876 days and counting. The clock is ticking until the next FIFA World Cup kicks off in 2014–will the United States be ready? Jurgen Klinsmann is entering his first full calendar year as the US head coach and has fully set forth a plan to change the mentality of US Soccer. Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t making a tactical change, a player change, or an ideal change–Klinsmann’s taking on a systematic change, a change of the culture of American soccer. This is a innovation is on all levels of skill, age, and philosophy. Klinsmann isn’t trying to make the US just competitive in 2014, he wants the US to be a dominant and renown soccer nation for decades. Now looking at Klinsmann goal in this viewpoint seems daunting, but it is a goal that is possible. This will not only develop in the players and coaches but the supporters of the sport . This process might not take a year, two years, or even four years, but it is a goal US Soccer has bought into. Ken Jones is the author of “American Soccer Dream”, a novel that takes a fictional look on what it would take for the United States to win it all in Brazil. This theory discusses the players, coaching, and psychology of what it takes to be a global force in soccer. Jones’ research and passion for the game shows one example of how soccer is growing in popularity of the minds of the American people. Part of the growth is due to the increasing following of the MLS and the environment the league provides to fans; but a lack of national players in the league is hindering the league’s and national team’s development.
“I think there should be some fundamental changes in MLS to help support the USMNT. One of these would be a concentrated effort (e.g. monies offered to clubs to prevent transfers) to keep our players in MLS. Too often, we send high potential players overseas where they do not take an active role on a club. That is not good for development. I do understand the point of getting players in places where competition is better, but not at the expense of them not playing,” explains Jones. This problem has been haunting US Soccer for years as players seek to play against tougher competition overseas, yet only find themselves on the bench instead of on the pitch earning experience. Players like Clint Dempsey and Stuart Holden have shown success overseas, but there needs to be a balance of growth in the MLS and experience in Europe. For example, Landon Donovan failed early in his career overseas in Germany, but after years of experience PLAYING in the MLS, Donovan has been able to return to Europe ON LOAN and show accomplishment.
The problem of players and where they play is one that will be difficult and may never be solved until MLS is an elite league. What can be controlled as how the players train and perform together when they are wearing the red, white, and blue. Jurgen Klinsmann has changed the way US Soccer is run from anywhere to what the jerseys look like to the dissolving of the “grandfather clause”.
“I do not believe the system is the problem. Bradley was a strong tactical manager, and I don’t think Jurgen is any type of brilliant x’s and o’s man. But I do believe his vision with respect to finding talent has great potential. Klinsmann has made the comments that the USA is a big country and there have to be some “little Messi’s” out there. I could not agree more. I think the USA needs to broaden our search for talent beyond the youth soccer pipeline we have today into other areas,” comments Jones. Jurgen is changing things in US Soccer; is this for better or for worse? We might not know what will result of Jurgen Klinsmann’s reign and if it will fail or be successful; but I believe by observing some of the world’s greatest soccer countries (Spain, Brazil, Germany), we can see that Klinsmann’s ideals and vision is one that works and and one that we have accepted. Unfortunately, the first sixth months of the Klinsmann era haven’t been beautiful as they seemed in theory by going 2-4-1 and scoring only five goals.
“Regarding current results, I don’t think they are terribly important. One would think, with the current team, the USA should be able to qualify relatively easily for Brazil in 2014. Clearly, we have fallen behind Mexico with Fernandez and DosSantos, etc…., but there is no reason to think we would not grab the second or third (or fourth playoff) CONCACAF berth for 2014.,” said Jones. Qualifications for the 2014 World Cup begin this summer, which will give Klinsmann only a few short months to find a reasonable squad to fit his ideal of a competitive US World Cup team.
“I don’t see qualification into the final 32 as a significant issue for us with things “as is”, I do think [by] grouping players so that they have chemistry, finding more athletic players, and finding players with better technical skill/ball ability are the types of actions that would separate the “wheat from the chaff” during a World Cup Finals. The USA has always qualified, and then for the most part struggled in the Finals, so what we need to do is find actions and plans to put us over the top,” said Jones.
US Soccer now has a relevant position in American culture and American sports. Unfortunately most of the public only decides to pay attention to one squad every four years. This puts an immense amount of pressure each World Cup for the players and the coaches to perform at their highest potential. Klinsmann has the reigns to US soccer at all levels, will he be able to create a true and original way Americans play soccer? 2012 begins a new chapter in US Soccer history, how long it lasts no one will know, but beginning this summer we are going to find out where this new chapter brings us.
Buy Ken Jones’ “American Soccer Dream”
Read an in depth interview with Jurgen Klinsmann