In his last post, Jacques posed an interesting question:
Is it acceptable/effective to select experienced players with incomplete skill sets and little tactical malleability? Or, is the system Klinsmann seeks to implement better served by selecting players with less pedigree but with skill sets better suited to succeed in a possession based system?
Experience or Quality?
Clearly it’s got to be quality right? I mean experience can be gained. But technical and tactical ability?
Edu is Edu.
Altidore is Altidore.
Bocanegra is Bocanegra.
Or are they?
The answer lies with the coaching staff’s capacity to assess a player’s malleability. If I were them, my initial call-ups for these friendlies would have pretty much been the same. That is, primarily the experienced guys.
This serves two purposes:
1) You can see these guys up close and personal and evaluate whether they are capable of executing a style of play they have never been taught. People can’t comprehend this, but players have a tactical ceiling. A limit to their tactical capacity while in the pressure cooker of a game. Some players can adapt to a new philosophy and execute, while others simply can not.
From the outside, the well-trained eye can do a decent job of placing players into “tactical buckets”. That is to say; “this player is capable of this, and not capable of that”. But you can never be sure until you have them under your instruction. That is why even the greatest of coaches make player selection blunders in the transfer market.
So coming back full circle, this is a reason why I would initially call most of the existing experienced players from the pool to these first camps. From there we keep those that can adapt and slowly phase out those that can’t, and phase in those young talents we believe can.
Hopefully this is what Klinsmann is doing and I choose to believe it is. Patience is in order.
2) The other reason is political. As much as we’d like to believe this doesn’t or shouldn’t influence coaching decisions, it does; and it is inescapable unless you’re a proven international badass like a Mourinho (hmmm … and even then).
Not in the sense of doing favors, but more for media control. This is as much a coach’s responsibility as is getting W’s. The federations that hire them need a net positive endorsement from the media/fanbase. Anything to the contrary is bad business.
So again, Klinsmann can’t just come in and immediately blow up the player pool. Altidore you’re toast! Bocanegra you’re toast! Edu and Bradley you’re toast!
You just can’t do it without some upheaval. Unless you have magnificent and consistent results from the get go, you’ll be questioned throughout your entire tenure. Could you imagine? People will think you’re an idiot!
So … best give these players a chance, evaluate them as described in point #1 AND let the unfit play themselves off the team in front of the entire public. That way there is little question they were not a match for this next chapter.
I hope and choose to believe this is what Klinsmann is doing. Patience is in order.
Regarding point #1, I get it, but 2014 WC finals are less than 34-months away and final group of 32 about 30 months away. Not far at all! Our experienced players have already proved who they are. With exception of Altidore, majority are 28+. If we don’t start weaning younger prospects now, it’s too late. Not enough games.
As a leader, Klinsmann can’t worry too much about #2. Politics is a sharp, double-edge sword and uncompromising.
IMHO, I think Klinsmann can only placate both schools of thought (experience vs. youth) up to 2014. I just don’t think USMNT is there. We’ll need to go through fairly large turnover of elders (Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Donovan, Dempsey, and several others who’s last hurrah will be 2014). So 2014 is their last hurrah, but stars are now 4-years older and many at or past their prime.
As good as Brek Shea is looking, he is far from world-class and offers minimal improvement on beating European or South American powerhouses. As Klinsmann, we need “10 Donovans”.
We only have 1 Donovan and 1 Dempsey and they wil be about 32 in 2014. We may even be taking a step back before we get better?
Klinsmann can’t do it publicaly, but he needs to begin building for 2018 soon. WC 2014 is kind of a hinderance. Doesn’t allow him to retool. WC 2014 will (should be) the start of up-tick. Our USMNT is what it is. Even w/the new talent, we’re marginally better than 2010 or 2006.
I hope this isn’t the case, but I can think about it every which way and still end up with same conclusion.
Gary Kleiban says
A agree with you, 2014 isn’t that far off, but I do think it’s sufficient time for the US to receive a make-over. Hell, we’ve already seen it! Even if it’s just for 10 to 15 minute stretches of a game.
If that’s to last 60-90, we need more time AND more of the “right players”. From a results perspective, I don’t expect much in 2014. Success for me would be a participation like Chile 2010. That is, vibrant exiting football showcasing some true quality players (yes, many youth 19-24) and a round of 16.
The question remains. When to bring in more of the young unknowns?
All things aside, I agree it should be now. It’s just that the 2 things above are important too.
I’m viewing Klinsmann’s role here as more than just the NT coach. I’m seeing him as a steward of US Soccer. The next 20 years of soccer in this country depends on him.
If his tenure is viewed as a failure, we will have a nightmare scenario on our hands. We will be back to clueless “American” coaches, with Bradley/Arena philosophies. The “foreigner experiment” would be over. The “possession experiment” would be over. The “technical quality over physical attributes” experiment would be over. And so on …
With this in mind, I see #2 (the political one) above as the responsible path to take.
The comment above about preparing for 2018 makes me shudder. It is starting to look like we may not reach the knock out round in 2014. It is too frustrating waiting 4 years for every WC, especially when your team flops. Make it every 2 years, please! Twice as many WC wouldn’t hurt it’s mystique in my opinion.
Leadbelly, I recommend you get into the Euro Cup. Granted, the US doesn’t play in it, but it is *my* favorite tournament: usually with great soccer (still torqued about Greece 2004, though), usually has drama, but alas, doesn’t go on for quite as long as the WC. All in all, a more than decent consolation for having to wait two more years for the WC. And if you can ever get over to Europe to catch some games, it’s well worth it. Great parties, too!
I think we’re saying same thing. Spurts of hope. A glimmer of hope. Steps towards real improvement @ youth and USMNT is all we can ask by 2014. Unfortunate but realistic.
Further thoughts on USMNG:
Fan expectations may be too high. Brek Shea is promising, but is he enough to push team to quarter-finals? We start qualifying in approximately next 18-months. Is that enough time to identify talent and allow them time to grow on international stage? Do we have enough young or previously unknown talent to get onto world stage in coming year?
Age is an issue. Our primary attacking threat, Donovan, will be 32 when WC 2014 comes along. He will be a step slower and more wear and tear. Can we hang out hopes and dreams on someone well past his prime? Dempsey will be 31 in 2014. Same issues as Donovan and he probably gets more wear and tear in EPL than Donovan gets in MLS. Also, his game is not pace. Will he be as effective with a lost step? On defense, Cherundolo, Goodson, and Bocanegra will be 33+.
On the flip-side, Altidore and Agudelo will be early 20s. They are still a work in progress. They have not shown abilities to be game changers on world stage. Can they replace goal scoring that Donovan and Dempsey have provided? They will likely get a good amount of play time in 2014 solely based on age.
Can we beat Spain, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, Brazil, England, and Portugal? That’s the real question and benchmark. We’ll likely qualify from CONCACAF and very good chance to advance to round of 16. However, as we get to quarter-finals, we run into teams I just named off. On a one-off game, anything is possible. But what’s the probability? If you think it’s high, then refer to my first paragraph above. If all we fizzle out in round of 16, then USMNT has not really advanced. Status quo to 2010. We need to make it to quarter-finals. That’s success! Then build on it for 2018.
How do we know Klinsmann is a success? If Klinsmann can get us to a quarter-final appearance AND see a tangible increase and improvement in the number of promising talent in the youth pipeline, then he is our savior! IMHO, I can bypass a quarter-final appearance if the latter shows improvement by 2014. That will mean we’re looking good for 2018. Far away, but that may be our reality.
Gary Kleiban says
There so much to talk about here. All of your questions are good ones, and I have opinions on them. The general gist of them is simply this: If Klinsmann and his entire staff/network is top notch, then my optimism is high.
For now I’ll just look at the question of Donovan/Dempsey
D&D are not irreplaceable. They only seem to be, because of Bradley’s selections and tactics/style (or lack thereof). It was a direct consequence of this that Donovan/Dempsey were so heavily relied upon. It’s not because those two are magic. Those two only seem irreplaceable because Bradley’s teams were built specifically with and for those two guys. If one or both were not on the roster, then BB’s team had a hell of a time performing. It would be called a “B-team”.
I might even go so far as to say that was the teams identity: “Hold strong defensively, and look for a break with Donovan/Dempsey”. That was Bob’s national team in a nutshell.
So it’s no wonder, people are pondering a national team that can’t, or won’t, rely on D&D. To them, that future looks bleak. But I don’t think that’s the case.
Thus far it looks like Klinsi is working on a possession-based team with a real center-attacking mid acting as the orchestrator. Finally, we’ll have a #10?!?! In such a system, D&D are no longer the identity (the sole go-to guys), the sole dependency. It is the enganche that pulls the team’s strings, the hub. That will be the glue that actually makes this a team, and not just the D&D show with a supporting cast.
I don’t know, I rambling a bit now…
I’m just saying Donovan and Dempsey are not the end-all be-all. They are not magic, and are replaceable outside of Bradley’s, or a Bradley like, philosophy.