United States men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has given a typically-honest, sprawling interview to FIFA.com, touching on his big bullet points of American soccer.
There’s a lot to discuss. From his goal to reach the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup to his comments on Major League Soccer vs. the world’s top leagues (“I’m the biggest supporter of MLS), Klinsmann touches on a number of hot button issues.
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He also reminds both his supporters and detractors that there is a method to his madness. Whether you find it agreeable or not, Klinsmann claims the team is in the middle of a long process meant to teach them how to play a more “proactive” style against the world’s best teams.
It’s a worthwhile and interesting read, but here are some critical soundbites from the FIFA.com interview, beginning with the closing line of his interview. Klinsmann had just reeled off a list of items American soccer needs to improve in order to find the next level, and sounded a promising note:
“We will catch up. The positives are outweighing the negatives. The game is on the rise in America.”
Klinsmann stressed the developmental nature of the games since the World Cup how he’s using the time with his players to transition from a unit that sat back against Germany and Belgium in the goal of advancing in the tournament.
Now he says the USMNT is trying to take the game to its opposition, to learn to play free-flowing football and continue its growth to meet his lofty goals for the 2018 tournament in Russia. And that starts with winning the Gold Cup.
“We have a responsibility to win our big tournaments. Like the Gold Cup this summer, that will hopefully take us to the Confederations Cup in 2017. But you have your development situations too. Right now we’re in a more developmental period. Of course we want to win all of our friendly games, but they give us the opportunity to develop players too. I can ask the question ‘how good are you?’ ‘Do you understand what it means to play at the international level?’ We have players in Europe and South America and Mexico too. The only way to meld them together is to bring them in and let them swim in the cold water.”
On how supporting MLS and wanting the best U.S. players to play abroad aren’t mutually exclusive concepts:
“MLS is growing with tremendous speed and it can’t be denied. They’re building toward the big leagues in Europe. This couldn’t be more important to us in the national team. I’m the biggest supporter of MLS …
I have a responsibility to tell the individual players to go for the highest goal. No fan or coach would argue if we had an American playing for Bayern or Real Madrid or Barcelona. You have to try for these things as a professional.
His comments on the technical and tactical side of growth are a must-read for fans trying to get a glimpse into Klinsmann’s ideas. We’re not saying you’ll agree with him, but his words — at the very least — show that he’s not trying to burn down America or treat it with kid gloves. Maybe that’s what happened in the past, but now Klinsmann claims he’s molding the unit into his vision.