A media day in Washington with Jurgen Klinsmann and U.S. national team coaching staff

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Soccer picked a peach of a spot for gathering Jurgen Klinsmann and his coaching staff and a few of domestic soccer’s chief media voices: Washington, D.C.

This has long been fertile ground for that tricky, odd-bedfellow interplay between news makers and those trusted to tell their stories. While the movers, shakers and policy makers pound out their daily business, they constantly have one eye trained on how their work is presented – and what they might do to best shape that public presentation.

It’s a natural inclination, really; we all want bathing in the most flattering light available, to be photographed from our “good” side, so to speak.

Our nation’s capital is the front line in this perception tug-of-war between spin and the establishment’s quite reasonable desire to supply journalists with informed context, along with those stacks of facts. The tricky, wind-swept high-wire act for mortals like myself is in maintaining equilibrium. Writers and content producers lean in to understand, but keep enough distance so that we aren’t distracted by shiny and pretty objects.

So me and a few names that domestic soccer supporters will recognize – a relatively small group of TV broadcasters and producers, bloggers, newspaper reporters and magazine writers – will engage in a day-long back-and-forth with Jurgen Klinsmann and his assistants today in D.C.

We learn more about their daily duties and how the sundry pieces come together while they gain some appreciation of our challenges – and we’ll share sandwiches and nibble on juicy apple slices in between.

The cynic would call this a response to Brian Straus’ recent talker, a less-than-flattering look at some clouds potentially developing around Camp Klinsmann – some fine journalistic business that will eventually prove helpful to the United States’ ongoing push for Brazil 2014, I contend.  And the cynic would not be 100 percent wrong.

But he wouldn’t be 100 percent right either; I can personally attest that this gathering of old- and new-media was in the planning stages long before the loud, late-March arrival of Straus’ work – just before the Sporting News, a legacy media property now crumbling beneath the weight of its legacy-ness, calculated that soccer wasn’t the future and trimmed Straus’ position in its latest volley of cutbacks.

At its core, today’s get-together is about strengthening lines of communication and adding depth of knowledge for content producers like myself. It’s a commendable effort to add just a little more transparency.source:

Not that transparency was ever a Klinsmann trouble spot; the man is generally as opaque as a glass of filtered water. But access is access. Information is information, never a bad thing. The more that writers, reporters and broadcasters learn about the U.S. national team sausage making, the more readers, viewers and podcast subscribers can be informed in smarter and more textured ways.

Most of the session will be off the record, but that doesn’t mean supporters cannot eventually benefit from the most tuneful notes. The deliverables will arrive in time, layered into the narratives ahead and hopefully spoken with even more earnest authority.

They will, at least, if people like me do our jobs, dodging any perceived spin while keeping a low center of gravity as best we can.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

@edersonmoraes93
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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.