national team manager is spending much of his time in fact-finding mode. Ahead of friendlies against Costa Rica on Friday and Belgium four days later, the players assembled will undergo a variety of physical tests, from blood and fitness work to stability, flexibility and functional testing. It's a process that started when he convened the team for the first time before the Aug. 10 friendly against Mexico, and it's expected to last for the first two to three months of his tenure. He'll also be looking to find the right personalities to carry out whatever system he ultimately chooses.
I want to study as many [players] as I can study because the mindset plays a huge role as you get to a World Cup. I need to figure out early what players are really up to that task.
" -- Jurgen Klinsmann
"We want to get as much information as possible," Klinsmann said. "And I want to study as many characters as I can study because the mindset plays a huge role as you get to a World Cup. So I need to figure out early what players are really up to that task, can live with the daily grind and have the right working attitude. Are they open-minded to improving themselves?
"No matter what level they are at right now," Klinsmann added, "if they are in Europe or not, I don't really care. I take them from where they are right now, and I will see if they are ready to go to the next [level]. That is really the stuff that goes on for the first couple of months. It's not that I can say, 'Ideally I would love to play this way, and it has to work out that way already.' You have to kind of slowly work toward that, because we have to see so many different aspects of it."
One area where Klinsmann has moved quickly is in naming Martin Vasquez as his No. 1 assistant coach. The U.S. manager had previously indicated that he would audition guest assistants whenever the team got together as a means of filling out the spots on his staff. But given that the two worked together when Klinsmann was manager of Bayern Munich, Vasquez's arrival is hardly a surprise.
Granted, that experience did not end positively, with Klinsmann and Vasquez both being fired late in the 2008-09 Bundesliga season, though Bayern was only three points out of first place. Vasquez's disastrous stint as manager of Chivas USA last year, when the Goats finished with the second-worst record in MLS, will raise concerns that Klinsmann isn't adding the kind of tactical knowledge that Joachim Low provided to Klinsmann when the latter managed Germany.
Yet Vasquez does have some shinier entries in his résumé. He was widely lauded for his work as an assistant with Chivas USA under both Bob Bradley and Preki. Vasquez's high-level contacts in Mexican soccer could prove critical as well, given the increasing number of Mexican-Americans playing south of the border.
"He has a tremendous knowledge about coaching teams on the field, the work on the field," Klinsmann said. "I had him at my side with Bayern Munich and he did a tremendous, good job. Obviously for the Germans, it was something very unusual. They didn't like it. They didn't like the American fitness coaches I brought in, sports psychologists I brought in with the national team program, so [the media] didn't like having a Mexican-American assistant coach at Bayern Munich. The people itself had no issues with that. He did a great job and everyone afterward was very thankful to him of the work he did. The media saw it a little bit different. But he is a 24/7 worker, and all he wants is to help players, in all aspects of it."
Don't miss a moment of the latest soccer coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
But what might be even more important than Vasquez's hiring is filling the vacancies for the Olympic and U-20 national team head-coaching jobs. Klinsmann indicated that neither he nor Vasquez will take on these roles. They are highly important, full-time jobs, and Klinsmann will be focused on World Cup qualifying, which will have started when the Olympics take place in July.
The U.S. manager expects anywhere from five to seven players from the Olympic team to garner roster spots at the 2014 World Cup, assuming the U.S. qualifies. Among those being targeted are up-and-coming talents like Josh Gatt as well as Mixx Diskerud, Freddy Adu and Juan Agudelo, all of whom have seen time at the senior level. But Klinsmann indicated that he preferred these players develop with the Olympic team, rather than being rushed into the full national side, which explains in part why Gatt and Diskerud were not called in for this latest round of friendlies.
Klinsmann would like to see young players such as Juan Agudelo develop with the Olympic team.
"I don't want to do the second [step] before the first step," Klinsmann said. "The first step is now finding the right people for those [coaching] roles, and then working hand-in-hand with those guys. If I bring in now [players] just because it is reported to me that they are very talented kids, but maybe I don't have the whole picture yet, I don't do them a favor. Because then you shoot them from where they are right now into high media attention and to something that they can't fulfill. If you call in a 17-, 18-, 19-year-old, if he has the talent, then we need to make sure that they are OK with that, and can control that process from that moment on. That's where those coaches are crucial."
Klinsmann is hoping to more closely emulate the progression of players in Europe, where players are brought along more slowly, and it's no big deal if a player hasn't broken into the first team by the time he is in his early 20s.
"When we have an 18-, 19-year-old here in MLS who is an exceptional talent, then we expect from him to already be a senior national team player and to score goals like Agudelo," Klinsmann said. "This is wrong. Yes, we identify a Brek Shea and an Agudelo and youngsters like that, but at the same time, we have to be realistic and say, 'You know what? At his age, this is what we can expect from that kid.' And we're not expecting Juan Agudelo to come into the national team and score every time he plays or perform at the highest international level because we only want to see him step-by-step develop."
Such considerations will not dampen the calls for the U.S. to decide on a particular style, and quickly. Klinsmann insisted that his physical evaluations of the players will go a long way toward determining the direction the team takes. After all, it's no use implementing a more attack-minded direction if the team doesn't have the physical wherewithal to execute that plan, especially against elite teams. Klinsmann indicated that the goal is to have questions of style figured out by the time World Cup qualifying rolls around in June.
"We can't go 200 miles per hour at Spain or Brazil, otherwise we will be down by six goals at halftime," he said. "But if we play [teams] at the same level, or potentially lower, then we can have the confidence and dictate the game from the first moment on, and keep the pace throughout the game. Which may be not possible right now, but will hopefully be by next summer to say we can really go at a high pace and high intensity and dictating hopefully for 90 minutes."
To that end, Klinsmann is also attacking problems further upstream in terms of player development. Of particular concern is the MLS calendar, which runs for roughly eight months. "We need to attack that topic," said Klinsmann about the league calendar. "If they lose two or three months in the offseason, on this level, we can't afford that. It's as simple as that. We can't have a national team player take two months off; it's impossible. [Otherwise], we will never reach the global stage."
Perhaps there are some aspects of Klinsmann's revolution that need to be rushed after all.
Jozy Altidore scores 2 in Europa League
Jozy Altidore and Carlos Bocanegra are wasting no time contributing to their new teams.
Altidore's two goals in AZ Alkmaar's 6-0 rout of Aalesunds on Thursday give him five since joining the Dutch team last month from Spain's Villarreal. AZ advanced to Europa League's group stage 7-2 on aggregate.
Bocanegra, who signed a three-year deal with Glasgow Rangers on Aug. 17, scored the Scottish team's lone goal in its 1-1 draw with Maribor on Thursday in Europa League play. Rangers failed to advance to the group phase of Europe's second-tier competition, however, with Maribor going forward 3-2 on aggregate. It was only the second game with Rangers for the U.S. captain, who spent the past four seasons in France.
Jozy Altidore has gotten off to a terrific start for his new Dutch club, AZ Alkmaar, which is good news for U.S. soccer.
It's been a very good few weeks for U.S. soccer. The Jurgen Klinsmann honeymoon is ongoing, MLS nabbed an unexpected profile-raising new TV deal, and two, count 'em two, MLS teams (FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders) gained CONCACAF Champions League wins in Mexico. That's a terrific threesome of events, but the best news is the return of Jozy Altidore to the goals column.
The former Red Bulls phenom has ridden a lot of pine across Europe since leaving the friendly confines of MLS for the cutthroat world of La Liga and Villarreal in 2008. I don't blame him for boosting his bank balance but his game stalled, and his easy-going attitude seemed to take a hit as well.
Yet Altidore is only 21, and he's still got plenty of game. He just needs to play. And at his new Dutch club, AZ Alkmaar, he's got off to the type of fast start that should ensure playing time as opposed to his wasting more time. He scored two goals against NEC Nijmegen last Sunday, adding to his Eredivisie opening day strike against PSV Eindhoven, and bagged another brace Thursday night in AZ's 6-0 demolition of Aalesund in their Europa League playoff.
It seems Altidore has finally found a home after wandering in soccer's blighted loan deal wilderness for too long. Fellow Bradenton residency program alumni DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Bradley thrived in Dutch football and there is no reason Altidore shouldn't do so as well. He's big, powerful and has a natural instinct for getting into goal-scoring positions. His technique, finishing and stamina, though, have been very questionable for some time. That's why he needs to play. You can't teach size and instincts, but you can improve on the other items on this list. And the Dutch are masters at teaching them.
The presence of U.S. national team World Cup veteran Earnie Stewart in the AZ front office will also help Altidore. It affords him the luxury of an empathetic figure at the club that will ensure an even playing field to display his talents. The outdated attitude that American players are only good for playing in goal, not scoring goals, seemed to prevail once he got to Spain. It's one thing to sit behind a Champions League strike force at Villarreal, but quite another to never kick a ball for Xerez in the second tier.
Don't miss a moment of the latest soccer coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
Granted, Altidore bears plenty of responsibility for his own misfortunes in Europe -- the unfiltered Twitter comments and reported lackluster training ground efforts didn't help his cause at Hull City, but he remains the best U.S. hope to provide a real goal-scoring edge to the front line. And that's why Altidore blooming again in Holland is the best possible news for U.S. soccer.
Altidore has scored 12 goals in 39 internationals for the U.S. on raw talent alone. That's a pretty good return by any standard, and why U.S. fans love him. He's feasted mainly on CONCACAF opponents, including Mexico, which is fine, but for the U.S. to really lodge itself in the FIFA top 10, it must have a striker who defenders fear. At the moment, Altidore still has the potential to be that player.
Klinsmann, the new U.S. national team head coach, has made it clear that he wants high energy and a matching attitude from his players. These are two areas that Altidore must work on. Team defense was a problem area under Klinsmann's predecessor, Bob Bradley. It begins up front, and Altidore never seemed fond of chasing down defenders to pressure them from playing easy balls out of the back. For all the California sunshine evident in Klinsmann's demeanor, no one should forget that his standards are ultimately of German engineered precision. German soccer doesn't tolerate timeouts on the field -- only results. Altidore will do well to remember that.
Like Bradley before him, Klinsmann will give Altidore every opportunity to thrive and mature. But the new sheriff in town will expect his young gun to be playing and scoring goals regularly to ultimately be part of his American Revolution. With the new season underway, Altidore has made a giant stride in that direction.
Clint Dempsey to return vs. Belgium
ESPN.com news services
CHICAGO -- Clint Dempsey will not join the U.S. national team for its exhibition game Friday against Costa Rica.
U.S. Soccer says Dempsey, a midfielder for Fulham of the English Premier League, will stay in London to get treatment for back spasms. He will join the Americans on Sunday ahead of their match Sept. 6 in Brussels against Belgium.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann also added Chris Pontius and Jonathan Spector to the roster Monday for the Costa Rica match in Carson, Calif. They'll replace Zach Loyd and Heath Pearce, both nursing hamstring injuries.
In other developments Monday, German-born midfielder Fabian Johnson will not make his international U.S. debut during the friendlies because he has yet to receive his clearance from FIFA.
Prior to being called up by new Klinsmann, Johnson -- who holds dual U.S. and German citizenship -- had previously represented Germany at the youth and Under-21 levels. Since Johnson has not yet completed his one-time switch procedure between the U.S. and Germany, he will be unable to participate in the matches.
Johnson will still train with the team in California ahead of the match against Costa Rica in Carson, Calif., on Friday, and then travel with the team to Brussels as they prepare for their Sept. 6 match against Belgium.
Upcoming rosters for matches vs costa rica and belgium
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION - Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael
Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Rodney Wallace, Costa Rica beat U.S.
CARSON, Calif. -- Rodney Wallace scored to lead Costa Rica to a 1-0 win over the United States on Friday night, giving Jurgen Klinsmann a loss in his second match as U.S. coach.
"Bad result," Klinsmann said. "Never like to lose a game, but very good performance. I was pleased with the performance. I was pleased with the way all the players tried to implement all the work that we did on the training field throughout the week. ... What I told the guys in the locker room was that from a performance point of view, it was very, very positive, what we saw."
Work In Progress
The new-look U.S. attacked with verve in the first half but failed to take its chances, and Costa Rica scored the game's only goal in the second half to win 1-0. Jeff Carlisle recaps the game and hands out the U.S. player grades. Story
In Klinsmann's first game as coach, the United States tied Mexico 1-1 on Aug. 10 in Philadelphia.
The Costa Ricans took the lead in the 65th minute when Wallace scored on a header off a rebound after goalkeeper Tim Howard stopped a shot. The Maryland-raised defender was playing his first match for Costa Rica.
The Americans came out lively in the opening 20 minutes, but as the match wore on the Americans were drawn into a physical match that featured five yellow cards.
"I want them to go through those kind of down periods in games," Klinsmann said. "We saw here and there players getting tired or a couple minutes where they were struggling. But they need to learn to go through those minutes. They need to fight their way through it. And you saw they got a second breath, a third breath and they did excellent."
The United States had its chances in the second half, the best coming in the 71st minute when Jose Francisco Torres fired a shot that was saved by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
The United States will return to action Sept. 6 against Belgium in Brussels.
"I think there's no question tonight is going to benefit us," U.S. star Landon Donovan said. "There's a lot to learn from tonight. A lot of our young players will now see you can dominate a team, dominate possession and have the majority of the ball and still lose."
I can't get over how bad the U.S. was last night. I guess, what do you expect when you take players from the shitty MLS and put them on the national team. They looked dreadful and I expect them to drop from the top 30 in the world rankings. Last summer they were extremely overrated in the top 15.
U.S.A. takes on Belgium tomorrow at 2:30 (ESPN/watchespn.com). Belgium is favored to win (+110). Not sure who I am going to take on this match as the U.S. looked like shit the other day. While my gut is telling me to take Belgium, they are extremely young and unpredictable.