Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tough Job Ahead for Klinsmann

George Vecsey of the New York Times writes of the challenges facing Jurgen Klinsmann as the new head coach of the US National team.

Klinsmann has the aura of the international soccer celebrity — “sexy,” one soccer insider said, meaning attractive, in the public relations sense. But it would have been instructive, in a purely laboratory experiment, to give Bruce Arena or Bradley the German squad of 2006 and see if they could achieve third place. Either one just might have done it.

Now it is the time for the mysterious gentleman caller from the world where coaches really understand the sport, or so the theory goes. The opposite theory (to which I have adhered) is that the national team has needed a home-grown coach who understands the mentality of the American player.

What does that mean? American athletes ask questions — these days, maybe even in that most authoritarian, brute sport known as American football. They ask: Why, Coach? Coaches like Arena and Bradley understood the quirkiness of Landon Donovan and the independence of Clint Dempsey. I’m not sure a Fabio Capello or a Marcello Lippi — my way or the autostrada — would work in the United States. Then again, top European coaches often have room for a resident madman on the field, a Gennaro Gattuso in Italy or a Wayne Rooney in England, and the United States has lacked a lunatic since Frankie Hejduk wore his body down during the last qualifying round.

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