(It was either that or “Deutsch Treat.” Did I choose wisely?)
I’ve written before about Jürgen Klinsmann’s reputation outstripping his actual resume, but the time for all that talk is over now that Klinsmann is, officially, the 35th head man in the history of the US National Team.
The Bob Bradley Era ended yesterday with a terse USSF press release that hardly did justice to what Bradley has done for the program and the sport in this country over his career. But, given Bradley was hardly riding into his second term on a mandate after a tepid World Cup performance, the disappointing trip through the Gold Cup was likely enough to convince USSF prez Sunil Gulati to pull the plug. (Though, as Grahame Jones, oddly enough, sums up well in this column in the LA Times, it was far from entirely Bradley’s fault.)
Are we growing up as a soccer nation, now that we’ve shown that the bar is raised, the expectations are higher, and we’ll broom people with time left on their contracts, just like other countries do, if it means the chance to be a bigger player on the world stage? (Keep in mind: Mexico has had eight head coaches since 2000. Klinsmann is the USA’s eighth coach since 1986.) If so, that’s both good and bad, I guess. As much as those of us with long memories remember a time (not that long ago) when the US couldn’t play at all, the distance from 1990 grows longer every day, and the new generation of American soccer fans wants results right away – the trifling realities of player pool and development be damned.
If a sea change is what’s needed, there’s no doubt now who’s driving the boat. While Gulati and Klinsmann won’t meet the media until Monday (and will likely deflect any really tough questions about what’s different today than last year or in 2006), Klinsmann will likely have both the mandate and the opportunity (with the U23 and U20 coaching positions vacant) to make the type of systemic changes necessary to take the program to the next level. Whether that will actually happen or not – in the next four years or the next 25 – will depend upon a lot of factors. As I always say, you get a lot more accomplished with a kind word and a forward who can actually score than just a kind word.
Just, please, remember the whole “one cycle” thing in July of 2014.