Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


KLINSMANN’S UNNECESSARY DONOVAN GAMBLE

Juergen Klinsmann, the coach hired to shake up the U.S. National Team, dropped the biggest bombshell of his controversial tenure by announcing a 23-man World Cup squad that does not include all-time U.S. scoring  leader Landon Donovan, a player considered the best ever produced by this country.

Klinsmann had until June 2 to reveal his final roster, but with his preliminary squad still training at Stanford University ahead of final World Cup tune-ups against Azerbaijan (May 27), Turkey (June 1) and Nigeria (June 7), he pulled the trigger, sending home Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Maurice Edu, Michael Parkhurst, Joe Corona, Terence Boyd, and the man considered the face of American soccer.

The final 23 headed to Brasil ’14:

Goalkeepers — Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake, MLS);

Defenders — DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City, MLS), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Timmy Chandler (FC Nurnberg, Germany), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders, MLS);

Midfielders — Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake, MLS), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, MLS), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo, MLS), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway), Julian Green (Bayern Munich, Germany), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas, Turkey), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City);

Forwards — Jozy Altidore (Sunderland, England), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders, MLS), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar, Holland), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes, MLS).  [May 22]

Comment:  This isn’t on a par with the decision to leave Eric Cantona off the roster of what would become 1998 World Cup champion France, but by American standards, it’s close.  And, on the face of it, a completely unnecessary gamble.

In a perfect world, Klinsy’s grateful selection of players melds in Brazil and beats Ghana, upsets Portugal and walks arm-in-arm with Group “G” favorite Germany into the round of 16.

But in this imperfect world of Klinsmann’s own making, the U.S. could be tied late with Ghana or trailing Portugal or Germany by a goal, and  standing at the halfway line, ready to ride to the rescue, will be Wondolowski or the 18-year-old Green (total international experience: one half hour), not the guy who’s scored 57 career goals, including five in his 12 World Cup matches (all U.S. records).  In short, by omitting Donovan and assembling a team that includes Yedlin, Brooks, Gonzalez and 15 other players with no World Cup experience, Klinsmann, the coach whose aim is to motivate his players by making them uncomfortable, has succeeded in leaving everyone unsettled, including fans who, over the years, have derided Donovan with the nickname “Landycakes.”

Klinsmann described the decision as a matter of 23 players being better than the 32-year-old forward/midfielder:  “… I just think the other guys right now are a little bit ahead of him.”   Perhaps it’s true.  But in soccer, player selection can be a very subjective thing.  Perhaps the coach is still holding a grudge against Donovan for his well-publicized sabbatical in late 2012 and early 2013 that caused him to miss the USA’s first matches of the final round of World Cup qualifiers.

Whatever the reason, Klinsmann has created a potential nightmare for himself.  Some have speculated that he has concluded that getting out of the so-called “Group of Death” is impossible and it’s best to blood young players like Yedlin (total U.S. minutes played:  34) in Brazil in preparation for the 2018 World Cup.  But this isn’t the 1990 World Cup all over again, where then-coach Bob Gansler, looking to the ’94 World Cup the U.S. would host, threw a team averaging 23 years of age to the wolves.  Three and out is no longer acceptable under any circumstances.

If the U.S. somehow advances out of Group “G” next month, Klinsmann is a bloody genius.  But if the U.S. crashes, Klinsmann will be hounded by the spectre of Donovan and what might have been.  And that will cast doubt on every decision he makes–whether risky or mundane–from now through Russia ’18.



THE HONEYMOON BEGINETH

New U.S. National Team coach Juergen Klinsmann named a 22-man roster for the August 10 friendly with Mexico at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.  The meeting will be the first between the rivals since Mexico’s 4-2 romp over the Americans in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in July.  It also will be the first friendly between the two sides in three years.  [August 4]

Comment:  Let the honeymoon begin, or as former Mexico coach Ricardo LaVolpe once said of the U.S. National Team, as quoted in Soccer Stories: Anecdotes, Oddities, Lore and Amazing Feats:  “Here, everyone is interested in baseball and American football and many people didn’t even know that a soccer match was being played today.  So it’s easy for them, because they aren’t playing under any pressure.  My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother could play in a team like that.”

As games go, this is about as meaningless as it comes when it’s the U.S. and Mexico.  Klinsmann will have a long look at players he’s wondered about during his five years as U.S.-coach-in-waiting, and the process will continue next month, with friendlies against Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, and Belgium at King Badouin Stadium in Brussels. 

It doesn’t matter if the U.S. goes down again, 4-2, in Philly.  It doesn’t matter if the U.S. performs poorly against another World Cup qualifier opponent, Costa Rica, or extends its limp record against European teams in Europe with its trip to Brussels.  And it doesn’t matter because these are friendlies and the U.S. coach is former German star Juergen Klinsmann, the biggest name ever to coach the national team.  

Klinsmann’s resume begins with a World Cup championship in 1990, and he lifted the 1996 European Championship trophy as captain.  To put Klinsmann’s credentials as a player in perspective, he scored 47 goals in 108 international  appearances;  the total number of caps earned by his 34 predecessors at the U.S. helm total 35, and it would be far fewer were it not for future NASL commissioner Phil Woosnam, who played 17 times for Wales in the early ’60s.  (The others:  Bob Millar, two, for the U.S.; Erno Schwarz, two for Hungary; Bob Kehoe, four, for the U.S.; Gordon Bradley, one, for the U.S.; Walt Chyzowych, three, for the U.S.; Bob Gansler, five, for the U.S.; and Bruce Arena, one, for the U.S.)

As a coach, while he later failed to click at his former club, Bayern Munich, what most will remember him for was his work in transforming Germany at the 2006 World Cup.  Despite being the hosts, the young Germans were expected by their own countrymen to crash early but instead played an entertaining and inspired brand of soccer in reaching the semifinals.

Beyond that, Klinsmann seems to have come out of Central Casting, had the call gone out for a foreign-born U.S. National Team coach.  Young, articulate, bright enough to negotiate his own contracts while with AS Monaco and on other stops during his highly successful 17-year playing career.  Lives in Huntington Beach, CA, with his American wife and their two very American children.  Thoroughly familiar with the current national team pool, the American mentality and the American soccer system.    

As a result, expect Klinsmann to get the kid-glove treatment for quite some time from the those covering the national team, a press corps never known for making life difficult for any previous U.S. coach–even the prickly Arena or the equally prickly Alkis Panagoulias.  To put it another way, Klinsmann’s relationship with the media will make the bucolic Bora Milutinovic era resemble the height of rancor and malevolence.



NOW MAYBE A STEP FORWARD, NOT YET ANOTHER STEP SIDEWAYS

Bob Bradley, U.S. National Team coach since 2007, was fired during a meeting with U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati and federation CEO Dan Flynn at the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles.

The USSF said it would have a further annoncement in two days.  [July 28]

Comment:  David Gould.  Bill Lloyd.  Andrew M. Brown.  Walter Giesler.  William Jeffrey.  John Wood.  Erno Schwartz.  George Meyer.  Jim Reed.  John Herberger.  George Meyer (again).  Phil Woosnam.  Gordon Jago.  Bob Kehoe.  Max Wosniak.  Eugene Chyzowych.  Gordon Bradley.  Dettmar Cramer.  Al Miller.  Manny Schellscheidt.  Walter Chyzowych, Bob Gansler, Alkis Panagoulias, Lothar Osiander, Bob Gansler (again), John Kowalski, Bora Milutinovic, Steve Sampson, Bruce Arena . . . and Bob Bradley.

The leading candidate to succeed Bradley is Juergen Klinsmann.  That would make Klinsmann the only U.S. coach to have ever actually played in a World Cup, let alone won one.