Category Archives: USMNT

Klinsmann Would Have To Be A Fool

Landon Donovan’s return to LA Galaxy has me thinking …

1. If the two-time MLS champions can win games without him (not to mention Becks and even Keane) then he left the team at the right time. Galaxy’s 2-0-1 record and advancement into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals attest to that.

2. If this is indeed his last year at Galaxy — his four-year contract expires after this season — then it becomes obvious why he didn’t retire: the opportunity to cement his legacy as the best player in U.S. history with a third consecutive domestic title.

3. If he’s rested and engaged mentally then Jurgen Klinsmann would have to be a fool not to pencil in a new No. 10 0n the right side. The USMNT is scoring too few, and Graham Zusi is nice, but c’mon. The World Cup is next year (already!) and the team’s top play-maker is healthy.

4. Anyone who says he abandoned either club or country is off their nut and/or a rabid fan of El Tri, and taking cheap shots out of spite. Or… or… secretly missing their favorite player.

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Filed under Los Angeles Galaxy, Soccer, USMNT

Klinsmann’s First E-mail

This appeared in my inbox the other day —

“Dear U.S. Soccer Fan –

I am honored and excited to be addressing you for the first time as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. This is a tremendous opportunity for me and my family, and we appreciate all the support you have given us so far. Soccer in the United States has come a long way in the last 20 years, and as a long-time resident of California I have seen firsthand the growth of the sport in this country. There has been great work done by the previous coaches of the U.S. National Team and many accomplishments to be proud of, and I intend to build on that foundation. Having played abroad in different countries has given me a different perspective, and while I have my own ideas for the program, it is important to make sure these ideas suit the American game.

Everyone will have their voices heard, from fellow coaches to members of the media, and especially you the fans. I deeply believe that soccer in a certain way reflects the culture of a country, and together we will develop a team and a style that truly represents the character of the United States.

During the next few months, I will be taking advantage of the tremendous resources that already exist here to develop a clear understanding of the direction we should take this team and this program. We will have the chance to look at a variety of players in upcoming friendlies, and I will also bring in different assistant coaches to learn from their experience and put together a staff that can help us achieve our goals.

Our first challenge has come upon us quickly, and we are facing a very strong Mexican team. For this first roster we have selected a lot of experienced veterans, as well as some younger players who we hope can have a bright future. As we begin this journey, it is important for all the players to understand that there will be a healthy competition for spots on the team, and that they must never rest or feel satisfied.

This is a very exciting time for U.S. Soccer and for our team. If you aren’t able to join us at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia this Wednesday evening, we hope you are able to watch the match on ESPN2, ESPN3.com or Univision as this next phase begins.

Thanks again for all your support. Enjoy the game.

Jurgen Klinsmann
Head Coach
U.S. Men’s National Team”

Never, ever got an e-mail from Bob Bradley. Not one. Not even an auto-generated one like, perhaps, this one. Maybe it wasn’t Bob’s style. Maybe U.S. Soccer is making an effort to introduce and integrate Klinsmann. Maybe Klinsmann actually wrote it. (Doubt it.) Whatever the case, it’s intriguing to see the new coach reach out to the fan base and put into written words some of his goals and aspirations.

It’ll be even more intriguing to see the performance of his first squad tonight against Mexico (6 p.m., ESPN2). Will the offense push forward rather than wait to counter-attack? Can a re-tooled defense play organized and support? Will his player selections inspire?

We’ll find out tonight.

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Rubber Meets Road For USMNT

U.S. Soccer has finally hired Juergen Klinsmann, the German expat, as coach of its men’s national soccer team.

Message boards a rejoicing, soccer aficionados are busy regaling the new coach as a real innovator.

But is he really the guy to take the USMNT to the next level? Can he really bring U.S. Soccer to the brink of winning the World Cup?

Since the USMNT has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals (2002), the next level for U.S.men’s soccer constitutes earning a berth in a World Cup semifinal. Klinsmann has reached the semis before, as coach of Germanyin 2006, but he lost that game and had to settle for a 3rd place finish in a tournament his country hosted.

Reaching the semifinals isn’t necessarily the brink of winning a World Cup, though it’s awfully close. There’s certainly something to take away from a Top 4 finish in planet Earth’s biggest tournament — honor, notoriety, etc – but expectations need to be greater.

Scads of writers are saying this is a sure-fire match, the USMNT and Klinsmann. I’m a little more apprehensive. What’s really in this for U.S. Soccer? Is Klinsmann the great European soccer prodigy that will alter this country’s fortunes forever, as was described in the book “Soccernomics”?

Is a 3rd  place finish at the World Cup enough of a credential to create this kind of furor over a guy who lives in Newport Beach  and occasionally consults a bad Major League Soccer franchise?

After five long years of courtship, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati hires Klinsmann at a time when the men’s U-20 and U-23 teams do not have managers and the national team plays Mexico in less than two weeks?

It may not be the best of timing, but this is where the rubber meets the road.

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Filed under MLS, Soccer, U.S. Soccer, USMNT, World Cup

Bob Bradley’s Time Was Up

It was clear to see after the U.S. men’s national soccer team lost to Ghana in the Round of 16 at last summer’s World Cup.

Bob Bradley’s time was up.

Never a tactician, Bradley was forced to engage his team on an emotional level moreso than mental.

And allowing a defensive lapse (and goal) in extra time against Ghana proved his methods were not sustainable. No longer was he a coach who could inspire victory. His motivational powers had reached their zenith.

Nevertheless, he was retained by U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and led the USMNT for another year, another tournament. This time, the Gold Cup, North American’s regional tournament.

Bradley’s roster selections for the Gold Cup were unbalanced. His lineup changes were slightly better.

If not for the inspired play of Freddy Adu toward the end of the tournament, this Gold Cup would have been near complete and total disaster. Not that losing to Mexico, in the title game, after leading 2-0, isn’t complete and total disaster.

Because it is.

He could no longer command more from his players than what he got in South Africa a year earlier, and certainly not against Mexico at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

And if your team can’t put up a second-half fight against your most heated rival in a tournament final, someone has to go.

Bob Bradley’s time was up.

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U.S. Soccer Sends Clear Message

I spent the last hour watching Claudio Reyna, the new U.S. Soccer Federation Director of Youth Player Development, give a presentation on the new coaching cirriculum.

Watch the video here.

I’ll give him a B+ for effort — he’s not Tony Robbins or anything — and an A+ for the content of his message.

U.S. Soccer must change. We’re not competing against each other anymore. We’re competing against the world.

Reyna has played in the English Premier League with Manchester City, among others, and has a friendly relationship with Pep Guardiola, the famed Barcelona FC coach. He has an insider’s view of the best soccer on planet Earth, making himthe perfect man to direct the future of U.S. futbol.

His message was centered around the new U.S. Soccer Youth Player Development cirriculum. Its four philophies are centered in the tactical, technical, physical and psycho-social aspects of the game. The best teams coach for these four, and so should we.

He stressed age-appropriate organization and coaching, with passing, receiving, shooting and 1v1 situations the most integral areas for development.

He wants all coaches (even your Mom) to have a plan. That’s why he helped create the curriculum, which includes outlines for both macro (season) and micro (weekly) coaching plans.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he urged all coaches to preach development over winning. It’s a mental hurdle, and one I’ve seen some people unable to clear.

Those people need to get away from coaching soccer.

Player intentions and their training come first, not Team A defeating Team B on Saturday morning. U.S. Soccer needs humble, hard-working, selfless devotees to the game. The kind of coaches who can make the difference, the kind willing to teach unrelenting attacking football.

This cirriculum is the start of a movement toward a brighter day for U.S. Soccer.

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U.S. Referee Connection!

Referees from all over Southern California, and the world, unite!

Francisco Davila, founder of U.S. Referee Connection, wants soccer referees of all ability levels to know that he is in their corner, or touchline, or 18-yard box.

He created a website, USRefereeConnection.com, after spending long nights considering how he could help referees get better in realtime, rather than just taking classes in FIFA’s Laws booklet. (Although that’s important, too.)

“It’s a referee community,” said Davila, a United States Soccer Federation referee. “We want this community to grow up. (USRefereeConnection.com) has many members, and more referee friends join us from outside the U.S. now. We’ve had people visit out site from Japan, Greece, Ireland, Central America and South America. We expect to just grow more and more.”

Davila’s non-profit gathered 59 referees (not 60?) and attended the international friendly between the United States and Chile at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Saturday night, Jan. 22, 2010.

He purchased tickets for this inaugural event and even arrainged a dinner with the match referees at a local eatery. He said he’s doing this — not because he loves soccer — but because he loves being a soccer referee.

“I love being a referee. I like to make new friends. I thought this event would be one way to bring referees together. Get to know each other. Have more friends, and enjoy the game together. Friendship, and appreciation for what we do,” Davila said.

It may sound pollyannish but Davila is sincere. He’s a soccer referee in as many as four levels, from AYSO to high school, club and adult league. He knows the game and why it needs referees. His interest is in creating quality referees.

And I’m on board. I aspire to be at least at USSF referee and have taken steps toward attaining that goal. Anything I can learn from more experienced referees is of interest to me. It has to be.

Seriously, why wouldn’t I be a part of something like this?

I met another referee, Denny Liles, on Saturday night. He’s the Referee Adminstrator for a local AYSO region and a relatively new friend of Davila’s. Turns out, they’re both soccer referees whose children play in the same AYSO region. Who would’ve thought they’d be fast friends?

“Francisco’s a friend of mine. I support him whole-heartedly in what he’s doing,” said Liles. “I think (U.S. Referee Connection) can be very beneficial. There’s a lot of us out there doing youth level, doing recreational level. You know, we’ll never get to FIFA level, but it’s good to get together to talk and share experience and make us all better.”

In short, Davila has created a group that is dedicated to improving soccer referees of all levels by attending, in convert, top-flight North American soccer matches and speaking to the match referees (when it can be coordinated) afterward. 

It’s genius. And like no other opportunity on (perhaps) Planet Earth.

Referees from all over Southern California, and the world, unite!

My future referee *fingers crossed* looks on as the United States Men's National Soccer Team played to level terms, 1-1, vs. Chile on Saturday night at the HDC.

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Filed under Journalist, Referee, Soccer, USMNT

Looking At Tonight’s Match

This will be the first time I’ve ever watched the United States Men’s National Soccer Team live, and I’m reading anything and everything ahead of tonight’s match vs. Chile at the Home Depot Center.

There’s this one from Noah Davis at mlssoccer.com, is more of a contemporary preview. Davis is forthright when he writes, “This is a match about both countries’ youth movements.” He summarizes both the U.S. and Chile, projects starting XIs for both sides and the picks a winner.

This one from Matthew Doyle, also at mlssoccer.com, praises Bradley for “an admirable willingness to try different tactics, formations and talent in an effort to create a winning blend.” Doyle’s column go on to detail many of the new faces to this team, none of which were at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

ESPN.com’s Jeff Carisle writes more of a tradition preview here, and tries “to read the tea leaves and divine which players will make the jump into the full team.” He projects as many as five roster spots are up for grabs heading into next summer’s Gold Cup.

Sport Illustrated’s Steve Davis gives the match a back-handed compliment here, where he is very clear in describing the match as one played by “domestically based hopefuls from the fringe of the first-team pool.” After all, Davis writes, “this camp and these matches are easy to overlook.” Bleh. Almost not worth the time.

There’s an excellent slide show at bleacherreport.com, co-written by Matt Bick and Sean Monaghan. It’s sort of a running conversation. It’s halfway interesting.

Finally, the most complete preview of the match can be found at goal.com. Thorough and balanced, it includes statistics and a poll.

So yeah. I’m well read ahead of tonight’s match. You should be too, then look for me waiving from the nosebleeds (7 p.m. PST, Telefutura, ESPN3.com).

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