Jurgen Klinsmann led the US World Cup soccer team to a win and a tie thus far in the event. This outcome has surprised many soccer fans and Klinsmann himself who openly announced he did not expect the team to win the World Cup. Statements like that, and several other actions, have led me to dislike Klinsmann’s style.
His no nonsense and win at any cost mentality should be attributes admired in a leader, but it does not work for me in this situation. First of all, stating your team is not going to win blows my mind. We’re Americans! We’re arrogant. Of course (we think) we will win! This may be motivational on his part, but I don’t feel that works, and in fact, makes us look weak. You have to remember a rag tag team of near-teens defeated Mother Russia’s hockey machine in the 1980 Olympics.
His most controversial move to date was removing iconic 2010 hero, Landon Donovan. Jurgen’s approach was like Steinbrenner telling Jeter, “hit a home run tonight or you don’t play.” It’s a smack in the face and may be the result of personal issues the two have rather than actual performance by Donovan. In my mind, Donovan was left out for far less impressive leaders to come in. The German style of “your not good in practice today means you are no good at all” isn’t right for Americans especially for players with heart or emotional leaders such as Landon. Sometimes veterans aren’t in the same shape as a 20-year-old teammate, but their experience and leadership are immeasurable.
It feels like Klinsmann is outsourcing to win, which undermines the nationalism and pride that makes the World Cup so engaging. He is coaching athletes that are not even American. Five players are German. If they were that good they would be playing for the German team. Midfielder, Mix Diskerud hails from Norway, and striker, Aron Johannson is from Iceland. The latter stated that his country doesn’t have a team and he would like to join the tournament. Tournament?! This is more than a tournament it is for pride of country!
Klinsmann is trying to implement a German system with an American team. Some may applaud this idea as the German team is a perennial powerhouse, but their methods don’t necessarily work stateside. First off, the German team he coached was so good – talent and training – that I could coach them to victory. Second, their system is mechanical and methodical – lacking all emotion – and it doesn’t resonate with Americans. In Germany, they know if you have a future in soccer by the age of 14 then you are pushed through a rugged, unforgiving program like a product. Next, he wants to amp up the theatrics or politics of soccer so we are more European. We’re not bitches, we’re Amercians! We don’t flop and cry, we get up and keep playing. I feel the system should be implemented at a slower pace and with more rigorous conditioning.
I recognize, after spending a career training semi and pro athletes, that Klinsmann is using his stint with the US team as bait to get back to Germany. It’s as if to say, “If I can coach Americans, I can coach anyone.” As soon as he gets a better deal he is gone and so are his German assistant coaches. That’s why I feel there should be more American coaches in the system so we have people in place to move forward following Jurgen’s inevitable departure. He is a hired gun with no allegiance to us.
Instead of selecting ringers from around the world it should be a more grassroots approach in the States. As a proponent of student-athletes and athletic development I ask, “how does this help American youth soccer?” I feel the US soccer team should be scouring colleges, semi-pro, and pro teams to find the next Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.
World Cup play brings the excitement of competition to another level because of the sense of nationalism. Only twenty-three men get to wear that coveted jersey. We don’t say, “Bradley won!” or “Dempsey won!,” we say “USA won!” and this is where I feel Klinsmann’s approach belittles this sacred contest. All of this said, I would like to see Howard, Dempsey, and Bradley use their leadership to get the rest of team USA firing on all cylinders and walk away with a solid win over Germany.