COMMENTARY | A little after a month after blowing a 2-0 lead to Mexico in the Gold Cup final, U.S. men’s soccer coach Bob Bradley was fired Thursday. Former German player and coach Jurgen Klinsmann, after a long flirtation dating all the way back to the 2006 World Cup, will reportedly be the next U.S. coach.
Klinsmann played internationally for Germany as a striker, winning the 1990 World Cup with West Germany. He coached the German team to a third-place finish in the German-hosted 2006 World Cup. He stepped down from the German team after the World Cup and took over German power Bayern Munich in July of 2008. He was released in April of 2009, likely due to issues with Bayern management.
Klinsmann was offered the U.S. job after Bruce Arena was let go after the 2006 World Cup, but United States Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati was reluctant to give him as much power as he wanted, and the deal fell through. After five years, that issue seems to be gone.
Klinsmann is a much-needed shot to the arm for the men’s team. After an exit in the Round of 16 of the 2010 World Cup, the team has failed to make any progress, possibly even regressing a bit. The loss to Mexico revealed a gap between the teams larger than most American fans, players, and management would like to admit.
Though German-born, Klinsmann lives in Los Angeles and is familiar with the American players and system. That system, of course, has been the subject of much scrutiny. Klinsmann, with his knowledge of European development systems, should help immensely with youth development. His famous name will also help recruit players who have options internationally, such as New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi, who decided to play for Italy. Coincidentally, the U.S. is currently fighting to keep defender Timmy Chandler from playing for Klinsmann’s native Germany.
One major problem for U.S. Soccer recently has been the lack of playing time for Americans playing in Europe. Striker Jozy Altidore, for example, signed with Spanish power Villareal in 2008 but has bounced around European teams while on loan. Freddy Adu, another American striker, transferred to Portuguese mainstay Benfica, but has also not found consistent playing time while on loans.
Klinsmann knows the European game as good as anyone, and will better prepare his players for the challenges they will face in Europe. He will breathe new life into U.S. Soccer. He comes in with no loyalties to any players, unlike Bradley who had clear favorites on the team. With this decision, U.S. Soccer looks set to continue moving forward.