U.S. Men's National Team

Klinsmann wants USMNT players nastier, less naive

JonesNeymar (Getty Images)



LANDOVER, Md. — U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann sat at the table in the press conference room at FedEx Field on Saturday night without his usual cheerful smirk. Instead, he sported a stern look as he prepared to speak to the several dozens of reporters that filled the room for his postgame talk.

The typically optimistic Klinsmann had just witnessed his side suffer a 4-1 defeat to Brazil. And while there were positives to build on just as there had been four days prior following a rout of Scotland, the U.S. head coach was not pleased with how the game was officiated, leaving him to utter the words that are already causing a stir in some U.S. soccer circles.

"We've got to move on, but we need to get an edge more nastier," said Klinsmann. "Maybe we're a little bit still too naive, maybe we don't want to hurt people, but that's what you got to do. You've got to do that at the end of the day, so we've got to step on their toes more and get them more frustrated and make a case with the referee maybe as well for us, not only the opponents."

While some will focus on Klinsmann's choice of words, the overall meaning of what he said was, or at least should have been, well understood. The U.S. team had given too much respect to Brazil, especially at the start of the game, and the Americans lacked a bit of the necessary toughness that is required when taking on a world power like Brazil.

Some of the American players even said so.

"I agree with what he's saying," said goalkeeper Tim Howard. "He's probably talking about more from the opening whistle stamping that authority, ruffling their feathers, letting them know that they're going to be in for a tough game, not just towards the end or when the chips get down."

Added forward Herculez Gomez, who scored the lone U.S. goal: "I think that's a fair assessment. I think at times we came in with too much respect for them, because they were Brazil. Like I said, they bleed the same, they sweat the same, and when we imposed our game on them for certain stretches that second half, you were seeing them being the ones on their heels, tracking back, trying to hit us, trying to play a little dirty."

It is not as if Klinsmann's postgame comments following the Brazil match were the first time he had used the word 'nasty' or tried to talk about the Americans needing more of that type of attitude. He said it in the fall of 2011 when describing the play of German-American midfielder Danny Williams.

Klinsmann was asked to further elaborate on the topic of his team being too naive and not nasty enough later during the press conference, and he responded by saying the players need to be more forceful in terms of making things happen in the game and with the match official.

"It's just in the nature, still, of our game," said Klinsmann. "When you play these type of teams and you play it kind of at a higher emotional level against the Marcelos of the world, the Neymars, or whatever, and things are getting provoked, you also may have to make your case.

"If you watch big teams in the world when there's a call going against them, Barcelona is one of them, they come with 10 guys towards the referee, the referee is confused, he doesn't even know who to show a yellow card to. And I think we just need to be stronger to make our case, to tell clearly that this is not all right and to be more confident in certain moments."

The Americans may not have been as confident as Klinsmann would have liked in specific scenarios, but most pundits and fans would acknowledge there were signs of progress. Unlike in recent meetings against the Selecao, the United States tried to impose themselves by keeping possession and creating chances. The hosts did that well for stretches, but missing those chances and having some subpar moments in defense resulted in the lopsided loss.

Those aspects need to be further fine-tuned and improved before World Cup qualifying begins next week, as does the team's ability to play with the requisite toughness Klinsmann is seeking. But therein lies the problem.

Fixing the defense and correcting poor finishing are coachable, while Klinsmann is unsure if adding that toughness is.

"I don't know," said Klinsmann. "It's something that you certainly discuss, it's something that comes also out of their personalities and we have to develop it a little bit and mention it here and there. But obviously you don't want to change the characters.

"But I think it has a lot to do also with belief, believe in your capabilities and if you start to believe that, we can build something special towards 2014. Also with these games against Italy, against France, against Brazil, we get those experiences how to deal with them. In August with Mexico and later on in the year we play Russia in Russia. Those are the benchmarks. … It needs to be developed. How, I don't know yet."

  • danny

    Jones Tackle was not dirty or wrong. He was in control and cleanly got that ball with his studs. It was a foul because his body simultaneously went through Neymar’s legs, but all his force was directed toward the ball.


  • ComoPark

    +1 on refs reluctance to make calls when confronted. I can only think of a handful of officials internationally that don’t cave, and maybe one in CONCACAF. It infuriates me that the refs aren’t more assertive, but if they aren’t then non-aggressive team is likely to suffer.


  • danny

    Agreed. Jay Demerit was our best center back during the WC and probably for the year around it. He was injured for awhile though. He’s basically a smarter version of Onyewu with slightly better ball skills and passing.


  • rrrr

    I am with those who believe BB did a good job, but….I don’t think the toughness of fighting back against Algeria and CR is quite the same thing that JK is talking about. The USMNT has been a plucky group who will fight hard and never, ever, quit. Witness those comebacks. However, I do think there is *still* a naivety in approach to think that just by trying hard enough we will eventually get results, or worse, that it is okay to try hard and fall short. That is not the same as coming right out toe-to-toe with the established powers ans saying that we’ve arrived, that we want what they have, and we are going to take it from them. Nope, not there yet.


  • Mwing09

    Cant agree more, I hate when Barca does that. While we’re at complaining to the refs, why dont we also just start getting “injured” as soon as the clock hits 65 and we’re up? Why dont we start flopping whenever we’re touched inside the box?

    Just because other teams do it to try and gain an advantage, doesnt mean we need to. We win without using BS tactics like this, thats what I like about US soccer.


  • JRP

    If he would have slid in one leg back and one forward it would have been avoided. Simple as that.


  • thegazelle

    haha – cello shredded US, with a chip on his shoulder too. Of course we need someone like that. And yes F Johnson is a great addition too.


  • hush

    I disagree. In Urban areas “Nasty” is used to describe someone tough, or something beautiful. Jordan & Pippen were NASTY during the 90’s! Rodman was NAAAASTY!

    I completely understand what JK means by Nasty. I think some of you are trying to hard.


  • Conrad

    When you refer to the “old days in the Premiership,” what, are you think the wilderness of, like, 1998? The Premiership didn’t exist till 1992.


  • rajiv

    Hmmm…I hope klinsy is not talking about turning the us team into a buncha hatchet men. Klinsmann was the biggest flopper/diver ever during his playing days so I think the USMNT should tell him to be careful about what he says publicly. Besides the usa were plenty aggressive against a bunch of under 23 kids. Hitting neymar with dirty tackles is not the answer, this is not NFL nor rugby and it wont wash in europe and certainoly not at a world cup. Lets see if they can back it up when playing mexico at mexico city and try this kind of approach and not start a riot. Not a good statement by kins at all. What the USA need to do is learn to PLAY BETTER. Brazil with mostly kids played in second gear for 90 mins. If the americans had the skill or physicality to step it up you think brazil wont have? Unfortunately this current usa team is beginning to sound more and more like england in the 1980s, arrogant without being able to back it up. Lets see some genuine wins before the talk begins.


  • andrew

    So this german dufus wants to turn the USA into a snarling, scowling nasty team? I sure as hell hope not…As Ive said many many times, were are using all the wrong role models to advance our cause. Copying germany, england – this is not the asnwer. Lets copy the kids who thrashed us instead, BRAZIL. Then finally maybe we get to see some progress of the right kind. Besides, all these tricks and gamesmanship jurgen is going on about has been tried before against brazil, wont work boys. First you need to match their quality theres no other easy way and you wont unruffle them with hard tackles. European teams such as england, scotland, ireland all tried it time and again during the 70s 80s and apart from a few wins here and there it never worked in crunch games. Brazil know how ti mix up their pretty soccer with dirty stuff if needed. Like i said , we are going in the wrong direction if this is juregens response to the defeat.


  • Jimi Hendrix

    I dont know what JK is saying but its not good. He was part of a german team 1990 that was excellent but also very dirty. They knew all the tricks in the book, how to provoke opponents, and how to get players sent off. This is not a good road to travel, even to win. Even in england (who for some reason in soccer the usa seems to hold in high regard unlike in any other sport). they frown on this kind of behavior. Play hard by all means, dont be naive, but dont be dirty unless your opponents start to introduce it and quite frankly there was NOTHING dirty about the brazil olympic team. Anyone who says they were are just talking out of their backsides or are smoking something. I was impressed by neymar. Folks call him weak, blah blah, but he casme through the game didnt he and he came through the only dirty tackle in the game. That was a red csard for the us player. I think we have to realise physicality will only bring us so much. Brazil can be physical no problem, its a myth that they cant mix it up. So we need to match their skills, and with these musclebound jokers passing themselves off as US soccer players, I dont know that we can right now.


  • ben

    It was a disgraceful tackle. PERIOD. Its a sad state of US soccer when fans are defending this kind of behavior. Next you will say luis suarez is not a racist! haha.


  • chuffed

    So the yanks are defending horror tackles and dirty play now? Pele was quite literally kicked out of the 1966 world cup, wouldnt want to see a team with good potential like the yanks to end up being like argentina or uruguay. Not sure this german chap is the right way forward lads!


  • soccerboy

    I loved the fact that neymar suckered jones into the tackle and the us player fell for it hook like and stinker.Great to watch.


  • brazil

    Neymar is kicked punched and two-footed all the time throughout brazil and south america by fans and players who are jelous of skills and talent and want “to stamp their authority on him and the game” mpfhahahahahah. Jones tackle was like his little sister hitting him. All of you must not watch alot of FOOTBALL if you think that was hard for neymar hahahaha.


  • ben in el cajon

    The problem is the word ‘that.’ You think it meant ‘hurt people,’ but Klinsmann was referring to ‘play nasty,’ the referent from his previous sentence. In other words, we need to risk hurting people. That’s different than saying ‘we need to hurt people.’

    Clint threw a mild elbow. Jones took out Neymar’s legs without a studs-up challenge. That’s nasty; that’s what I’m talkin’ about.


  • tim

    Actually the brazilian KID told old man dempsey to shut it and then calm down. Sign language.


  • joejoe

    The tackle by Jones on Neymar was criminal. I’m surprised a leg wasn’t broken. It was late in the game, there was no need for that. Jones should have been given a red card.


  • bryan

    ok, well, that wasnt exactly easy to tell given you responded to a comment with a lineup for the game against Canada. but yes, he should get another look.


  • Sams Army

    What was really appalling to see was the member of the usa coaching staff actually applauding such a vicious tackle. If this is the “new” team usa i want no part of it.


  • Kung Fu Kangaroos

    Nastier … I think it was 1998 World Cup? Germany vs USA, Reyna gets a knee to the back within the first few minutes, was never effective the entire game, USA lose.

    If this was an actual World Cup match, JK would have changed tactics and played more defensively. But the difference is that we would be able to actually possess and take it to the other team when we have the ball and not just counter quickly, lose the ball, and defend again.


  • nikeshoes

    Like dempsey? the guy is a loose cannon, a firebrand you cannot rely on. What if he gets himself sent off for acting like a goat? Who wins then?


  • EndangeredMD

    Any player rolling on the field should be OFF for one minute. If he gets up quickly after the foul he should get a yellow. Americans are known as being assertive and yeah a little ‘nasty’, so the American way to play soccer should be the same. If you aren’t dead after being fouled, get up and start playing. Do not take crap from anyone. Plus, anyone who touches a ref should get a yellow. Anyone arguing with the ref needs a yellow. The South American players, and some of the Europeans (if I had to watch Ribery cry again I was going to get sick – Chelsea finally really took him out and gave him something to cry about) look like a buch of wusses when they roll on the ground screaming. Can you imagine football, basketball or hockey with such theatrics????? We need to keep pressure on the offensive side of the field. [3-2-3-2-Goalie] is the way to go. Go USA!


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