I have no verdict on Klinsmann yet, but I have splashed some thoughts in the comments area. In short, I’m not exactly thrilled and the reasons have nothing to do with score-lines.
What seems to surface time and again, is the notion that the national team player pool “is what it is“. The implication being that the guys in the pool are the ‘best players‘. So of course that’s all Klinsmann has to work with.
Well ‘best players’ for what exactly? That’s really the key.
If you’re looking for a powerful horse that mostly gallops up the wing and serves crosses, then Brek Shea is likely among the best known Americans for that job. But if you want someone that can fit a less vertical and more structured, intelligent buildup, then Brek likely never enters the discussion.
The same applies to every other position.
Not the other way around!
Reader Mike made the following contribution along these lines:
I guess my point really goes back to the old question – do we actually have the players who have the technical ability and Soccer IQ to successfully play the possession-based attacking style we all want to see? Because if those players are out there, then the verdict on Klinsmann so far – in terms of who he has called up to be part of that pool — is not looking very good.
3 possible scenarios
- Those players do exist, and JK has seen them, but he just can’t recognize their quality. This was a reasonable possibility to consider with BB but is exceedingly unlikely with JK, IMO.
- Those players do exist, but JK hasn’t seen them b/c they’ve never been discovered, b/c they’ve never really been given a chance in a system which would showcase their abilities, b/c such systems are few and far between. This is the “Xavi who?” hypothesis: Stick a 12-15 year-old Xavi on the wrong team with a clueless coach and other players who can’t maintain possession of the ball if they tried … and at best all (almost) anybody would see is a short midfielder who makes a few nice passes, but doesn’t really do anything spectacular. On most “elite” youth clubs in the US, he probably doesn’t even make the cut b/c he’s not fast/big/athletic enough, and he doesn’t dribble past 3-4 people routinely so that his abilities would be obvious even to the nearly blind.
- These players do not exist, beyond a few quasi-exceptions (Dempsey), because our youth development has been woefully inadequate at every level (age 5-17). Recent (last 10 years or so) changes have begun to make a difference, although not widespread enough, but the majority of US players between 22-30 were trained by old-school coaches in old-school systems, and the overwhelming majority (almost all) of them did not spend nearly as much time with the ball during their formative years as their international competitors. To quote Klinsmann again: “The foundation is youth. What is really missing compared to the leading soccer nations around the world, … is the amount of time kids play the game. A kid in Mexico might do 20 hours of soccer a week — 4 training and 14 playing around with his buddies in the street. One thing is certain: The American kids need hundreds and even thousands more hours to play. That is a really crucial thing.”
The truth is probably a mix of #2 and #3, and ultimately I agree with your [Gary K’s] last point – I too am rooting for Klinsman because his success can go a long way towards improving both.
At this point I will only add that I wouldn’t give JK an implicit pass on #1.
And in #2 and #3, the same applies at the collegiate and MLS levels. The youth is just half the story. The non-youth setup, with all its personell, is absolutely accountable for the other half.
So, is Jurgen Klinsmann at the mercy of the player pool?
Or, is the player pool at the mercy of Klinsmann?