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U.S. Men's National Team

Jurgen Klinsmann doubles down on USMNT fitness concerns, restates desire for longer MLS season

Jurgen Klinsmann USA 10082014

Photo by Kirby Lee/ USA Today Sports

By RYAN TOLMICH

If Jurgen Klinsmann had his way, Major League Soccer’s schedule makers would need to be much, much busier.

Klinsmann doubled down on recent concerns about the fitness of U.S. Men’s National Team players in an interview on FOX Sports 1 on Wednesday, and restated his desire to extend the MLS season to 11 months.  Klinsmann pointed to the current MLS offseason, which can be up to three months long for some players, as a factor in why some players have been struggling to regain fitness during the January USMNT camp, and during the recent friendly loss to Chile.

“My wish, at the end of the day is that that domestically here the MLS goes to an 11-month season like the rest of the world,” Klinsmann told FOX Sports 1. “They shorten a little bit their vacation, but they get back in their rhythm right away and they’re prepared for it. Extending that season of MLS would solve my issue that I have right now, but we’re working on it.”

Klinsmann says that the MLS’ extended break, which could be up to three months for non-playoff teams, is one of the causes of his team’s current fitness struggles. Having been unable to close out games, Klinsmann is hoping American players learn to put a bigger emphasis on their offseason programs and develop a culture of constant preparation.

“I don’t blame anybody. It’s just reality,” Klinsmann said. “What happens here is that maybe soccer isn’t as far as American football, baseball, basketball where athletes in their offseason go specifically for their own preparation before they join their preseason with their professional teams. We don’t have that culture yet.

“The MLS season goes nine months and they should take it and go back to preparing themselves for the next year. A couple of guys haven’t done that and that’s why we’re looking a little bit shaky right now, but we’re going to get back and hopefully get out of it.”

The German-born head coach went on to say that his players’ improvements come down to individual efforts. With many of the nation’s biggest stars returning to the states with MLS moves, Klinsmann understands that respective clubs and the national team will need to work hard to maintain the highest level possible.

“It’s down to their attitude. Obviously, they’re the big stars coming back and the big fish in a small pond,” Klinsmann said. “Meanwhile, in Europe they’re the small fishes in the big pond. I get that, and obviously the financial reasons are behind it as well so it’s understandable in one way. It’s a challenge then to those players on the other side. We’re going to help them, their clubs are going to help them, to hopefully keep the higher standards up to push the envelope there.

“Obviously it’s a process. It’s a learning curve. The game will get bigger, it will get more recognition, fans will get more educated, the media will get more educated, but we still have a way to go. We all help to make this game grow in this amazing country, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

80 comments
  • Bo

    11 month season like the rest of the world? What is he talking about?? EPL, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga is Aug to May (9 months by my count Does he mean the rest of the world other than England, Italy, Spain and Germany?

    Like

      • Tony in Quakeland

        He invents tactics. He invents positions. Now he invents his own math.

        Like

    • MisterJC

      Those leagues start at the beginning of August and conclude at the end of May. That’s 10 months, relatively speaking. A month of preseason which starts in July, and that’s where Klinsmann is getting 11 months…

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      • Brain Guy

        MLS preseason starts in late January. Regular season goes to the end of October. So that’s 9+ months even if you don’t make the playoffs.

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      • FulhamDC

        No they dont. Serie A started August 31, La Liga on August 23 and Germany takes a month long break. Not close to 11 months.

        And MLS pre season starts in January, so if you want to count that, it’s just a close to 11 months.

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  • J

    It is not just their fitness, it is match sharpness, which to me means a combination of fitness and rhythm that only comes from playing day in a day out at a high intensity. You take 3 months off and you lose that edge. It happens when a player comes back from injury, but I think you see it more from either the off-season or a long drawn out contract negotiation period. Look at players that miss the pre-season for whatever reason and how long it takes them to get up to match sharpness. Garreth Bale to Real Madrid is a good example where he missed Tottenham’s pre-season and then went to Real Madrid. He was in pre-season form when the rest of the team was in mid-season form.

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    • bryan

      not to mention, this is exactly why Spurs let Yedlin come. they wanted him to get fit and in form. the logic is the same.

      Like

  • Chris H

    It’s possible that the Chile game was partially due to a lack of fitness, but collapsing in the second half of so many games since the World Cup can’t be all due to fitness. It seems like the problem is much more systemic than that.

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    • Jack

      The biggest problem is Klinsmann doesn’t just swap like for like players in these friendlies. He brings on players and shifts the formation through out. They become more and more lost as to there responsibilities.

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      • bryan

        did he against Chile though? we were in a 3-5-2 and switched to a 4-4-2 with the only real question being Trapp at LM. rest was straight forward. what i saw in the 2nd half was a team completely run out of gas and get run down by Chile. granted, Chile’s domestic players had just finished the Apertura in December and were 3 games into the Clausura.

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      • Jack

        Sure that can explain this match but not the recent record. Giving up goals in the second half has been a problem for awhile when guys are mid-season.

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      • wiger toods

        You forget Shea was moved to left back. He was a fish out of water back there.

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      • Super Nintendo Chalmers

        Who was gassed by around the 60 minute mark. Why? A lack of fitness. What point was JK proving by leaving Shea in there? Was it lack of a wingback option? That would be on his selection since he was the one who picked the formation he planned to use.

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      • bryan

        would have been nice to see a guy like Rogers in camp to come in for Shea at that point.

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      • Jack

        At the end of the day, none of the goals were really on Shea and neither was the result.

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  • TomG

    And I double down on my comment that the USMNT didn’t have any fitness problems unit JK took over. He has single handedly turned perhaps our greatest strength into a weakness.

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    • QuakerOtis

      I don’t like the 3-5-2 and am growing weary of JK, but I agree with him here.

      Seems to me that “fitness” and “work rate” were simply the only positive things we could say about the team. We couldn’t hype anything else, so we became known for “fitness” around each World Cup… And it’s easy to look fit when you’re parking the bus in an empty bucket for 70-80 minutes.

      I think Klinsmann’s approach has revealed yet another flaw in our soccer culture. Sky isn’t falling, but it is what it is.

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      • 87SS383

        +1

        Revolution doesn’t happen overnight. It takes planning and implementation. The problem with American fans is that they expect instant gratification. Granted, JK is on his 4th year now, but I think by the time Russia rolls around we’re gonna be consistently kicking @ss.

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  • bryan

    “A couple of guys haven’t done that”

    so there you go. he’s basically saying there were players who did nothing in the offseason and that he has a problem with that. then goes on to say, as a whole, MLS players are not prepping on their own before the preseason like they do in other sports. are people just assuming that’s a lie? if it’s not a lie, why are people mad at JK at wanting to change that culture?

    this whole thing is ridiculous and the media, in some part, has become just as delusional as the section of fans Ives calls out on his podcasts every time there is a freak out in the comments section.

    and for Lalas to say we can NEVER question US players’ fitness is astounding. why can’t we?!?! because historically we’ve been fit? if a player isn’t fit, a player isn’t fit. Jozy alluded on FS1 that there were players who came in unfit by saying they were getting used to the “transition”.

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    • Jack

      The transition was in regards to the record since the World Cup not just this last match against Chile.

      Like

      • bryan

        but he said it in regards to younger guys coming into the senior squad and learning the transition. that’s what it sounded like to me, anyway.

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      • BB4

        That’s a reach to say it’s definitely a fitness transition. Personally, I thought he meant the transition to the speed of play at the international level.

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      • bryan

        But that was in direct response to his thoughts on the whole fitness thing.

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  • Jack

    Then don’t call in guys who miss the playoffs. Stop acting so helpless and actually send a message with your roster.

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  • Ryan

    The JK saga in America could not have been written more like a WWE storyline. He’s gone from Face to Heel so quickly, I’m just waiting for Vince McMahon to enter a game. The man just keeps poking the bear as if he’s immune to backlash.

    Like

    • WE THE PEOPLE

      This post wins.

      So in the words of Chris Jericho I send this message to Klinsmann… “WOULD YOU PLEASE… SHUT… THE HELL… UP!”

      Like

      • Ryan

        I’m about ready to missile drop kick Kins if he keeps making excuses for losing games

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    • espada

      With Klinsmann, you get dividing opinions, kinda like John Cena or Triple H. But with that being said, we’re basically the IWC- the guys who have little idea of what is truly going backstage/ can’t decide what to blame on our boys’ shortcomings (the coach, player fitness, formation, subs, etc.)

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  • thomas

    The solution is simple; don’t call anyone up who plays in MLS. Anyone who is playing in MLS is not good enough or has simply given up on his career. It’s time for Jurgen to send a message that MLS is just not good enough if you want to play on the USMNT.

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    • Jester

      I have a different message, fire JK and get a coach that doesnt think MLS players are crap.

      He’s so arrogant…does he really think MLS gives a rats a** what Jurgen Klinsmann thinks. Getting beyond that…. how would that 11 month season work in Toronto, Montreal, NYC, Philly… we have something called snow and ice here. Kind of blows that plan out of the water.

      Its always somebody somebodys fault when he fails but never his. Hes crap and must go. Im sick of hearing his complaining

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      • MFP

        It gets cold other places in the world too. If your argument is that it’s not physically possible to play as much here as the rest of the world does, then you’ve just made his point that the makes a big difference. Want to be as good? Play as much, for a start. How on earth is that just foolish complaining as you seem to see it?

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      • Kyle

        I’m Canadian so I have a different point of view, but if you think I’m willing to spend money on some of the most expensive tickets in MLS to watch my team play in -20 weather freezing my ass off, your insane.

        This league is a business and the paying fans are amongst the largest stakeholders, in which the league must appease. The teams in the north of both the us and in Canada should be forced into extended road trips nor should fans be forced to subject themselves to frostbite/extreme cold. I live an hour from Toronto, and yesterday was -26 with the windchill.

        Freezing to death to support my team is not my ideal way to spend my entertainment dollars.

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    • Ryan

      It’s a tough thing to decide on. Do I love the USMNT and want our starters to be playing in the best leagues in the world? Without a doubt yes. Would it be cool if the MLS lasted for as long as other leagues? Yes.

      However, MLS needs money and growth in a country that has multiple sports that are more popular, so in order to continue to gain support and money, MLS is actually smart by playing during the off season of major US sports, sans baseball. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like to see it, but I understand why they have this platform and eventually they will change the season and change the format to mirror a more “worldly” schedule, but not until soccer has really established it’s dominance over it’s other major sports.

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  • Alex

    I wonder if JK knows that the word I* exist in the english language. Maybe I missed it but I’ve never heard this guy take any accountability for any problems. This team doesn’t even play with much heart; I really would like to know what the morale is like going into games. And I almost never hear him talk tactics. Guys went out in that second half and were all over the place. No one really clear on their roles like it wasn’t even discussed at the half. Was that a symptom of lack of fitness?? What is this team’s identity?? I’m sorry I just think this guy is tactically inept. Why not bring subs for the guys that were fatigued?? Too many excuses. In 3 years you couldn’t come up with a plan to fight against this so called fatigue issue?? I personally hate excuses would just love to hear him say for once we have to do better; I have to do better.

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    • Jester

      I once heard him talk tactics. He said the players must “express themselves.” Brilliant

      Like

  • Franco

    This is what they hired Klinsmann for. To get American soccer out of its comfort zone. Football wise there is not much he can improve since our players still suck. Not even the best manager in the world can help us with that. Diego Simeone won’t help Altidore learn the basics of football no matter how hard he tries.
    Stop being so sensitive every time some ones calls out the players to be tougher.

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    • Jack

      Klinsmann has the best job in the World. When they play poorly its the players fault and when they do well it’s all because of him.

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      • Gary Page

        I cannot recall Klinsmann claiming credit for the team playing well. Can you give an example?

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  • Gary Page

    The thing is, if you consider and analyze the situation, while the schedule creates a problem now, the MLS schedule is actually a benefit most of the time. Major tournaments are in the summer, usually June/July. After a long club season, many European players are tired and/or injured come tournament time while MLS players are in the middle of their season and at peak fitness. the only time the MLS schedule is a problem is winter friendlies and the occasional qualifying game.
    Some of the vitriol directed at Klinsmann is mindless. Whether you agree with it or not, a coach pushing his players is hardly unique and many coaches have been successful with it. Vince Lombardi comes immediately to mind. As far as tactics, John Wooden did not scout the opposition and didn’t care about tactics. You see there are lots of ways to coach and lots of different ways to find success as a coach. Since we don’t know what’s going on in the locker room or on the practice field, maybe we should concentrate on looking at meaningful results. When the results matter, Klinsmann has an excellent record as USMNT coach. These friendlies are like exhibition games. No one cares how teams in the NBA, NFL or MLB do in pre-season. This is similar. Put aside your biases and look at things objectively.

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    • Super Nintendo Chalmers

      And we can’t use exhaustion after a long season as an excuse…at least for MLS players. Unless you are talking about a team that went far in Europe, won or reached the finals in their league and fa cups, then we’re just talking about a normal 40 or so game season on average.

      Like

  • Pink Lobster

    You are not in Kansas anymore…. If the second round of the World Cup is good enough then we can go back to hiring MLS 1.0 coaches. If we want to improve these players with this mentality just won’t cut it. It’ll be painful but it has be done. We might as well be adults about it.

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    • Super Nintendo Chalmers

      Ask fans of England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ivory Coast, Bosnia & H., Cameroon, Japan, Australia, Russia, etc. etc. etc. if they would have been happy if their side reached the 2nd round?

      Like

    • LBC203

      It is not just getting past the 1st round of the WC. . . It is also playing a better group of national teams (and doing well) as frequently as possible in preparation for doing better in the WC. Playing CONCACAF teams all the time or teams from Europe/South America in their offseason won’t cut it. This is something Klinsi has set out to do in order to better the USMNT. In a previous post on this topic from a different article I argued that the USMNT were known for their fitness, but that fitness level is probably a little less than pedestrian compared to the top national teams in the world. These top teams have players that start and play 90 on the best clubs and leagues in the world. Not only that, but their clubs most likely participate in Europa league or Champions league tournaments. These players on better national teams are getting lots of playing time and lots of game experience. One of the reasons that they are able to do this is their abilities on the field, but the other reason that no one can dismiss is they can go 90 day in and day out. Their fitness has to be exceptional for them to compete at the club and country level for starting roles. When looking at the USMNT, it has not been uncommon for those players to struggle for playing time oversees or even break into a role with the 1st team. Yet, these players have had consistent USMNT caps. I think Klinsi would agree that fitness — the one attribute that has stuck with the USMNT reputation — has been historically good, but would argue that only a handful of USMNT players have ever competed in a club system that spawns the next tier of fitness needed to compete with the best national teams in the word (or for starting roles on top levels clubs).

      Like

  • WE THE PEOPLE

    If we truly want to be like everywhere else in the world, then a manager with this record would have been fired yesterday.

    Like

    • Kosh

      Nonsense. Fired for results that don’t matter? Thanks for your grand insight and participation.

      Like

      • WE THE PEOPLE

        One win in nine games gets you fired in countries where soccer matters. Klinsmann wants the players to feel the pressure like everywhere else in the world, but that apparently doesn’t apply to how it works for the coach everywhere else in the world.

        Like

      • Kosh

        And yet, knowing this and other relevant pieces of information (which you strategically left out – like bringing in new players at the turn of a cycle) his employers are just fine with what he’s doing? There is much, much more going on here than your “one win in nine games” and I am sure you know this but why let that get in the way of your fire JK stance?

        Like

  • Bac

    For everyone that bashes JK every time he opens his mouth, let me ask a question:
    Who specifically looked like they were even somewhat close to match fitness against Chile?
    Jozy did..
    -and he’s midseason coming from Sunderland
    Jermaine did, even if he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off half the time
    -He spent his entire career in Europe, has probably logged more hours in his career than anyone else we had, and I think was our oldest player last week…

    So what specifically was incorrect about JKs comments?
    Would all the constant critics still react the same way if for example Michael Bradley said the exact same thing?
    Would all the constant critics still react the same way if for example Roberto Martinez was our coach and said the exact same thing?

    Like

    • Fredo

      Fitness was not the reason why we lost to Chile. It’s just Klinsmann’s lame excuse. He can’t explain the real reasons because he’s a terrible coach.

      Like

      • Bac

        And I see that you chose to make a statement rather than address my specific questions.. which is why I used the word “specific”

        I didn’t ask for reasons, excuses, or anything else.
        I specifically asked who looked like they were even close to being near match fitness, and gave specific examples.

        You instead chose to make a statement that is not reflective of either my questions, or of JKs statements. His statements were directed towards a specific problem, and one that illustrates a point that was backed up by the play on the field-and since we don’t see what happens in camp, we can only judge based off of what we see…. which was a team full of players not even close to being match fit…

        So once again, what was inaccurate about what he said, and would this level of criticism exist if someone else made the exact same statements?

        We lost to Chile because they scored 3 goals
        We scored 2 goals
        3 is more than 2

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      • Bac

        And for a second response, you didn’t actually answer the questions, proving my point that people like you with blinders on and tunnel vision are nothing more than internet tough guys with a big mouth and a limited cranium….
        I could quote Bryan below who just called BS on your weak comment,

        Or I could restate my questions again which you have chosen twice not to answer….
        But honestly…

        I don’t think I can help you….

        Like

      • bryan

        Fredo, that is BS dude. if you cannot admit to the fact that the team fell COMPLETELY flat in a standard 4-4-2, without any weird player experiments by that time, then it is YOU who is the problem.

        we were completely overrun and even Jozy said until about the 60th, he thought the team did well but then the team was exhausted. the better thing to do would be to question why JK didn’t use more subs. but no, you just move straight to “he’s a terrible coach”. good analysis.

        Like

    • Kosh

      + 1

      But the blind, baseless vitriol will always prevent some folks for seeing things objectively.

      Like

  • Joamiq

    We had trouble closing out games when MLS was in full swing. This is not the excuse you are looking for, Jurgen.

    Also, his players who work hard all offseason to stay fit probably love hearing how they don’t have the right training mentality.

    Like

  • David M

    Why is it that before Klinsmann the US teams was always known for its superior fitness, and now, with the fitness guru in charge, we are lacking fitness and players are clearly dragging towards the latter stages of games?

    Like

    • bryan

      here’s the thing with that, IMO…

      at the World Cup, i think there is a clear case that can be made the team was OVER trained and resulted in some injuries that could have been avoided. the team was still VERY fit though and could run for days…so long as there was no hammy issue. so it’s not like we lost it there.

      in qualifying…we dominated. we had the slow start to his rein in 2011 but then went on to destroy 2012 and do well in 2013. there were no fitness issues then.

      after the World Cup, MLS kicks right back up and given the number of MLS players in our WC team, you could fatigue set in. Besler, Zusi, etc. just didn’t look good. our European guys also didn’t look good. so then comes along the October and November camps, which are pretty short, and we see the team fall flat late in games. how is that mostly on JK? these guys have been with their club teams, come into camp for a week, and it’s because of JK they lack fitness???? that logic makes no sense.

      for the January camp…you have a bunch of guys in the offseason come in. not being game fit is understandable. but after a month, you would think they would be about there. what I get from JK’s comment, and JOzy’s direct response to the fitness issue, is that some guys maybe didn’t do enough on their own towards the end of their offseason to get ready for camp and already be in preseason shape so that they are set up to get game fit by the end of the January camp. it was obvious in the Chile game that some of the guys were not even close to game fit. some of that absolutely falls on JK, but if we all agree that JK is known for focusing so much on fitness, then why, after a month of fitness, are the players still not fit? that’s clear it comes down to not being at the right level coming into camp.

      maybe the better argument is, as some have said above, why did JK call them in then? Shea is clearly not fit yet Rogers is at home? hmmmmmmmm

      Like

  • klinsi?

    Looks like heir Klinsi is running out of excuses. Just win games, improve the quality, cohesion and performance of the team, and keep you trap closed. Results matter, excuses don’t. Sunil must reinforce a more professional results oriented approach.

    Like

    • bryan

      JK has a winning record, overall. in friendlies, he’s 15-10-8. we dominated and won the Gold Cup with a B team, we got 1st in the Hex like we should, we tied the record for points in the Hex, we set a new US record in 2012, and we got out of the GoD in the WC.

      this run of poor results in friendlies is not ideal, but this is exactly what friendlies starting a new cycle are for. Sunil is clearly looking at professional results, if he wasn’t, he would have fired JK. Sunil isn’t going to freak out because of a few friendlies.

      Like

  • Dan

    Kloinsmann is nuts. Europe takes a 2 month break in summer and almost a month in winter (except for EPL. he needs to be fired.

    Like

  • Joseph D'Hippolito

    A coach who emphasizes physical conditioning above everything else is guiding a team that has been consistently running out of gas late in games. This tells me that 1) the coach over-conditions his players 2) endorses conditioning techniques that are counter-productive and 3) doesn’t know how to use the available talent on his roster.

    I think it’s very telling that Beckerman and Gonzalez begged out of this camp, especially since both could be on the Gold Cup roster. It’s also very telling that Ivan Pierra, the trainer for the national team under Bradley and one of the best trainers in American soccer, no longer works for the national team.

    Coincidence? I don’t think so.

    Like

  • Joseph D'Hippolito

    “…we dominated and won the Gold Cup with a B team,”

    The United States won the Gold Cup because Mexico, the only other legitimate power in the region, was in disarray and no other team is capable of challenging either the U.S. or Mexico on a consistent basis. BTW, Donovan was on that Gold Cup team.

    Like

    • bryan

      this is some absolutely insane logic as well. because Mexico didn’t make the final, JK gets no credit for winning it?!?!?!?! i mean, in what world does that make sense. Panama brought their full strength team and we beat them twice. you also clearly miss the point being made which is that he won the Gold Cup, PERIOD. the outrage about him is acting like he didn’t win anything with the US, ever.

      further, who said LD wasn’t on the Gold Cup team? who said that? JK calling up LD for the Gold Cup means JK gets no credit for the Gold Cup? but when JK doesn’t call up LD for the WC, he gets ripped apart? contradicting logic there as well.

      the truth is, JK gets credit for bringing LD to the Gold Cup and having him lead the team while he should get burned for leaving LD off the World Cup squad. it’s that simple.

      Like

  • Dan

    JK is an idiot. Constantly whining and complaining. Time for US soccer to get rid of this fool.

    Like

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