Turkey v United States

Klinsmann jumps back into MLS debate with Facebook post


Major League Soccer isn’t mentioned in Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest Facebook update, but the quality and culture around the United States’ domestic competition is the subtext of his post. Citing the U.S.’s finish in Brazil 2014 as a benchmark, the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach said the team needs to “add the work load,” going on to imply the current level of competition his players face needs to improve. The “tempo” and “rhythm” of the national team can’t move forward unless those qualities can be matched at club level.

Klinsmann also alluded to “off the field” factors, like understanding how to utilize recovery time, but his underlying point is a familiar one, one which strikes a more relevant note in light of Matt Besler’s potential move. While Major League Soccer is an improving league, it still doesn’t match the standard of Europe’s top competitions, something Klinsmann sees as an obstacle as the national team tries to move forward.

From Klinsmann’s Facebook post, dated July 3:

We get benchmarked at the World Cup and there is definitely stuff we have to improve and get better in. It’s many things off the field and many things on the field. Playing at that kind of a tempo, at that kind of a rhythm every four days – this has to become the norm. So our job as coaches is how can we make it clear that in order to get further and further we need to add the work load, we need to add the competition level, we need to make them understand what recovery time means, what their life off the field plays a role in many things you can achieve in your career.

It’s a common theme with Klinsmann: A soccer career is a lifestyle. It isn’t just defined by matches and the time you give your club in training. It extends to your off field preparation, your choices of how to rest and eat, or even the personal sacrifices you have to make to play against better competition. Being a professional athlete is a huge and well-compensated sacrifice, but if that’s what it takes in the soccer world to track down the world’s best, it’s a sacrifice players have to make.

At least, it’s one some players have to make right now. Players like Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard? Years of regular play in the English Premier League have built a foundation of experience. They’re capable of raising their level to match their opponents. As we also saw with Jermaine Jones, Bundesliga and Champions League experience meant the awe-factor of the World Cup was more muted. If those types of players move to MLS, there’s enough experience to draw on at the international level.

source: Getty ImagesBut what about a player like Matt Besler (right), who hasn’t put in that time at the higher levels? Or Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, or perhaps more importantly, DeAndre Yedlin? Even Michael Bradley, who for all his European experience, never played regularly for a Champions or Europa League qualifier during his stops in Germany or Italy. If Klinsmann’s hypothesis is correct, perhaps Bradley’s return to MLS from Roma was a little premature at 26 years old?

Or maybe he’s an exception that shouldn’t obscure the rule: Major League Soccer may be a building ground, but it’s not a finishing school. While the likes to Yedlin, Luis Gil, Diego Fagundez, and Darlington Nagbe have had this platform to flash their potentials, MLS’s ceiling may prevent them from helping their national team improve. Staying at home, they may develop into the talented but limited products that have led the U.S. to where it is now.

More from Klinsmann:

We have to continue to communicate that, to show them and especially start to implement that with our Under-17, Under-18, Under-20, Under-21, which will be the future Olympic team because that’s the next Generation that’s going to break in. The more we get that message to those kids, the more we will benefit a couple of years from now. When you go out in the Round of 16, clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you.

Telling people to get to Europe isn’t the only solution, though. Eventually, you want Major League Soccer to be able to rival that experience. Maybe players capable of playing for the truly elite clubs will always leave (MLS may never have a Real Madrid), but unless that’s the choice, you’d like to think players can achieve a higher potential at home.

Obviously, progress is being made. Players like Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski, and Kyle Beckerman are limited, but thanks to MLS’s drastic improvement, they’ve turned into players who can serve a purpose at the highest level. Talents like Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, and Clarence Goodson played valuable roles in qualifying. The improvement in Major League Soccer is having a huge impact for the U.S. national team.

But 2014 wasn’t the tournament where MLS broke through. With Besler standing out next to Beckerman and Zusi’s contributions, it was the tournament where it helped. As Klinsmann implies, the domestic league has some steps to take if it’s going to define its national team. The break through hasn’t happened, yet.

Klopp’s blockbuster arrival brings hope back to Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC during a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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LIVERPOOL – Jurgen Klopp is box office in every sense of the word.

His relaxed demeanor makes him likable, yet he also exudes self-confidence, something he will need a lot of in the coming weeks and months as he tries to get Liverpool’s players to believe in his methodology and drag the illustrious club back to the top of the Premier League and get them challenging for trophies at home and in Europe.

[ MORE: Dazzling Anfield arrival ]

Klopp, 48, put on a dazzling show during his glitzy unveiling as Liverpool’s new boss on Friday at Anfield, declaring himself as the “Normal One” when asked of his comparison to Jose Mourinho, while he also revealed that he hopes to turn Liverpool “from doubters into believers” during his time in charge on Merseyside.

Being in the packed press conference in the Centenary Stand at Anfield on Friday, there was a palpable buzz and sense of excitement in the air as the British, German and world ‘s media descended on Anfield. The terraced rows of streets in and around Anfield were busier than usual. All roads led to Anfield. All roads led to Klopp. He didn’t disappoint as he delivered a flawless display of controlled optimism.

Previously he had described this opportunity to manage Liverpool as the “most interesting job in world football” at the moment. Everyone was interested in what he had to say, as he strode into the presser with a beaming smile on his face, wearing a a pair of jeans and a stylish unbuttoned shirt complemented with a trendy blazer. Make no mistake, signing Klopp to a three-year deal is a major coup for the Reds as any of Europe’s giants would have snapped him up had a managerial vacancy arisen over the past four months since he left Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Klopp’s 10 best quotes

Friday marked the biggest managerial appointment for Liverpool in a decade, as all the stops were pulled out to make sure the German coach was given a royal welcome at Anfield, a pantheon of world soccer which he is eager to wake up from its trophyless slumber. After the presser, Klopp was ushered onto the pitch as he posed for pictures in front of the huge $165 million renovation of the Main Stand which will add over 7,000 corporate seats at Anfield and help the club generate extra revenue to compete with the four clubs currently above them — Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United — in the Premier League’s rich list. Liverpool’s American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) will be celebrating their fifth anniversary at the club next week. This appointment was one of their biggest moments, if not the biggest, to date under John W. Henry and Co.

Klopp has previously spoken about his ability to coach with feeling. On Friday he spoke with feeling, with humor and engaged the audience as mutterings such as “he’s enthralling, gripping, isn’t he?” could be heard among the press. His enthusiastic mannerisms on the sidelines and his ability to conjure fervor from fans and players has been well documented. He is a man who is at one with the working-class people who make up the vast majority of the local fanbases for his previous clubs Mainz and Dortmund, and now his new club, Liverpool. He seems tailor-made for this adventure at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp at Anfield is unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC during a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.
Klopp engages with the press.

In the past three seasons, hope of success flickered brightly at first, then intermittently, before fading in recent months. Liverpool failed to win a single piece of silverware under Brendan Rodgers, with the Northern Irishman finally shown the exit door last Sunday. In Rodgers’ place stands a coach who has been here before.

At Dortmund Klopp rebuilt the team from relegation candidates to two-time Bundesliga champions in his seven years in charge. He led them to the UEFA Champions League final (where they lost narrowly to German rivals Bayern Munich at Wembley) and built a young squad who was hungry to succeed and bought into his methods of high-pressing early in games and pacey counters later.

The similarities between the situation Klopp now finds himself in at Liverpool are strikingly similar to the one he acquired at Dortmund when he arrived from Mainz in 2008.

“We did in Dortmund what we had to do, to improve the players, to work for a common idea of play. That is what we did and its the same thing we want to do here. They are not the same players of course,” Klopp told NBC Sports ProSocerTalk. “These players from Liverpool are better, more experienced in some ways and younger in other cases. Everything is okay, I am here. I am not here only because LFC was calling. I believe in the potential of this team. Four or five strikers you can work with when they are not injured, midfielders is really good, defenders experienced and very young, goalkeeper is really good. Everything is there.

“Now we have to work. The problem in football is that you can be as good as you want but you always have to play against other teams. You have no influence on how good they are before the game. But in the game, if they are better, you have to bring them to your level. On your level you can kill every team. If they are not so good, you have to win. That is football.”

A towering six-foot four-inch veteran of the 2. Bundesliga during his playing days, Klopp’s soccer brain has been revered and he takes his staff wherever he goes. Longtime allies Zeljko Buvac (who he nicknames ‘the brain’) and analyst Peter Krawietz have joined Klopp at Liverpool, as he aims to replicate the success he had at Dortmund. He also revealed he is comfortable with the transfer committee which many blamed for Rodgers’ downfall. “It’s enough for me to have the first and last word.”

Liverpool’s 25-year wait for a 19th league championship may not end anytime soon but under Klopp FSG have got the man they were after. As he mentioned when saying: “I am not here only because LFC was calling. I believe in the potential of this team,” Klopp has placed his managerial reputation on the line to try and stir a sleeping giant of English soccer with his raucous celebrations and infectious enthusiasm set to grace the touchline for at least the next three years at Liverpool. If this initial appearance before the press is anything to go by, Klopp will bring plenty of life to the PL.

He has become the second German to coach in the Premier League, after the short-stint of Felix Magath at Fulham almost two years ago, and Klopp’s English is very, very good as he engaged with the press and put on a flawless show of charisma, style and confidence.

“In Jurgen Klopp we have appointed a world-class manager with a proven track record of winning and someone who has the personality and charisma to reignite this football club and take the team forward,” Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said in a statement. “He possesses all the qualities we are looking for in a manager, he is a strong, inspirational leader, who has a clear philosophy of high energy, attacking football. Critically, he is also a winner and someone who can connect with and enthuse our supporters.”

The club. The fans. The players. Klopp blends it all together perfectly. He gets what a club like Liverpool means to the fans and now shares their hopes and dreams.

Perhaps one of the most poignant quotes to come from Klopp was that he wants his players to believe, not be downtrodden by, the huge expectation placed on them by the fans and the media worldwide.

“It is a really important thing that the players feel the difference from now on,” Klopp said. “They have to think they can reach the expectations of all the people, of all the fans, of the press. We have to change from doubters to believers. We have to change our performance, of course, but stop thinking about money. It is only about football.”

There was no football played on Friday as Klopp will get to work early next week when the majority of his squad arrive back at Melwood from international duty. But the talking he did on Friday, with charisma oozing from his comments in both English and German, impressed and proved he is relaxed and capable of delivering success to a club which has been crying out for it for a very long time.

Euro qualifying Friday preview: Lopsided scores in the offing?

Harry Kane, England
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Spain can book its place in France with a win over Luxembourg on Friday, just one of several match ups of giants and minnows on the docket.

The real Group C battle is for second in the group, as Ukraine should easily pick up three points against basement-dwelling Macedonia, which would keep its Top Two hopes alive should Slovakia drop unlikely points at home to Belarus.

Roy Hodgson has set England’s sights on an undefeated run through group play, and that could crush Estonia’s hopes in Group E. Sitting fourth, two points back of Slovenia, Estonia has a tough duo of matches to finish (Switzerland is next).

The Swiss, for their part, have No. 6 San Marino, while Slovenia can stay in they playoff driver seat with a win versus Lithuania.

Will Austria be on cruise control, given it’s won Group G in a landslide? Montenegro will hope so, but their hopes also hinge on Sweden and Russia picking up historic upset losses on the road.

Macedonia vs. Ukraine
Slovakia vs. Belarus
Spain vs. Luxembourg
England vs. Estonia
Slovenia vs. Lithuania
Switzerland vs. San Marino
Liechtenstein vs. Sweden
Moldova vs. Russia
Montenegro vs. Austria