Juergen Klinsmann: “I am proud to be the US soccer coach!”
If the saying “all good things come in threes” truly applies to human fortune, then fans of American soccer can count on experiencing more joy in the future.
Twice Jürgen Klinsmann (47) has been on the top of the wish list of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) as national trainer – after World Cup 2006 in Germany and a year ago in South Africa. Both times, however, the elected redeemer from Germany and USSF President Sunil Gulati found no common denominator in the terms of contract. Since July 29, 2011, this is history. When on that Friday evening at 6:30 PM CET the news ticker announced: “Klinsmann new US coach,” it was certain that the third attempt had finally culminated in the desired agreement. One should never say never….
The Swabian discovered the thrill of being national trainer when he managed the German national team to third place in the World Cup 2006 hosted in his native Germany. With Bayern Munich, however, where he was on the payroll from the summer of 2008 to April 2009, he had given up the pleasure of being a soccer teacher – but only as a club coach in Germany. Between the North Sea and the Zugspitze, after the failed experiment with the German record master, the polyglot (he speaks fluent English, French, Italian and Spanish) was regarded more than ever as a project leader: that is, as one who can start a process, push through changes, but should leave the training to others.
In his adopted American homeland nobody (yet) doubts the abilities of the successor of Bob Bradley, who took over the US team four years ago and was released after the 2:4 final match in the prestigious Gold Cups against archrival Mexico. “Jürgen was a very successful player and a coach with enough experience and knowledge to advance our project,” federation head Gulati praised the former striker at the presentation in New York. National player Steven Cherundolo from German national league team Hannover 96 is also pleased with the new boss, “from whom he expects new ideas and new structures.” The sports channel ESPN headlined the event as “The beginning of a new era.” Even basketball megastar Dirk Nowitzki is convinced that the relationship between Klinsmann and the Americans will work. “I think it’s a great fit for both,” twittered the NBA champion from the Dallas Mavericks.
As in 2004 with the German national team Klinsmann has taken over (“I am proud and honored to be named national trainer”) once again a team whose performance curve is on the downward slope. The USA has fallen to 30th position in FIFA rankings. Similar to the radical restructuring of the German national team the former world and European champion will also focus with the US team on young players, fitness, and an armada of assistants.
The American German faces an Herculean task. He must reform the US club as rigidly as he did years ago as national league coach in his native country. A new spirit of optimism is needed – a dream job for career optimist and motivator Klinsmann who trusts his unbridled passion: “Just do it.” The former baker apprentice, who learned the craft in his father’s company in Botnang, has long made his home in the USA. He enjoys living in California with his American wife, a former model, and his children, who were all born in the USA. This, however, is something Germans resented, especially after the successful preparation of the German national team for the World Cup 2006. Yet despite an attractive offer for the German national trainer to stay in Germany after the World Cup 2006, he gave preference to his life in the USA. And it seems to have been a good choice because Klinsmann now drives to his new workplace, the USSF National Training Center in Carson, California, from his magnificent residence in Huntington Beach, where he has lived since 1998, in just half an hour. Just ideal general conditions.
That he is not taking on an easy job was clear after the first three test international matches. Not against Mexico (1:1) nor against Costa Rica and Belgium (both 0:1) could a match be won. Klinsmann is thus the first US coach since the Munich native Lothar Osiander (1986 to 1988) who did not win one of his first three friendly matches. With his debut as German national league coach seven years ago he started with two victories and one draw. “We need to be patient,” demands Klinsmann, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It will become serious for the US boys next summer when they start the qualification process for World Cup 2014 in Brazil. By then, assures the coach, he will present a competitive national team. - By Gunnar Meinhardt
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