Jurgen Klinsmann said his goal for the USMNT in 2018 is to reach the semifinals, not win the entire tournament. .
America is a nation built on relentless, unabashed optimism. Klinsmann’s jarring pragmatism will no doubt raise a few hackles in parts of the sports debate-o-sphere. The “controversy” his comment creates will be rather silly.
We’ve been here with Klinsmann before. He irked media members before Brazil, when Klinsmann intimated to Sam Borden he did not think the U.S. was ready to win the World Cup. There was general applause and saber rattling when he ordered players’ families to reschedule their flights home for after the final. Engaged, he is competitive and a font of confidence. Detached, he can be rational, honest and blunt. (See: Kobe Bryant) That’s what a successful coach does.
This comment in no way suggests a lack of ambition. Progress comes through setting attainable targets, planning for them and working hard. The U.S. reached the quarterfinals in 2002. The next step for U.S. Soccer is to move beyond that. That’s a realistic assessment. That doesn’t imply his team will be any less competitive upon reaching the semifinals. If anything, setting the semifinals as the benchmark may be too bold.
Klinsmann’s true faux pas here is candor. He doesn’t pay lip service to American Exceptionalism with empty rhetoric, perhaps because he coaches in a sport where Americans are anything but exceptional. That honesty may be off-putting. But, that, not belief, is what America needs to win.
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