Jurgen Klinsmann on the short MLS offseason, on the U.S. under-20s, on Landon Donovan and more

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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.)

In his latest podcast from U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann talked about the effect of a reduced off-season, mostly as it relates to potential U.S. men:

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.

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

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Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE