Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Rollin’ with Jürgen

U.S. Soccer got its man on Friday, naming Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach of the national team.

“I am proud and honored to be named the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Klinsmann said. “I would like to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I’m excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

Now we get to find out if a big-name European coach can turn the United States into a world soccer power.

Klinsmann’s greatest coaching success has come on the national level, he guided Germany to a 20-8-6 record and a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup, and left a solid foundation for continued success, including the core of the national team’s coaching staff and players.

He also spent a season coaching club team Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. While the team had on-field success, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League, he was fired after less than one full season with the team.

Within those two stories lies the blueprint for Klinsmann’s potential success with the U.S. team.

As coach of the German national team, Klinsmann was able to develop a system that led the country’s club teams to invest more heavily in player development. Now, the Germans have some of the best young talent in the world.

Klinsmann needs to have that same level of influence in the U.S., especially with the MLS teams. Those squads have to get on board with player development to help not only themselves, but for the good of the national team.

The U.S. also has openings on both the Under-23 and Under-20 teams, so if Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna, the U.S. youth technical director, can work together to enhance the system from the ground up, the U.S. will be that much better off.

As for his struggles at Bayern Munich, we were a little troubled by that since it was his most recent coaching stint. But Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl came up with an interesting quote from Bayern president Uli Hoeness:

“I still think that Jürgen could be a good coach for a national team,” Hoeness told Wahl. “I’m not so sure anymore if he’s a good coach for a (club) football team. Jürgen is a free spirit who needs his time out, you know … In the national team you have your day off, your weeks off, your weekend, and that is for his character very important. With us I had the impression that was not the right thing for him. I could easily imagine if he’s taking (a national-team job) as he was with Germany, it was a super time. I still believe that could work.”

Just like some people are meant to be college coaches and some can succeed on the professional level, some are better working on the bigger picture and stage of a national team. That appears to be the case with Klinsmann, which would point to him being the right man for the right job.

One thing we definitely like is Klinsmann’s desire to develop an American style of play for the team.

“The U.S. is known worldwide as a melting pot,” Klinsmann told Wahl. “Soccer in a certain way transmits the culture of a country … You have the Latin influence (in the U.S.). You have the cultural backbone of your university system, which is completely different from the rest of the world. You have the fact that it’s mostly organized soccer, when we know that the best players in the world come out of unorganized events. I think it’s a fascinating topic.”

Klinsmann himself is a bit of a melting pot – while he is German, he has spent a large part of his post-playing career living in Southern California. That has provided him with the opportunity to observe both the MLS and the U.S. team up close, so there shouldn’t be as heavy of a learning curve as there would be if the U.S. was bringing in a foreign coach who had never even set foot in the country before he was hired.

This move comes at a good time. The senior team doesn’t have a single meaningful game until June, when the next cycle of World Cup qualifying games begins. That gives Klinsmann and everyone else involved in U.S. soccer time to evaluate where the team is and figure out where they are heading.

When the announcement came out that Klinsmann was the new man, friend of Red Right 88 Jim Kanicki asked us what we thought. We joked “ask again in three years.” While it is true that we won’t be able to fully evaluate the hiring until after the 2014 World Cup, this move has the potential to be much more.

Because if Klinsmann turns out to be everything his followers say he is, the U.S. team will be set up nicely for not only Brazil in 2014, but for many years after that.

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