Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Klinsmann discusses American culture

On Monday morning, in his first press conference since his appointment as head coach, Juergen Klinsmann talked about what style of play the U.S. national team should adopt. Mike Woitalla of Soccer America reports on the thoughts of the new US coach.

The 47-year-old German who has resided in California for more than a decade says he will seek much feedback on the style of play question: “Your opinions are important. College coaches' opinions are important. Youth coaches are important. Everyone is involved in that process. Players as well. I’m looking forward to a lot of talks.”

But he believes "that soccer in a certain way reflects the culture in a country."

“Studying your culture and having an American wife and American kids, mainly right now my understanding is that you don’t like to react to what other people do," he said. "I think this is maybe a starting point. I think America never really waits and sees and leaves it up to other people to decide what is next. I think America always likes to decide on its own what is next. This guides maybe towards a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it."

Kinsmann is credited for changing the German national team's style, from a patient build-up game to a quicker, attack-minded approach, when he took over in 2004 and guided Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, at which Germany was the highest scoring team and one of the few that resisted a one-forward lineup.

"We re-defined that in Germany in 2004, which was a very, very difficult process but we worked through that process and now it’s settled, that style of play," he said.

Settling on a soccer philosophy in the USA, he says, is "quite a challenge, because you are such a melting pot in this country, so many different opinions, and ideas floating around.

“Every coach has his own ideas, then you have the whole challenge of youth soccer being based on a very different model than anywhere else in the world. Your educational system is completely different than in the rest of the world. One of my challenges will be to find a way to define how a U.S. team should represent its country. What should be the style of play? Is it a more proactive and aggressive kind of forward-thinking style of play, or is a more reacting style of play?

“That comes with the players you have at your disposal but also with the people who you’re surrounded with and the people who have an opinion in this country, like the media, like coaches – and there’s such a wealth of knowledge in this country. …

“I think it’s important over the next three years and especially in the beginning that I have a lot conversations with people involved in the game here to find a way to define that style.

“What suits us best? What would you like to see? What would you like to identify with?"

Klinsmann cited the U.S. women, who lost to Japan in this summer's Women's World Cup final on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie, but had played exciting attacking soccer in the final.

“I think this was how Americans wanted to see their girls play that game. And they did an awesome job."

There's little doubt that Klinsmann, a high-scoring forward in his playing days, prefers an attacking game, but ...

"It always depends, also, on your opponent," he said. "If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might play differently than maybe against a country in Concacaf, but it is a starting point if you say we want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball. All those components you have to build into your training sessions and have to build it into the curriculum for the youngsters because the earlier they start with that type of work, the better it is. ...

“It will be one of main topics always. Sitting down and discussing that. But it should reflect your mentality and culture."

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