A fresh faced but knowledgable outsider sweeps into town with an elaborate vision and lofty plan. He replaced a stuffy member of the old guard who was just doing more of the same with an unnerving air of either ignorance or oblivion. He came into his new role while the United States was slipping farther onto a downward trajectory. He is buoyed as much by hope as any tangible managerial credentials.
Much has been made of the appointment of former German international and Tottenham Hotspur legend Jurgen Klinsmann as the next coach of the United States Men’s National Team. I share the initial outcry of joy and relief, but I remain quietly skeptical. As I gaze out upon the vast print, television and online media reporting and analyzing the deal I feel like I’ve seen all this hype before.
After the 2008 election of Barack Obama a great many people were very excited about the prospect of a new America. Definitely the soccer public should feel a rush of adrenaline about Klinsmann’s appointment. There was a section of people who were angry and disillusioned after the election, and likewise after US Soccer’s announcement on Friday. In 2008 there were a few vocal liberals who didn’t think Obama was the right man for the job despite similar espousing similar ideologies and who were merely holding out for the backlash. The most surprisingly frequent sentiment I’ve seen bouncing around is that Klinsmann is simply a disaster waiting to happen. A lot of writers believe that the countdown has already begun for the emergency sacking of the Golden Bomber.
Those are all reactionary opinions and while I understand the basis for each of them, I don’t really agree. Just as in 2008, a man with new inspiring ideas is a positive upon which the country can build. However, I have a more guarded and realistic response than his twitter-junkie fanboys. I am not running a flag with Klinsmann’s picture through the neighborhood. While the potential for change is there, there will not be any great upheavals. The monolithic system is simply too immense for one man, no matter how motivational and pioneering, to alter. Just as Obama did, Klinsmann will have to work within the parameters of the existing organizational structure. He will still have to answer to Sunil Gulati and the United States Soccer Federation. Klinsmann will be first and foremost responsible for getting results at the senior level. That may be enough for some, but the hope surrounding the German swirls more with the possibilities of restructuring youth and development in America than climbing back into the top 20 FIFA rankings. However, it would take more than a full cycle to see any success in the operation of the youth national team player development programs.
Klinsmann will implement a new style of play. That much is obvious. He will probably get more out of his players than Bob Bradley ever could. Klinsmann will try to get the Americans to play with their heads and not just try to outrun their opponents, but good luck applying that doctrine to u14 coaches in New Jersey or high school programs in Texas. It may seem like a cop-out answer because writers almost always argue one extreme or the other, but Klinsmann is neither a savior or a failure in the making. He is a good choice for coaching the USMNT and will have a relative degree of competitive success. Klinsmann won’t overnight turn the United States from a physical Mick McCarthy side to a beautiful illustration of Total Football, but he is a massive improvement over his predecessor and will bring the senior team miles ahead.