Jürgen Klinsmann didn’t become the new coach of the US Men’s National Team because of control issues, says this insightful piece by Grant Wahl.
Okay, here’s my stance on this, seeing as how I don’t believe I blogged about it when it all went down (hey, sue me, fall’s a busy time for me): Klinsmann was the coach of the German national team for less than two years. He did not have to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, with Die Mannschaft earning an automatic bid as host. He coached a total of 34 games1, leading Germany to 21 wins, 5 losses and 8 draws (including the penalty-kick advancement over Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinals). 20 of the 34 matches were in Germany (including, obviously, all the games of the ’06 World Cup). He resigned after the third-place World Cup finish, was linked with the US job and with gigs at Chelsea, Spurs and the LA Galaxy and finally took the job leading Bayern Munich. Despite going 25-9-9 in 43 matches in charge of Germany’s most glamorous club, a lack of success in the Champions League and the DFB Cup and fears over potentially missing qualifying for the next Champions League meant he was out the door less than nine months after taking the gig.
So he flirts with people for jobs and when he takes jobs, he doesn’t seem to last long. Being peripatetic isn’t in itself necessarily a bad thing2, but it seems to me if you’re going to say a guy is the answer, he should have done something in his career other than coach for less than three years in two stops without winning anything. Doesn’t that make sense?
Klinsmann may be a tremendous coach. He may have, at the end of the day, been a great fit for the US team and may have led them to glory. But I don’t believe his body of work would lead a reasonable person3 to believe he was automatically the slam-dunk, do-anything-to-get-him pick for the job. And despite all that, he STILL came justthisclose to being named, with only US Soccer’s (apparent) lack of desire to cede control of every detail (something else I would posit Klinsmann hadn’t earned) kiboshing the deal.
Let’s be honest here: Bob Bradley is not a cuddly guy. He doesn’t yell and throw things and give colorful quotes to the press and, yes, his 2010 World Cup team didn’t advance past the Round of 16. These are all things on the negative side of the ledger. But he’s got a track record of success for club and country, he’s smart4 and he understands the American player and the American system.
Had the US not made it out of the group stage in South Africa, it’s an easy decision. Ditto if they’d beaten Ghana (or gone even farther). But Bradley fell into that “tweener” area, where you could bring him back or not, you wouldn’t be risking a whole lot. Apparently Sunil Gulati felt the same way if, as Wahl writes, negotiations with Klinsmann went on for two or three weeks.
So for the next four years, we’re going to hear about the opportunity lost. With each US defeat or draw or grind-it-out-win in the next World Cup cycle, fanboys are going to froth at the mouth about how Gulati should have just given Klinsmann the store. Well, you may get your wish. If the US doesn’t perform up to its (now much higher) expectations in the coming years, it may be Klinsmann’s turn.
I just wonder if he’ll have done anything in the interim to actually deserve it.
1 – Wikipedia says 36, and a 20-6-8 record, which doesn’t add up, but the DfB seems to indicate 34 and 21-5-8. No matter.
2 – Larry Brown, please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone.
3 – US soccer fans with internet access are not reasonable people.
4 – The whole Rico Clark thing notwithstanding.