Players echoed Philipp Lahm’s assessment of Klinsmann in his autobiography. The German defender claimed, when Klinsmann was at Bayern Munich he spent too much time on physical training and “didn’t care much for the tactical stuff.” Players would meet before matches to figure out for themselves what to do.
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.’ ”
This confusion has affected morale. So have seemingly random lineup selections, Klinsmann’s treatment of captain Carlos Bocanegra and his infusion of German-born players who apparently aren’t ‘Merican enough. Klinsmann inherited a lean talent pool and has dealt with a rash of injuries, though his tactical indiscipline and poor communication have exacerbated the problems. Two years and 20-plus matches in should no longer be “an uncomfortable period.”
That said, players also deserve blame. Klinsmann lashed out at them for being complacent. He criticized them to Straus for not embracing change. Both may be valid points. These players have accomplished little on the International stage – it took a last ditch effort from Landon Donovan for them to avoid being dumped from the World Cup – and from the sounds of it, some have not left the Bradley era. One player wondered why they stopped playing the 4-4-2 they deployed in a friendly against Slovenia in November 2011. Leadership is not leaking catty thoughts under a cloak to a reporter. One reason Klinsmann favors German-reared players as that they are more professional and malleable.
Long-term Klinsmann may be a better technical director than a coach. He can find players, groom them and help overhaul youth soccer. Short-term, the USMNT must resolve this as best they can. The best option seems to be replacing Martin Vasquez as Klismann’s top assistant. Vasquez, after poor stretches at Bayern Munich and Chivas USA, was a controversial appointment. He has done little to alleviate that distrust. One player described him as “an assistant who says yes all the time.”
Who replaces him? That’s the (in this case quite a few) million dollar question. At a minimum, it should be someone who can communicate effectively between coaches and players. Dreaming, said person would also provide a tactical and organizational underpinning to Klinsmann’s visions.
Getting a win against Costa Rica at home next week could also lighten the mood.