This is the first of a multi-part series I’m doing on Klinsmann. I want to stay focused and only talk about one specific theme per post.
Now is the time to clearly set up expectations. Be specific!
What should his charter be?
I’ve stated this before, but let me repeat not only what I think is achievable, but what everyone should be in line with. He should:
- Implement a discernible style.
- Identify and select players that ultimately get picked up and play for Champion’s League level clubs.
- Results: Maintain CONCACAF dominance with Mexico and get out of group play in World Cup 2014.
- Hold his youth national team coaches in line with the above three requirements.
These are the critical top-level items that will establish a strong platform upon which we can build something meaningful. That is what I will hold Klinsmann’s tenure accountable to.
I think the key is how he will manage and balance the short and long term needs of the job. The short term is all about working with the current group of players with a bit of latitude to bring new and overlooked players in. Perhaps more than anything we need to have a bit more game intelligence. The balance between results and being competitive while moving the USA’s style forward is delicate. Moving forward with style may be very difficult with the current player pool, and may not be evident for several years.
The long term is about getting the youth coaches on the same page, and improving the conduit of talent from the youth moving forward. As you probably agree, we are not picking the best available players from the youth ranks, and the problem runs very deep into our youth set up. We have great players who remain undiscovered because they don’t fit the “American” view of talent. For example, I think this issue is at the heart of our problems in getting strikers who succeed at the pro ranks. We won’t be seeing any of these players on the USMNT anytime soon, but we might see a different mix at the U-17, U-20 ranks almost immediately.
The influence he has on the National setup will be important too, youth development more broadly and how the game is governed. We need to plant the seeds for success by creating conditions where the right style can prosper. Perhaps that will be something for later.
Gary Kleiban says
Wish I could answer everything is one reply Bill … but there’s just too much.
On NT Style:
Within 1 year, style at the senior level can easily take shape. EASILY and regardless of player pool. If a coach is quality, he knows how to implement Set Tactical Work (BB and all his clones don’t know how to do this). That is what constructs an identity/style, and that is why we don’t see one with our teams at all levels.
If Klinsi is legit, there will be clear evidence of a style in short order. You’d be surprised what can be done with any pool of players when in the right hands. However, your point on balancing that objective with results is a good one.
Agree with all four of you points. #1 (style of play) can begin immediately but is a function of #4 (holding coaches accountable). #2 (players to Champions League teams) is also funciton of #1 and #2. So as I see it, style and coaching are our foundation.
However, those are long-term (5-10 year and beyond) propositoins. CONCACAF dominance and gettin out of group play in WC 2014 may be only ones doable for now. And I think they are and we should have those stated expectations.
Klinsmann and Low did wonders in short-time for Germany, however, they started from higher caliber players and in a football-mad country. We can’t expect that for USA. Again, WC 2018 in Russia may be our dream starts to come real.
Kilinsmann’s impact will be felt in 2018 and beyond (if he does what we all hope).
Gary Kleiban says
Style can take shape and be stable by WC qualification, then solidified by WC 2014.
Reshaping the player pool can also happen in that time-frame.
Player selection quality as judged by how many are purchased by top-flight clubs will have to wait until said players are showcased. So yes, post WC 2014. But not so far as 2018 – that’s because I think high caliber players already exist and we don’t have to wait for the current 15 year olds.
I know people will disagree because it just sounds impossible. It’s not. I promise.
Walt Pericciuoli says
I think you are right on point with your expectations. I’m not sure how much control he will have, but I also believe he should be responsible for implementing a National Training Program for Youth soccer with the same expectation. As Bill R says, we need to get all youth coaches at all levels on board and we need a broader network of player identification. Talent assessment should not be left only to the current few individuals. Somehow, all trainers and coaches should have access, at some level, to be able assess and pass on information about players.
Gary Kleiban says
Yeah I don’t have that solution-space fleshed out, but I’ll work on it with your guys’ help.
But honestly, I don’t think Klinsi could be that directly involved with youth club soccer on the whole. It’s just too much! In my opinion, that should be delegated to Reyna (his document is a thumbs up). That’s not to say that Jurgen’s influence won’t be stamped all over it. It will. His job is to lead by example, show us the role model, and prove what is possible.
I agree that Juergen will have too much to do to be able to be directly involved in the implmentation of a new National Youth Program, but he should select his own people who would answer to him and be responsible for the implmentation. Maybe Reyna is one of the right guys, but Klinsi should be the one to select.
I can’t argue with your list. With regard to achieving number 4, I would ask that the “recipe” for number 1 and 2 be broken down to their simplest elements and driven throughout the ranks of all the youth programs. The program must be simple enough so that most coaches can understand it and start feeding the pipeline with the appropriate material. I am not trying to be patronizing, just realistic. Implementing this would be difficult, given the inertia of vested interests in our current youth system.
What more would I do to try to change that inertia? Come up with lots of small, detailed, boring but consequential changes to try to modify people’s behavior. Everything from spot audits of USSF clubs to check whether they are adhering to the guidelines, to giving incentives and public recognition to youth clubs/organizations that are doing the best job, consistently, of feeding the pipeline with players who possess the right profiles.
Gary Kleiban says
The only way I see change happening at the youth level is with a set of proper incentive/accountability mechanisms.
In other words money!
We can propose all kinds of things. For example:
* Have USSF budget incentive dollars for the clubs whose players become professional. (Something substantial obviously and commensurate with how long a player has been with a particular club).
* Have criteria aligned with development (whatever that means), by which a USDA club can lose its Academy status. By the same token, non-academy clubs can achieve academy status (promotion).
Clearly there’s lots to discuss here. But the bottom line is that without proper motivation, things won’t change.
We need to stop rewarding clubs and coaches who do the wrong thing to win. A lot of teams win by recruiting, not developing and play a style of soccer that relies upon strength and speed. Some of these teams are very successful winning lots of prestigious tournaments and titles. We have to stop rewarding this behavior!
Ultimately we should tweek the competitive balance to make the right things work toward victory. Right now soccer USA style is tipped toward speed, size and strength trumping skill and intelligence. The game can be officiated to shift the balance. High school, colledge and MLS are more evident examples where physical players mug skilled players with impunity. This helps to kill the sort of game we want!
Can Klinsmann impact this? I hope so. Hopefully this sort of issue is among those discussed at the USSF, and something can be done to influence things.
Great comments. This is the exact problem with the US game as compared to the world. The best 2 players in the world are 5 foot 4 noting, in the US game these same 2 player would not be given a second look at the youth level.
BillR, upon considering your comments, it seems to me that the US Soccer superstructure is not being radically reorganized here, and hence Klinsmann will have to operate within that structure in incremental fashion. And based on his early comments, it seems he already realizes that, and doesn’t want to pick battles he cannot win.
We all want a Robespierre, to lead a French-style revolution in US soccer, but it is more probable that we are getting an Alexander Dubcek, to lead a velvet revolution. Perhaps less bloodshed is better for all of us, in the short run, at least. 🙂
So the question to be debated, in my mind, is: what, exactly is the best that Klinsmann can do in this environment? In addition: how far does he think he can bring American soccer? Clearly, he is far too much of a diplomat to express his true sentiments, lest he undermine his (careful) plans.
Agree with Alberto. The hardest egg to crack is youth soccer system. Parents pay and that has influence on DoC and coaches. National team pools are invitation only, no cost and absent parental influence. So Klinsmann can be a benevolent dictator of sorts if he chooses . . . a real revolutionary.
However, a velvet revolution is required for youth soccer. Rewards / benefits / promotion / relegation / and accountability mechanisms need to happen to affect change.
Maybe best bet for Klinsmann on youth soccer is to get USDA Academies to fall in line with his vision. Which I think s/b easy as they don’t want to lose status. Don’t worry about lesser clubs (e.g. AYSO and low level competitive clubs). Incentivize clubs on the academy bubble. Reward them with promotion should they earn it.
I mostly agree with what you said, however, I don’t think we should disregard the “lesser clubs” We need to reach everyone. Every youth coach in the system has got to be able to feel like he is part of the “pipeline”No stone should be left unturned. Catering only to the super clubs and the academy programs leaves us exactly where we are now. Its’ at that level where the problems are. “Parents pay and that has influence on DoC and coaches.” Players who have parents that cannot afford the super clubs have no shot. Youth coaches who need to win at the youngest ages to keep their jobs will continue to keep an out only for the big, fast physical players.
Walt, I fundamentally agree w/you. However, my comment is one of scope / span of influence and bang for buck. Players who show talent, “generally” move to better clubs by U11.
Outwardly, USSF will likely be inclusive, but they may only act / show most effort to USDA Academies and clubs on the academy bubble. We may be saying same thing, I’m more talking about how USSF executes their vision.
USSF CAN’T conquere the US youth problem overnight. So they will need to focus efforts on areas of highest impact. At least that’s who I’d do it.
This may be a bit removed from Gary’s current post, but for the long run I believe its very important to educate our soccer community from top to bottom.
First, coaches need to be better educated. It seems that the USSF licenses need to be augmented with new material moving our collective mindset forward. We also need more coaches with better education, a lot more. The level of sophistication in the coaching ranks needs a big improvement including more modern methods being implemented in the pro ranks. Furthermore, the education can provide the element of getting everybody across the Nation “on the same page” regarding development. We could discuss the curriculum at length and frankly I don’t know enough to be completely knowledgeable. I do believe that European pro education goes way beyond what we or the English do for example, so there is a starting point.
Next, we need a dramatically improved referee program, again top to bottom. The education should improve although I enjoy the annual program when we get re-certified (this idea would be good for coaches to have this!). The referee program needs to be coordinated with the aims of youth development. Frankly, MLS would improve a great deal by adopting a development-friendly approach to the game. The level of mentoring and assessment needs great expansion. The single assessment was a great help to me, and the mentoring from a senior referee was painful, but invaluable for my improvement. Again, the aims of our National program should be crystal clear and coordinated.
Finally, the parents need educating. We should get a program started to give parents the background they need to not be morons, and understand what the objectives and aims are regarding their children. Again, it’s about getting everyone on the same page. It would be really good for the parents to know about the offside law from a source that is correct, and the defenders are trying to pass the ball out of the back for a good reason. If I never hear “boot it” or “clear it” from the sidelines again, it would be too soon. It would help parents recognize when their kids soccer education is deviating from the expected path.
This might be a bridge to far, but it would be nice if ESPN/Fox/Gol didn’t undermine everything with their broadcast commentary. In fact it would be good if the broadcast commentary was factually accurate. As an example, the negative comments about yellow cards usually involves the word “intent”, which has nothing to do with a yellow card except for hand ball where intent is determined by the manner of handling. The commentators are constantly complaining that the yellow card is unnecessary because the player had not intent. Bullshit! Beyond this some more sophisticated content regarding player and coach tactics at pre-game/halftime/post-game would be a total bonus, instead of rehashing the goal scoring. This form of highlight tends to re-enforce the view that goals are all that is worth watching, which leads directly to the bonehead American view that soccer is boring. More Bullshit! But its bullshit that our broadcasters help to perpetuate.
My sons U15 coach implemented a style ( Barca BTW) in about a year with a real mix of talent. He has proven to me that it can be done, we’ve been promoted to the Midwest Regional League because of our recent success. There is NO reason why we can’t do this with our USMNT.
Gary — When is your next post coming?
Related to #1 and 2, we have so many Latino, Caribbean, and African nations in US last 15-20 years. At the U13 level my son is in (SoCal), almost all the top players are of Mexican, Central American decent or other ethnic group (of which I’m one). Don’t see too many on national team. Why is that?
I think it’s back to the power, strength, size issue. IMHO, itis a malignant cancer that has metastasized across much of US Soccer.
Hoping one of your upcoming posts will address this issue.
Gary Kleiban says
Another one is coming tonight.
The underrepresentation of Latinos at the top level is a huge problem, and something I intend to talk a lot about.
First allow me to get all this Klinsmann stuff out and on the record.
While my expectations of Klinsmann are pretty high, he sort of reminds me of the 2010 champion Auburn Tigers (american)football team. Popular head coach who is (imo) overrated a bit. The brains of the operation came from the offensive coordinator. It makes you wonder how the Auburn’s HC would do if the OC went elsewhere. Same thing comes to mind with Jurgen/Low. My 2 cents…
Gary Kleiban says
Without the support of a crack team of assistants, it’s damn near impossible getting to a truly elite level.