Dec 5, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT
I was among a small group of journalists who had breakfast late last week with Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. national team coach whose methods and player selection tendencies can sometimes lean to the less conventional. The results so far have been mostly favorable, even if the aesthetic hasn’t always risen to expectation.
Over the next week or so, we will extract one element each day of the extremely informative conversation, where Klinsmann expanded candidly on subjects ranging from Jozy Altidore to evolving player roles to Jermaine Jones to future matches and all points in between.
Today’s topic: Landon Donovan’s career crisis
At some point over the next few days – heck, perhaps even today for all we know – a quiet dinner somewhere in Southern California, away from prying media eyes, may have tons to say about the United States’ World Cup prospects for 2014.
U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann – seemingly wearing multiple caps as coach, father figure and career counselor – will sit with U.S. soccer’s reluctant superstar Landon Donovan. They’ll share a meal and try to cover some ground as Donovan marches toward a critical career decision.
Donovan’s career crisis conundrum – whether to push forward, take a short break, take a longer sabbatical or walk away from it all at age 30 after a 13-year professional career – will have bunker buster-type impact on the Los Angeles Galaxy and the U.S. national team.
Hence, Klinsmann’s interest.
Only, the U.S. coach doesn’t seem a bit bothered by the prospect of losing access to the program’s all-time leading scorer.
Said Klinsmann: “I take the easy approach that, that once your season is done, let’s sit down over lunch or dinner and just talk about your life, and what you want to do. … And I give you my two cents!”
He said that last part with a laugh. But who could doubt that Klinsmann is uniquely positioned to parcel out some advice? These two aren’t exactly alike – but they are similar in playing by their own rules in assembling a professional soccer career.
Klinsmann did it by seeking out life opportunities, exploiting chances to explore cultures through soccer in Italy, France and England. (Later in the United States, too.)
Donovan has cobbled together a fine pro career by eschewing the chance to travel, the necessary path for most American players destined to pin down the best version of themselves.
Klinsmann always wanted more out of life than soccer; Donovan seems to be leaning into that kind of mindset. So …
“We’ll see where he’s at,” Klinsmann said. “That’s what we are going to do now when he’s done [with the MLS Cup]. I am very positive that he continues to play. But as I have said previously, it’s his decision. … It’s totally up to him what he wants to do.”
All options are open, Klinsmann said. Presumably, that means Donovan could take a long period of R & R, miss the team’s early February qualifier and still be part of the longer planning.
“I don’t know. It’s really down to that talk we are going to have,” the coach said. “Maybe it takes more talks. I don’t know. But it’s no problem at all.”
Klinsmann is hardly oblivious to Donovan’s ability or potential impact. The Sporting News’ Brian Straus recently did a wonderful job outlining what Donovan faces as the face of U.S. soccer and what he means to the U.S. national team. By extension, of course, he means plenty to the team’s Brazil 2014 ambitions.
It’s just that Klinsmann focusses on a bigger picture, what he sees as an evolving “group that is growing, one with lots of fresh blood.”
“If Landon is not there – obviously we want Landon to be part of it – this team will find solutions. We will adjust. We will make the changes we need to make.”
He mentioned Donovan’s lack of availability for some of those early Klinsmann-directed camps, which provided room for Brek Shea’s breakthrough. And in Russia last month, there was Josh Gatt (pictured) running the wing to somewhat promising effect; would we have seen Gatt if Donovan had been available?
Still, doesn’t Donovan’s availability affect the way Klinsmann wants the United States to play? For instance, Donovan’s speed and experience up-armors the team’s ability to counter attack. Even there, Klinsmann shrugs.
The guiding concepts aren’t married to any personnel, he said. Klinsmann talks about the “outline,” high pressure when they can, playing out of the back when they can (minus the long-balls as much as possible). Then he tweaks and twists from there.
“But still with the same approach, we want to push it up, we don’t want to just play defensively against Italy, or in Russia.”
Which all may be true. It’s just a lot easier to do with the speedy and heady feet of a guy like Donovan around.
TOMORROW: Getting players to get more from themselves
Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
Think MLS’s conferences are unbalanced now? Let me offer you a glimpse at 2017.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT
An American consortium has a deal to buy the club from Randy Lerner, if it can avoid relegation.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT
The 21-year-old U.S. international appears to have underestimated the impact of an in-season tattoo.
Apr 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
U.S. number one signs extension that will take him through the next World Cup cycle.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:
Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.
Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT
England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?
Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT
Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?
Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT
Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.
Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…
Apr 17, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
With Guardiola not taking kindly to criticism from the front office, could the former Barcelona boss return to the Camp Nou?
Apr 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT
For decades Manchester United have been the top dogs in Manchester, now that’s changing. PST’s Editor and Lead Writer went behind the scenes to see what Mancunians are all about:
Apr 17, 2014, 12:31 PM EDT
Can Brendan Rodgers and company make it through the rest of their schedule unscathed to the prize at the end? Chelsea seem like the biggest hurdle. Our very own Joe Prince-Wright and Mike Prindiville discuss.
Apr 17, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT
Conspiracy theories are abound, with Swansea’s Garry Monk believing someone is out to get his club while Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert couldn’t speak on the suspension of staff members due to a “legal investigation.”
Apr 17, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT
Napoli’s Marek Hamsik has struggled this year, but the 26-year-old could seriously bolster a Premier League attack.
Apr 17, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT
With its club licensing benchmark report for the 2012 season, UEFA has outlined trends that signal both unprecedented growth and overspending issues.
Apr 17, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
According to a BBC report, a Cardiff player leaked the lineup to Moody who mistakenly sent a text to the wrong person.
Apr 17, 2014, 7:37 AM EDT
With Brendan Rodgers having steered Liverpool to unthinkable Premier League heights, Arsene Wenger believes the deciders should instead look to the league’s trenches to give out its postseason award.
- Week 7 Preview: Fire look for first win vs. Revs; Dallas gets its crack at Toronto 0
- Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up 4
- Tim Howard inks Everton extension, signs through 2017-18 season 2
- Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool or Chelsea for the title? – Week 34 0
- Neymar, Jordi Alba to miss the rest of Barcelona’s season 1
- Manchester: A city not united, as Blue and Red converge 2