Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Friendly fire: U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s methods, leadership, acumen in question (Brian Straus, 3/19/13,  Sporting News)

[L]ahm’s claim that he was forced to work through tactics with teammates rings true with the men now taking the field.

One player said a typical pregame instruction will be something like, “Go express yourself,” while another source recalled that players returning from Honduras claimed, “He just threw guys out there and played.”

A different player said that at halftime of the qualifier in San Pedro Sula, with the U.S. fortunate to be level at 1-1, Klinsmann, “Didn’t really say that much. Just, ‘C’mon, we’ve got to win this game. They scored an unbelievable (tying) goal, and we can’t do anything about that. We’re going to win this game.’ It was never, ‘We need to do this. We need to change this.’ ”

That same player continued, “It’s always motivational. He’s a great motivator. He can make you feel you’re better than what you are.”

But that wasn’t good enough in Honduras, and there has been a bit of locker room whiplash since Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley. The 2010 World Cup coach lacked the German’s charm and big-picture ambition, but Bradley was a meticulous tactician who constructed a coherent system that made the most of the talent at his disposal.

“Bob was better at getting his message across. There was more of an identity,” a player said. “We’re still coming to terms with that (under Klinsmann). ... Sometimes the message they’re trying to get across isn’t relayed the best, or as players we don’t apply it. It’s just different.”

Whether it’s the message or the interpretation, players now feel unprepared. They have questions.

One asked why the 4-4-2 formation that was so effective against Slovenia in the fall of 2011 hasn’t been used more often. A second player wondered how 14 months later the U.S. could look so disjointed in January’s scoreless draw against Canada after spending nearly three weeks together. Another asked why the U.S. is 1-2-1 in road World Cup qualifiers under Klinsmann, despite taking the lead in all four. And a fourth posed the biggest question of all: Is the U.S. even ready to play the style Klinsmann wants to see?

“They want us to play the beautiful game, but we’re not a technical team like the Germans. We’re not Spain or Brazil,” the player said. “What we’re good at is we work hard, we fight and we compete. We have great athletes and we’re a good counterattacking team. Maybe we need to go back to what we’re good at.”