POWERED BY

U.S. Men's National Team

Klinsmann reflects on USMNT Copa America run

 

Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

It’s been nearly a week since the U.S. Men’s National Team closed the door on the Copa America and, in that week, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has taken the chance to look back at the highs and lows of what he sees as a positive tournament experience.

After finishing top of their group, the USMNT toppled Ecuador in the quarterfinals to reach Klinsmann’s goal of a semifinal berth. The ensuing match, a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Argentina, served as a major setback before the U.S. concluded the tournament with a 1-0 defeat to Colombia. Overall, the USMNT finished with three wins and three defeats.

However, Klinsmann reiterated his belief that the USMNT had a “huge mountain” in front of them considering the opposition. Colombia and Argentina are both counted among the world’s elite, and are considerably better than any team the U.S. will face in CONCACAF play. Given the unique opportunity to play in meaningful games against elite competition, Klinsmann was more than satisfied with how the tournament played out, especially given how far the U.S. advances.

“Our biggest take away from these last six weeks is the chemistry that this team developed,” Klinsmann said, “the talent we are bringing through one step at a time – there might be a step backwards then we have to make two forward, like the Argentina game is a step backwards, then the next one is two forward. It’s a team that really understands to drive it more and more themselves. I’ve always told the players to take things in their own hands. We want to empower the players to drive their own careers and they drive it to the maximum of their capabilities – it’s not the coaches, it’s not the outside, it’s themselves.

“It’s wonderful to see how they reacted to the first loss against Colombia and stepped it up against Costa Rica, which played really well the first 15 minutes, but then we turned on a totally different gear. This is the reaction you want to see from players – you want players to understand the moment and really take over. In this tournament, you saw a lot of players who took it on themselves, and this is big for a coach because you see that they’ve become stronger and confident to drive it themselves.”

Klinsmann pointed to several of his young players, and praised their growth throughout the tournament. Players like DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Bobby Wood made the leap from prospect to legitimate starter, entrenching themselves in the USMNT’s first-choice XI with a series of standout performances. Meanwhile, Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic integrated themselves into the team, earning sporadic minutes in their first major tournament.

Despite the presence of those newcomers, it was the USMNT’s veteran contingent that led the way. Clint Dempsey provided a trio of goals, while Jermaine Jones proved the most vital player in the USMNT’s midfield unit. Geoff Cameron thrived alongside Brooks, earning praise from Klinsmann for a series of “top-knotch” performances.

 

Even with the positive outlook on the tournament as a whole, the match against Argentina was one that disappointed Klinsmann. Undone just moments into the game, the U.S. never looked truly competitive. Momentum, and the scoreline, continued to tumble against the U.S., as the game ended as a blowout.

A third-place match against Colombia soon followed, one which finished with a much more manageable scoreline. Defensively, the U.S. rode a unit that was solid throughout the tournament, even in the absence of Brooks and Fabian Johnson. On the attacking end, the U.S. generated chances, even if they could never find a way past the Colombia defense.

“The team’s response after this game against Argentina – the number one team in the world – was outstanding,” Klinsmann said. “They kind of said, ‘Well, let’s swallow it and let’s give Colombia a real fight!’ Colombia took it the same way; disappointed with the defeat against Chile, but they also wanted to give it a real game.

“The level of the third-place game was unbelievably high. I think it was one of our best games within the last couple of years. For us, playing these types of games in such an environment is huge because it makes our players grow; therefore, their response has been fantastic.”

Overall, it was a tournament filled with highs and lows. After battling back from an opening game loss and the probable elimination that came with it, the U.S. topped their group and won a knockout game in a major competition. What happened after wasn’t always ideal, but it was enough to show Klinsmann that his team improved. The team that began the tournament was much different than the one that ended it, giving Klinsmann confidence heading into September’s World Cup qualifying.

“Reaching the final four, reaching that goal, is huge,” Klinsmann said. “Our players now see that we got a lesson from Argentina in the Semifinal, but also that if they raise their own game to another level or two or three levels higher from what they’re used to playing in CONCACAF, things are doable. You need to have that chance to play those teams, and the more often you play those teams, the more you believe you can go eye-to-eye with them.

“It’s a fantastic achievement to be in the final four. We wanted to win the third-place game, and it was a fantastic match with Colombia. They had that one goal and kept a clean sheet, so we didn’t put it in at the end of the day. But I think the learning curve we came through in this tournament was tremendous, and you have to give our team a huge compliment for the way they played.”

31 comments
  • Brain Guy

    I understand that a big part of being a manager is motivation and psychology, and in that regard JK has brought something new to the mix. But’s it’s the *only* part that he ever talks about. “It’s not the coaches, it’s not the outside, it’s themselves,” he says. Well sometimes, for some things, it really is the coaches.

    Like

    • Gary Page

      I don’t know what Klinsman’s educational background is. I think all he has ever done is play or coach soccer. However, what he says is very consistent with management theories Y and Z and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A ;good manager should foster an environment that encourages employees to fully develop their capabilities so that they can act independently. Become self-directed. Or, in Maslow’s words, self-actualized. It’s the old, catch a fish for someone, or teach them how to fish. A good manager should build an organization that can run well even if he or she is not there. The manager acts as a teacher, team builder/cheerleader. Studies have shown that this approach is more effective and productive than top down, directive management where employees are given little or no autonomy. It also produces more satisfied and happy employees. While some people like to sneer at this approach, there is social science research which shows it is effective in all different kinds of organizations.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Turkmenbashy

      THIS: The athletes, the players write the story. It’s not the coaches who write the story or the agent or the parent. That has always been the message to them because soccer is so different to baseball, football and basketball. It’s not outside driven. I can have a timeout in basketball, and I can have a different play. I can tell them all the time when there is a commercial break, “OK, next strategy.” Soccer is an inner-driven sport and this is one of the of the biggest challenges for the American soccer fan and also the athletes. -JK

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nate Dollars

        wait, did klinsmann actually say that? that might explain why it seems to take so long for our team to make simple tactical changes.

        soccer coaches call different plays and apply new strategies constantly throughout the game, during stoppages (usually) or just on the fly by yelling at the closest player. i really hope klinsmann doesn’t actually believe he’s unable to do that.

        Like

      • Turkmenbashy

        he did in fact say that… and I think you overestimate the impact yelling from the sideline has…

        Like

      • Nate Dollars

        probably…after all, i’m only an american soccer fan.

        Like

    • Turkmenbashy

      and THIS: We still have a culture here where people wait for someone else to solve your problem, and this comes from a reactive culture in other sports, where decisions are driven from the outside. It’s all stop-and-go. Baseball, it’s stop-and-go. They communicate with each other. American football, it’s the next play. Learn your playbook. The first year, you are probably not playing because you are a rookie. That approach, to be reactive—that doesn’t work in soccer.

      You have to become proactive if you want to go to the highest level, if you want to play in World Cups. I’m not saying it has to be that way to play in the domestic league. Being reactive might work and you can play in the first division in whatever country and you are OK. You get a good paycheck and it’s all right, but that is why you are just a division one player. That is why you are not a national team player. If you are a national team player, and it’s our job to make them believe they can make it to the national team one day, you have to take matters into your own hands. -JK

      Like

      • Thisisphil

        Then why have a manager? I’m
        Not disagreeing that empowering players to think for themselves is not important and something that is missing from the average US player(Clint Dempsey possibly the ingest exception to the rule), but a manger with some tactical nous prepares the team for Colombia differently the first time, prepares for Argentina differently, and subs more effectively. That’s on the manager.

        Like

  • TheFrenchOne

    I have to agree with his overall takeaway. A stronger chemistry among the players, 3 young players really stepped up, and we had several veterans come up huge, primarily Jones, Cameron and Dempsey.

    Others will try to pick apart his comments, but there really isn’t anything controversial here. My only beef is that we could have had this chemistry years ago if (1) he didn’t tinker so much and (2) did play players out of position.

    Like

    • Socceroo

      Seems like the team had similar great chemistry in the 2014 World Cup.

      Like

      • TheFrenchOne

        I’d agree with that. USMNT seems to really come together as a group during tournaments. The product on the field may not always be up to par (see 2015 GC, 1998 WC), but at least we don’t have team meltdowns, like other countries (I’m looking at you France in 2010 and 2002…).

        Like

    • quozzel

      Did he really have the answers then that he does now?

      Having a live-wire striker like Wood cures a lot of ills. Having a suddenly solidified backline of Cameron – because Cameron finally gets to play CB at a high-level in England – and John Brooks, who emerged huge at Hertha and is easily the most-talented CB we’ve ever had in the pool – is huge. Having Fabian Johnson emerge as an upper-echelon B1 player is big. And say what you like about Guzan and Howard, they’re still EPL-caliber keepers.

      Add that to some vets who look good (at the moment) for one more World Cup and it’s an improved-looking bunch.

      If he was tinkering before, it’s because after the World Cup and before qualifying had really gotten into full swing, was very much the TIME to tinker. What you want to see, as we’re headed into the Hex and then the home stretch the year before the World Cup, is a team solidifying, and this one seems to be doing just that.

      Let’s also keep in mind that some of the younger guys we’ve seen him notice/recruit/develop – like Pulisic, Jordan Morris, Emerson Hyndman, Gedion Zelalem, maybe even Julian Green – are coming up through the system, and again, these are higher-level prospects than we’ve usually had in the past, guys Klinsmann can afford to take a bit of time developing (and take the pressure off of) because the team is established enough now he doesn’t need to rush newbies up. I like what’s on the team now for the most part – with the exception of a couple of guys who have obviously staledated and need to be moved on from the International game – and I like what’s in the chute.

      Right now we’ve got a fairly durn competitive 12 or 13 guys, but I do think the day is coming (and soon) when we’ve got a very competitive 23. And that’s the point at which we’re not just getting out of group in World Cups or Copa Americas, but we are making semifinals and punching with teams like Chile and Colombia and Belgium, when we can go to the bench and not see a dropoff like falling off a cliff like we do now.

      And that’s what success looks like, no?

      Liked by 4 people

      • Twomilerule

        I like your comments about increasing the competition to 23 players. Looking forward to that day and hope it is not that far off that all spots are tough decisions.
        I still think the lack of depth at LB is holding this team back from being more multi dimensional. Another spot which is somewhat dependent on freeing up F. Johnson is wide midfielders. Someone who can live on the chalk and make the field wide and long. Ping crosses and switches to another wide midfielder whom takes the ball down to foot.

        Like

      • Turkmenbashy

        or just be able to go toe to toe with that caliber team in the first place… even if you do lose sometimes.

        Like

    • Twomilerule

      All the tinkering might have been useful but more comprehensive for is available in the player pool. Also, getting your best 11 on the field in different situation.

      Like

  • nvink121

    I wish one of these days JK would just give us something we didn’t already know. I guess that’s not what puff pieces like this are for.

    Like

    • Twomilerule

      Did you read the Wall Street Journal JK interview? I would not call that a puff piece but a pretty honest assessment of player development. He called out players by name and how they have failed to raise their level of play at club level and hinder the national team.

      Like

      • Gary Page

        Thanks for the info about the article. As the Euros have shown, talent isn’t enough. It’s why Iceland can beat England and Wales beat Belgium. As I have pointed out before, Coach John Wooden won by being a great practice coach, not great with X’s and O’s. As Klinsmann points out, once the whistle blows in soccer, the coach is limited in what he can do. It will be interesting to see what young US players “have the right stuff.” Will Miazga battle through with Chelsea, Hyndman make the breakthrough with Bournemouth? I have had doubts about Zelalem because he seems to lack intensity. Can he prove me wrong? I think Zardes has shown that as the competition improves, so does he. Will Pulisic also be this way? It should be an interesting couple of years.

        Like

      • slowleftarm

        Conte said “ideas conquer talent” and he took a pretty average Italy side to a PK shootout in the QFs, beating Spain and Belgium along the way. Meanwhile Roy Hodgson said that tactics don’t win football matches, talented players do and his team full of EPL stars lost to Iceland and drew with Slovakia and Russia. That’s why having someone lacking in tactical nous like JK is holding back the USMNT. We have better players than we had under BB but we are getting the same or worse results.

        Like

  • Gary Page

    I don’t think it can be underestimated how imnportant the development of the back line is. It is only recently that Yedlin and Brooks have been able to step up and solidify their positions and Cameron has not always been available. Because of the need to transition from old to new and deal with determining the best positions still for some players, we still aren’t completely stable in the midfield and the striker pool is still up for grabs. However, we definitely have talent, much of it young and developing, to go along with players like Bedoya and Bradley.

    Like

  • El Comandante

    Fire this buffoon now. What the heck is all this fancy meaningless talk for? Coaches are measured by results. This character has not anything hasn’t been done before by prior coaches. If anything, we are in a more precarious position to qualify for a WC than ever before. Fire him before is too late.

    Like

  • Buster

    You can always count on Klinsmann to try and weave straw into gold. There was some good at this tournament but a lot of bad too. Yes, his named 3 did well. Better than them was the development of Zardes (no mention by the great one) He evolved from a useless tool to a valuable starter in this tournament. The USA was 3-3 or 50%. Lets not make it more than that. We beat teams we should have beat and lost to bigger name teams. No great accomplishment. Wood should be the number 1 forward… lets see if he is next time Jozy (no score) is around. I can’t see how Klinsmann cannot go with Wood now.

    The bad was Klinsmanns usually poor bench. He never picks a full team that can actually be used. When we were down 3 starters for Argentina, we were screwed. Once again Wondo proved he is nothing at this level. Will Klinsmann stop calling him? I doubt it. Bradley sucked. Will Klinsmann keep calling him? Im sure he will

    All in all, I still want Klinsmann gone and if Sunil hand’nt signed him into an expensive long term contract, he could be let go. Im seriously hoping JK moves to England. This weekend would be a good time as we could declare our Independence from this guy on Independence Day

    Like

  • Dr. Offside

    Nawalka, Conte, Coleman, O’Neill(Martin), O’Neill (Michael), Klinsmann.

    Which one is not like the others?

    Like

  • Thisisphil

    I thank JK for his service. The best thing that he can do for US soccer is to accept a coaching offer from a perennial powerhouse to give the men’s side time to
    Prepare for Russia. That said: JK to ENGLAND. CONTE to USA.

    Make it so.

    Like

    • Nate Dollars

      wait, i thought you were joking the first time about this ‘conte to usa’ stuff. why in the hell would conte suffer a loss in pay and prestige to come here? there’s a reason even a manager like klinsmann had to be begged for *years* to take this job.

      Like

      • slowleftarm

        Obviously Conte isn’t coming here right now but if the USMNT job paid enough we could get a coach that good. I think JK is making around $3m so we’re talking about at least doubling that. I think you’ll find concerns about “prestige” are managed pretty well by cash money.

        Like

      • Mac

        Slow, just to put it in context, Jose Mourinho I think was offered 17 million at Man United (granted a lot of that has to do with it being Mourinho, bit also because of the fact that Man United has lost a lot of its prestige)

        US soccer offered the job to Peckermen before JK, for what I assume was the same/similar contract. He turned it down, and I think his reaction was along the lines of “Why would I do that?”.

        Australia offered Hiddink 6 million pounds a year after his successful run in a WC with him. He turned it down for 3 million a year to coach russia.

        So yes, I think it would be significantly more money to bring in a higher caliber tactician; but a lack of managing a national system with a disjointed culture and developmental system, a top tier league that runs very different than most others (won’t even go into having to deal with NCAA and college rules).

        I think our best chance is to wait for a master-level manager to “retire” to the US, that still wants to be involved in the sport with less pressure. Fortunately we have one lined up in Pep Guardiola lol.

        Like

    • Sillypoint

      So you want a guy who thinks MLS is so bad that he refuses to even consider Giovinco or Pirlo for Italy, come manage the US? No thanks. JK for all his squabbles with the MLS, understands this country and only wants our players to push for the max and become the best they can be.

      Like

  • AKinDC

    We beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, and lose to the countries we’re supposed to lose to. Which is fine, unless you happen to have a coach that promises so much more.

    Like

Add your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More from SBI Soccer