There has been no louder – and certainly no more influential – advocate of shrinking Major League Soccer’s off-season than U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
He said a year back that MLS down time was too lengthy, too easy-breezy on world class athletes who needed to get off those comfy sofas and get back after it sooner – and that player development in this country suffered because of it.
Not so much because Klinsmann said so, but due to other scheduling factors, Major League Soccer did indeed reduce the interim. At three months, this was easily the shortest MLS off-season yet. (Since clubs were back in training camp in mid-January, the actual player down time was closer to six weeks in many cases.)
We hope the players respond positively to it, that they feel, ‘OK, I can adjust easier or faster to a heavy rhythm of games.’ Once season starts, they are traveling all over the place, playing games every three, four, five days.
Also, mentally, you need to adjust so that hopefully, with the shorter offseason, it is easier for them to get back into that rhythm and their bodies adjust to it. It’s all about how fast you can recover from games, about how quickly they can regenerate and hopefully it makes them even stronger.”
On the same podcast, Klinsmann also revealed that he spoke via Skype to Tab Ramos’ under-20 national team earlier this week, before they met Canada for a spot in this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey.
I told them it’s about being a giver here. Don’t think about yourself, just think about teammates, think about the big opportunity you have. If you are all givers, you are going to beat Canada and things will turn out OK. And the way they played was exciting, some good combinations, some good flow of the ball, even on a difficult surface, because it looked a bit bumpy there.”
Klinsmann also addressed injuries and availability with Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan and more. No real surprises there, although he did seem to add a little more boil to this kettle by saying “If” rather than “When” on Donovan’s return to the national team.
And did the U.S. manager reveal a little something about the way the United States may set up tactically in the future, perhaps playing without a true holding midfielder? In talking about the important relationship between central mids Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, he mentioned more training sessions ahead, where perhaps they could train to set up without a defensive midfield anchor – so long as Bradley and Jones develop an understanding of how one of them absolutely has to hold the midfield if the other goes forward.
Why is Jose Mourinho upset with his Man United coaching staff?
Well, it all centers around his coaching staff as Zorya’s lineup surprised Mourinho and his players, most notably Paul Pogba, were incredible confused.
At the beginning of the game Mourinho yelled towards his coaches and looked bemused alongside Pogba. After the game, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s lone goal decided, Mourinho explained what the problem was all about.
“It was set pieces, organisation, they changed their team before the game,” Mourinho said. “Paul Pogba was a bit confused with the changes and obviously I want my assistants to take care of all the details.”
Mourinho was in discussions with assistant manager Rui Faria and Pogba but he was seen staring moodily at analyst Giovanni Cerra and then he took his frustration out on the bench.
The former FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is a stickler for details and after spending many years as an assistant manager himself, he expects every meticulous detail to be spot on from his assistants.
Turns out there is a small margin for error when Mourinho is your boss.
With United winning three games on the spin after losing three in a row, Mourinho isn’t getting ahead of himself but anything other than a convincing win over Stoke City this Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m ET online via NBC Sports) will not be greeted warmly.
One final note: it’s worth remembering that Mourinho has turned on his staff at other clubs before when things weren’t going so well…
Wenger, 66, only has a contract through the end of this Premier League season and it is unknown what his plans are beyond next summer, with Wenger saying he will not make a decision about his future until after this season.
Wenger certainly didn’t turn down the notion of him becoming England’s next manager.
“My priority is to do well here (at Arsenal). It has always been my club and one day if I am free, why not? For now I am focused on the job,” Wenger said.
A follow up question then asked why he wasn’t ruling it out.
“I rule nothing out because I want to work and I want to do well,” Wenger said. “I accept as well that it can finish tomorrow. It is a love story and a love story you always expect it to last forever, but you know it can stop every day.”
So, Wenger is up for the England job. No surprise there.
After 20 years living and working in England, it is hard to imagine anybody else currently working in the game who has had more influence on English soccer. From his tactics, dietary advice and professionalism, the modern game in England has much to thank Wenger for.
As his contract situation rumbles on at Arsenal, England could do a lot worse than hiring Wenger. How would this work though, if Wenger was to take charge of England next summer?
Well, with Gareth Southgate placed in caretaker charge for the next four games in 2016, he could hold a similar caretaker role for the one games scheduled before the end of the 2016-17 season — Mar. 26 again Lithuania at Wembley — and then Wenger could take over. If he failed with the Three Lions, would it taint his legacy at Arsenal? Probably not. Taking the job wouldn’t be much of a risk for Wenger. After poor tournament displays in recent years, the only way, surely, is up.
Wenger is almost seen as an honorary Englishman within the game and with England’s national team in desperate need of a confidence boost and to try and get the best out of their talented and young squad, maybe Wenger is the man. You would have thought Wenger coaching the French national team next would make more sense but if the opportunity is there, maybe England will wait it out over the next few World Cup qualifiers and wait for Wenger to become available next summer.
Of course, him leaving Arsenal at the end of the current season is still a massive “if” as it seems likely he’ll be offered a new deal soon but this is a situation we should watch carefuly as Wenger continues to rule out “one day” coaching England.
Maybe that day will come soon than most of us think.
Remember: At 12:30 p.m. ET, this Saturday, Oct. 1, NBCSN presents a new Premier League Download: Inside the Mind of Arsene Wenger, hosted by The Men in Blazers’ Roger Bennett to celebrate 20 years at Arsenal. Promo video is above.
After a glittering playing career at Arsenal and Inter Milan amongst other sides, Vieira ran Manchester City’s reserves between 2013-15. Now in the dugout leading a senior team for the first time, Vieira hasn’t skipped a beat, leading NYCFC to a playoff spot and a legit chance at a first round bye in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Barrett sees the genius in his 40-year-old opponent.
“You see teams that get stuck just doing one thing over and over again, I don’t want to say they get figured out, but sometimes they run out of options,” Barrett said. “You see a coach like him, he’s made adjustments in games, moved pieces around, and I think that’s really important in this league, is to be able to adjust.
“Patrick’s come in and he’s done very well. He’s got his group playing a very effective style.”
Barrett’s a first-year boss himself, guiding Houston to a 4W-4L-9T record since taking over for Owen Coyle in late May. That’s a significant improvement for the Dynamo, who are still destined to miss the playoffs.
Following this weekend’s match between Wisconsin and Rutgers, Brotherton will hop on a plane to meet head coach Anthony Hudson and New Zealand in Nashville. The Kiwis are Stateside for an Oct. 8 match against Mexico in Nashville before heading to Washington for an Oct. 11 date with the USMNT at RFK Stadium.
This isn’t a bizarre story of a tiny national team finding a college kid with an ancestral tie and giving him a call; Brotherton is off to tangle with two of CONCACAF’s best in a match that will hopefully better prepare New Zealand for the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Brotherton will enter the trip on his 20th birthday, and on the path for caps Nos. 7 and 8. He’s the only amateur player on a team with West Ham defender Winston Reid, Leeds United striker Chris Wood, and Portland Timbers backstop Jake Gleeson.
It’s no secret that Brotherton has the skill set to be a professional player now, and his call-ups to the national team in the summer before his freshman year had pro clubs on alert. But Brotherton had signed to play for head coach John Trask at a very good school at Wisconsin, and that meant something to him.
“It was a decision I had to make, and I felt that I had made a commitment to the school,” said Brotherton, whose father was educated at Oxford. “I’ve always been passionate about my education and wanted to get my degree so I felt I wanted to give college soccer a try, start off here at Wisconsin and see where it went.”
Brotherton is one of a bevy of young New Zealand players plying their trade in the NCAA Soccer game. Xavier’s Cory Brown was the Big East preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Saint Francis Red Flash senior defender Francis de Vries is an All-American, and Stuart Holthusen was First Team All-MAC at Akron in 2015.
The University at Buffalo has a Kiwi head coach and four players, including goalkeeper Cameron Hogg, who played with Brotherton on the U20 team.
“Sam has always been a leader in any side he stepped into,” Hogg said. “From Auckland to the national U20s, he’s always been a leading voice even if he wasn’t wearing the armband.”
Wisconsin is 4-2-1, the longtime MLS assistant Trask running the Badgers program to a solid start. Trask has started the sophomore in 24 matches, including a freshman season that saw Brotherton named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and had his teammates recognizing a leader.
“Sam is one of the few sophomores that I’ve named captain,” Trask told PST. “It’s rare in a team. Sam has just got it. His presence as a person and the quality of his play, every guy on the team said he should be our captain. I’ve got a ton of time for him.”
“Sam is an excellent center back and he’s incredible in the air,” said Adam Lauko, who graduated from Wisconsin in 2015. “On top of that he is mature beyond his years and a well-respected leader. He’s a great guy to be around as well.”
2015 was an insane ride for Brotherton, as the kid went from scoring at the U20 World Cup to his freshman year in Madison. Two days after that season ended, he earned his first full national team cap when he played in a 1-0 win over Oman.
“It was amazing,” Brotherton said. “It’s really quite hard to put into words. It’s very special. I was so fortunate that it happened so young in my career. It’s an honor, but it makes you want to work even harder.”
Being a center back means having the opportunity to learn from Reid, a man with 19 caps and 175 appearances for West Ham. All but 28 of those have come with the Irons in the Premier League, and Reid was chosen the Hammer of the Year in 2012-13 and the New Zealand Footballer of the Year for 2014.
“Rugby is the main sport in New Zealand, but Winston has increased the awareness and popularity of football,” Brotherton said. “He’s a great player and a great guy. A lot of guys look up to him, and every time you get in camp with him it’s great to learn off someone like that.”
When New Zealand won the 2016 OFC Nations Cup, Brotherton started all five matches. He went 120 minutes in the final as the Kiwis won in penalty kicks, but still came back to school at Wisconsin.
“With all his international call-ups and how difficult our business school is, we’re still optimistic he’s going to be an Academic All-American in addition to a soccer All-American,” Trask said. “He knows I won’t stand in his way when the moment’s right. I still think he can learn at the collegiate level while also pushing his degree. It’s a very unique situation.”
Brotherton said he’s grateful to Trask, who he calls “a winner”, and Wisconsin for allowing him to pursue his international career. He praises Hudson’s preparation and tactical acumen, and admits that he’s open to playing professional in Europe, North America, or wherever the best opportunity lies.
“I love going to the beach,” Brotherton said. “I spearfish a little bit, and I definitely miss being close to the sea.”
That’s all in the future, though. Brotherton has a busy week ahead of him, as Wisconsin looks to go 3-1 in Big Ten play with a home win over Rutgers before he goes to hopefully start in front of thousands of passionate Mexico and USMNT fans in two gigantic stadia.
“All players look forward to playing in big games in front of some good crowds,” Brotherton said. “It’s exciting and those opportunities don’t come around too often, so it brings the best out of you as a player.”