By Tony Bruce
Can U.S. Men’s National head coach Jurgen Klinsmann be the savior for American soccer? That’s a loaded question, but as the first U.S. coach to have actually won a World Cup, he knows what it takes. From a coaching stand point, the question is how will he attack the task at hand.
In his media conference, Klinsmann talked about what style of play he thought would best fit the American soccer team. Will he go with an attacking style or a more defensive approach?
“What should be the style of play? Is it more proactive and aggressive, a forward-thinking style of play? Or is it more reacting style of play?” commented Klinsmann.
The answer may take time in coming. When you look at the players at his disposal, and that may be the most important factor, his choices are limited. Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain and Italy all have distinctive styles of play that have evolved over long periods of time. That begs the question, does American soccer have its own style of play? And can Klinsmann bring this to the forefront?
The first problem for Klinsman is the lack of any world class players on the USMNT unlike the countries mentioned. The closest he has is Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and they would be considered role players in Europe or South America.
Of all the soccer powers the country that the U.S. comes closest to in style may be Germany. The U.S. produces hard working, athletic players similar to the Germans. It is not surprising that of the current US squad there are more than a few players plying their trade in Germany.
Timmy Chandler (FC Nurberg), Steve Cherundolo ( Hannover 96), Michael Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Jermaine Jones (Shalke 04) all compete for playing time with their respective clubs in Germany.
Does he have the players to implement an attacking style or does he set up shop and look to counter attack? In the Gold Cup, former head coach, Bob Bradley, played an open attacking game for the most part, but was undone by the attacking prowess of the Mexican team. Klinsmann knows how important his first game is and especially because it’s against the same Mexican team.
The smart money would probably be on Klinsmann playing the game with a fair amount of caution. Defending and looking to hit on the break with the speedy Donovan leading the attack would prove to be the safe bet for the USMNT.
How Klinsmann lines up his team in the coming months may have more to do with the Hispanic influences that he cited in his media conference, though. The German has lived in Southern California less than 100 miles from the Mexican border and has seen the influence the Latin game has had on soccer in the southwest. In the current squad he has brought in Edgar Castillo, Michael Orosco, Jose Torres and Juan Agudelo to join old timer Carlos Bocanegro giving the squad a big Hispanic influence.
Klinsmann has lived in Southern California for more than 13 years. He has two children of his own playing youth soccer and has played himself withthe Orange County Blue Stars, a USL Premier Development League team, that has had its share of Latin players including Martin Vazquez, the former head coach of Chivas USA and one of Klinsmann’s assistants at Bayern Munich.
From that talent pool Klinsmann may find the next Leo Messi, but in the meantime he has to go forward with a team that can compete with Mexico, his first challenge as the U.S. head coach, and then maybe he can go about the task of building the program from the youth level up.
Whatever the result in his first game, Klinsmann must find the formula that can develop the American melting pot of soccer into a cohesive unit with a discernible style based on the American talent pool calling on every facet of the population.
A win in his first international game will go a long way in helping to advance a new vision for American soccer with a European and Latin influence.
Tony Bruce is a coach in Southern California for Surf Soccer. If you would like to contribute to The Soccer Guys contact Kevin Koczwara Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.