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U.S. Men's National Team

Klinsmann misses the mark with comments questioning USMNT player belief

Jurgen Klinsmann

By IVES GALARCEP

One thing Jurgen Klinsmann has never been afraid of doing since becoming head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team is speaking his mind. He will praise players, and criticize them, and speak frankly about the state of American Soccer.

Klinsmann spoke his mind again recently in an interview with ESPN, stating that, in his opinion, American players are held back from success in Europe by a lack of belief rather than a lack of ability. A statement that surely turned some heads in the American soccer community.

“It needs to take the U.S. team, in a World Cup to go into at least a quarterfinal, if not a semifinal, to give more credibility to American players,” Klinsmann told ESPN. “But it’s also the American players, when they go to Europe, to prove it, that they become big players in Europe. So it’s also down to do they have the belief? They have the qualities, but do they have the belief?

“Because you go into a European top club and if you want to play in a top five, six teams in England or in Germany or in Italy, you have 15, 16, 17 national team players on the roster. So you have to kick somebody out. I think the American player still doesn’t have this last belief that they can kick somebody out. This is something that they have to build.”

In my latest Goal.com column, I took issue with Klinsmann’s comments, stating that he missed the mark with the notion that it is a lack of belief, and not ability, that has led to so few Americans playing in UEFA Champions League.

Give the column a read and let me know what you think of Klinsmann’s comments. Agree with him, or think his comments were off the mark?

Share your thoughts below.

268 comments
  • MisterJC

    While I don’t think he’s infallible, I’m with Klinsmann on this one. I don’t think his statement is as general as it appears at first glance. Not only the players, but the fan base and media just seem to have this inferiority complex with regards to our soccer rep. There are reasons why we don’t have folks not just in the UCL, but top clubs. Talent, of course, has some bearing on that, but we have talented enough players in our current pool who could be on those kinds of teams. I don’t think the proper mentality has been exhibited to push through to that level, and I believe that is what Klinsmann is referring to in his interview…

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    • Brain Guy

      I agree. These are entirely appropriate comments from JK. Regardless of whether they are directed at Dempsey, Bradley, or any other specific players, the comments point out what JK perceives as an obstacle to big success on the international stage. He is describing an attitude that not only says “I’m good,” but also says “I’m better than the next guy, and I’m going to take his job.” It’s the difference, I guess, between fitting in and standing out. And I don’t think the point is necessarily limited to American players. The best WC teams, says JK, are made up of guys who have no fear, and who have confidence that they can just beat their competition. He wanst the US to shed its underdog persona and start to believe it can run with the best, because even with vastly improved skills and tactics, they’re not going to crack the top tier unless they believe they belong there..

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  • wood chip zip

    Americans never lack in belief. You are so so wrong. I see why you took “with an American Voice” out of your blogs title.

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      • beto

        Ives we all appreciate your commenting on SBI! Especially on the comments a mile down! Your coverage on this site and others is second to none but the conversations that only happen on this site are even better. Keep it up!

        Like

  • BrianK

    Ives,

    I am a huge supporter of Klinsman but I agree that he was wrong to paint American players with such a broad brush. Beyond the points you made in your piece on goal.com I would offer another thought.

    Klinsman has always projected himself as a visionary, a facilitator of change, someone who is willing to go against the grain so to speak. What I find interesting is that Klinsman, along with many on this board, seem to be focusing on the downside/negatives of the Dempsey-to-Seattle and Bradley-to-Toronto moves.

    I would have thought that a visionary or someone with a more positive outlook would see the possibilities that such transfers will create:

    1. It is good for the American player psyche to know that they can command top dollar in the world soccer marketplace. Doesn’t anyone think that such moves will boost American players confidence and at the same time put huge pressure,….positive competitive pressure that is, on the players that receive those contracts. Dempsey and Bradley have a lot to live up to for themselves and other American players who aspire to command such contracts in the future. I am thinking it will bring the best out in these two players.

    2. Built into Klinsman’s comments is the assumption that European leagues will always be better than other markets, like MLS. What he is not acknowledging is that the Dempsey and Bradley moves are accelerating MLS’s development and that in short time, it is possible that MLS will surpass many of the European leagues, if it has not already. Look at Italy,…for example. Traditionally one of the great leagues in the world, Serie A has fallen on hard times. Italy’s economy is struggling and several great clubs are quietly living off past glory bargain hunting because the wallet is empty,….think AC Milan. That is not to say that MLS is better than Serie A right now,…but rather it is possible that MLS may,…in the not so distant future, eclipse Serie A because of a number of factors,….macro economic, infrastructure, perception, etc. Another more glaring example,…If you had asked a Scottish soccer fan 20 years ago to envision the SPL being on skid row today,….do you think they would have looked at you as if you were some crazy American? The point is,…in a market driven environment, nothing is static,….there is change and it wrong to assume that things will not change. Furthermore,…change has to start at some point,….and maybe the Dempsey/Bradley moves are the beginning of that change. Klinsman, in this case, is focusing on the near-term and negatives of these moves.

    3. Maybe American players are getting tired of being branded ‘sub-par’ because they are American. It was laughable how the Clint Dempsey transfer (Fulham, Liverpool, Tottenham) saga dragged out after the season Clint had in 2011/2012. What do you think an EPL club would have payed for an English player who had scored 23 goals from midfield? €30MM? Instead, the clubs were squabbling over €6-9MM for Clint. There was clearly prejudice at work. Andy Carroll,….£35MM? Are you serious? A quick story from John Harkes’ time at Sheffield Wednesday. Harkes had an excellent season at Wednesady in ’93/’94,….playing multiple positions and demonstrating a superhuman work rate. They reach the FA Cup Final,….and when the line-ups were announced Harkes was starting,….as he had been for most of the season and in critical games. The first thing the announcer says to his color man when he sees the line-up,…”are you surprised the American is starting?” So maybe it is time for American soccer to be bold and confident and change the paradigm! Forget the old world and their prejudices and simply leave them behind. We can build beautiful stadia, pay high wages and put fannies in the seats and move on. Maybe Klinsman is wrong but right,…maybe American players should show confidence in themselves and not worry that they are not playing in Europe and develop the game in North America. Isn’t that what Landon Donovan has said all along? Maybe is 5-10 years,…many of the worlds best players will be flocking to MLS.

    Needless to say,…A little disappointed in Klinsi.

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    • beto

      +1 the only thing that we have (some) control over is MLS. Of course English clubs are going to overpay (and play) English players, we are going to do the same for American players!

      Its time to make MLS and CCL as good as it should be and not put our soccer aspirations in the hands of midtable European managers…

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    • GW

      BrianK says:

      “Klinsman has always projected himself as a visionary, a facilitator of change, someone who is willing to go against the grain so to speak. What I find interesting is that Klinsman, along with many on this board, seem to be focusing on the downside/negatives of the Dempsey-to-Seattle and Bradley-to-Toronto moves.

      I would have thought that a visionary or someone with a more positive outlook would see the possibilities that such transfers will create:”

      I have never heard JK refer to himself as a visionary. I’ve seen numerous articles and pundits describe him as such but that is not on him.

      “1. It is good for the American player psyche to know that they can command top dollar in the world soccer marketplace. Doesn’t anyone think that such moves will boost American players confidence and at the same time put huge pressure,….positive competitive pressure that is, on the players that receive those contracts. Dempsey and Bradley have a lot to live up to for themselves and other American players who aspire to command such contracts in the future. I am thinking it will bring the best out in these two players.”

      The Deuce/MB30 moves were marketing driven. Realistically MLS is aiming at the casual, comparatively uninformed North American fan. Deuce/MB30 have the requisite high enough profiles and good enough records. However, absent the World Cup, hopefully, producing a couple of new USMNT stars there is not a new wave of Americans that will suddenly come to MLS on similar monster contracts.

      “2. Built into Klinsman’s comments is the assumption that European leagues will always be better than other markets, like MLS. What he is not acknowledging is that the Dempsey and Bradley moves are accelerating MLS’s development and that in short time, it is possible that MLS will surpass many of the European leagues, if it has not already…”

      Define what you mean by a “better league”. MLS equaled or surpassed many European leagues a long time ago in nearly all but the following areas, developing top flight players in quantity and quality numbers, producing consistently competitive teams especially in international competitions , and generating local and national “passion”.
      And those areas take a lot of time and defy simple solutions such as the injections of vast amounts of capital.

      “3. Maybe American players are getting tired of being branded ‘sub-par’ because they are American. It was laughable how the Clint Dempsey transfer (Fulham, Liverpool, Tottenham) saga dragged out after the season Clint had in 2011/2012….”

      Clint’s passport had little, if anything, to do with his transfer issues getting out of Fulham.
      The biggest problem with Clint was he was 29 and the kind of money you wanted for Clint normally gets spent on much younger players. It always takes a year for anyone to adjust so they needed to look at him as a two/ three year proposition and Clint’s age made that an issue. That last year was so great it was also thought he might not be able to repeat it, hardly a controversial point of view.. Any way you look at it if Clint had been 25-26 it might have been very different.

      Harkes in 93-94? Are you kidding? MLS did not even exist when the Steve Sampson’s boy and former Prell model was at Wednesday. Justin Bieber had just been born. If you want to talk about discrimination that current American players face citing 20 year old examples is quaint and besides the point.

      Liverpool paid 35 M for Carroll, the alleged next big thing at the time, because, among other things, good British players are always over valued in Britain. You know why? Because they are as RARE as wooly mammoths.. And thus they have a value to the British public who are no less nationalistic than you are in terms of seeing one of their own do well.

      The UK and Europe are prejudiced and racist. Tell us something that hasn’t been obvious to half blind observers for centuries. They are casually prejudiced about just about everybody over there. But they have no monopoly on hatred and intolerance.
      Have you ever moved to another country and lived and worked there? Unless you have you can’t really appreciate the obstacles that most every foreign soccer player, not just Americans, over there have to negotiate. It can be very hard regardless of your profession. Talent is one thing. Cultural adaptability is another thing.

      One other thing, for a lot of the other foreigners in Europe if they fail they may have to go back to true, dire, third world poverty. In some cases it is close to literal life and death.
      The consequences for Gatt, Shea or Lletget if they must return home to the US having failed are a little less deadly. And those same foreigners see the US guys as competition, literally taking food out of the mouths of starving people.
      .
      Tell me who has greater incentive to do anything to make it, to succeed?

      Landon is a unique case and is not a good example of what most American players deal with. He signed a big contract with Bayern Leverkusen almost right out of IMG and so the money thing was off the table for him early.

      His focus was not the Champions League or playing for the EPL champs. His focus as a kid was the World Cup so he oriented his entire career that way.

      LD is a USMNT player first and a Leverkusen/Quakes/ Galaxy player second. This is not normal.

      LD took advantage of his status to get himself onto MLS teams that basically kept him in shape for the three World Cups that he would eventually play in. He represents a most unlikely, non-repeatable, phenomenon.

      “Needless to say,…A little disappointed in Klinsi.”

      I don’t know why.

      JK is a manager, a coach. His job is get the best US eligible players together and form a team to do well in the World Cup. Filling their heads with useless fantasy won’t help them. He is also represents the program as a spokesman albeit a very plain spoken one and his vision is a little different from yours. He has an unvarnished view of what competition in Europe and soccer is all about.

      What you really want is a spin doctor for your POV and apparently, JK ain’t it.

      Like

  • Ian Woodville

    Why does anyone take Jurgen seriously? These latest comments are just as silly as most of what he says. Are some American players intimidated by playing in Europe? Probably, but so are many other players from lesser soccer countries and even some from the big countries when they move to England or Spain.
    Isn’t about time that Americans accept that we know just about all there is to know about developing soccer players and that the missing piece in terms of producing world class players is attracting the best young American athletes to soccer. If all those superior athletes who choose football or basketball played soccer, where would we be? And attracting more good athletes involves providing more and better paying jobs for players here in the USA. How about we start with the pitiful pay for American players in MLS?

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    • GW

      If you are trying to make the World Cup team then my guess is you would pay very close attention to what JK says.

      Otherwise,when you have a manager who is as media accessible as JK you have to accept that not everything he says will be unquestionably wonderful.

      It’s all good because JK’s comments keep driving interest in the USMNT. There is no such thing as bad publicity for this team.

      Right now it’s a slow news cycle for sports in general and USMNT topics in particular. And it will be a month or two before we can really assess how World Cup ready the two poster boys, MBTFC and Deuce, really are.

      Like

  • chuck

    Michael Bradley sure didn’t believe he could take anybody out, so he took the safe, easy and profitable route.

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    • beachbum

      how do you know he felt that way? He took the money because he’s a family man. It’s really not that difficult to understand. Making that choice of his into some kind of revelation about his self-belief is off target imo

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      • Ali Dia

        Yup. We will never know for sure what his feelings were from the sporting/competitive perspective. Maybe someday he will say something about it in a book. (If that book reads anything like his interviews, count me out)

        But you’re right — nobody in their right mind would’ve refused that offer. While MB would certainly have looked forward to a comfortable financial future regardless, the incremental pay raise amounts to real, no-nonsense wealth — the kind that ensures the security of his family for generations to come. I’m sure he slept just fine with that knowledge.

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      • Ali Dia

        No, I confirmed beachbum’s take really, which was that it’s not possible to say “Michael Bradley sure didn’t believe he could take anybody out”. We don’t know that — it’s a suspicion, quite possibly an accurate one, but speculation nonetheless. My point is that it’s irrelevant in the end — even if he truly did believe with utter confidence he could force his way into the first XI consistently, he still would’ve left (in my view). That number was too spectacular to pass up, and there could be no guarantee of anything like it ever coming along again.

        I would, however, confirm your Hall & Oates drop, which was enjoyable.

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      • chad

        this/that viewpoint sounds like, “leave me alone, I’m a family man…and my bank is much bigger than my strike”

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      • beachbum

        no it doesn’t but it does reveal once again your reading comprehension problem

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  • chad

    How does Klinsmann miss the mark? I see lots of excuses made in this forum for the US players…but if they/we want to compete at the top level….selling out isn’t going to make it happen.

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  • beachbum

    Klinnsman missed the mark when he went so outspoken with his displeasure with MLS as a breeding ground for the talent pool. Whether that is accurate or not is NOT where he missed and not what I’m referring to.

    Where he missed was in calibrating Garber and MLS’s response which was to buy the American players and so bring the USMNT to MLS; they couldn’t just sit by with their domestic product while the USMNT coach let on such displeasure with them…bad business

    If Klinnsman really wanted them all in Europe his approach on this kind of backfired seems to me

    go ahead and rip away at this!

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      • beachbum

        here reading genius, just digest this part, the word ‘not’ is not included

        Where he missed was in calibrating Garber and MLS’s response which was to buy the American players and so bring the USMNT to MLS; they couldn’t just sit by with their domestic product while the USMNT coach let on such displeasure with them…bad business

        If Klinnsman really wanted them all in Europe his approach on this kind of backfired seems to me

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      • Ali Dia

        Dude how frustrating is this? Hell you and I don’t agree half the time, but I’m starting to worry we are getting punk’d by somebody.

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      • chad

        Wow, some sensitive reactions to some light-hearted humor.

        Really sorry if I hurt your feelings…which seemed to cause you to resort to insults.

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      • GW

        Mr. chad,

        There is no such thing as light hearted humor.

        Not when it comes from strangers.

        Some SBI regulars are xenophobic and distrust new posters.

        They tend to take things more seriously than the circumstances (internet blog, fake names, lack of personal accountability) would indicate.

        While I’m sure you and your friends find you a laugh a minute, on the internet you are not as funny as you think you are especially when you realize (then again you probably don’t) that a sense of humor and sarcasm are two things that, once you get past the glaringly obvious examples, are nearly impossible to transmit accurately on a forum like SBI.

        If you want to keep posting here simply develop a thick skin and ignore the unpleasantry from me and others.

        Like

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