Skip to content

Breakfast with United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann: Today’s topic – individual improvement

Dec 6, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

Klinsmann-Mexico

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: Embracing discontent

Somewhere, somehow, Jurgen Klinsmann’s chief vehicle for United States national team improvement got lost in translation.

We all got this notion that Klinsmann’s chief method for program progress was getting the team into a more aggressive mindset on the field, to attack a little more, doing so with a  certain loveliness in the craft. So there has been grumbling and grousing when the games have looked, in critics’ minds, a little too similar to games under former manager Bob Bradley.

No question that Klinsmann wants his team to attack a little more. And he surely wants to create a “no kick ball” zone.

But that’s not really the main emphasis of his quest for U.S. progress. If we pinpointed the presiding initiative of Klinsmann’s time in charge, it would be his drive to hammer into every single player the blessedness of discontent.

Those are my words, not his. But they fit.

It’s about getting more from the talent in place.  More specifically, it’s about getting the players to get more from themselves. It’s about them becoming greedy for self improvement, about having the drive and determination to get there in a comprehensive way. This comes up in every single conversation that lasts more than three minutes with the 48-year-old German.

“Everything has a purpose. If it’s food, if it’s recovery, if it’s training itself. And they went through that learning process [in the last few months], and they are starting to appreciate it. Even if it’s a little more demanding, even for the European players. Because I know what they do [in training] in Europe. I know the rhythm.

“We want to make them understand, we are trying to move up!  We can only get better, we can only get closer to the best in the world if we do more than them. We are not getting to their level if we do less. Or even the same! We only get better if we work more, do more, and talk more … make them understand they have to be professional off the field as well, they need sleep, that they need the right food, all those lessons. It’s coming along. But it’s a process. They are not changing their habits [in one day].”

“Some guys are greedy for it. ‘Tell me, tell me …!’

And then the contrast …

“Some guys are used to training once a day, having off, then they lay in bed until 11 … ”

Klinsmann said he was lucky to have recognized this as a young player. He quickly gained the appreciation of the extra session or added emphasis in a certain area. Do the extra work, he figured out, and he could move past players, figuratively and literally.

source: Getty Images

“And it gives you confidence. The last 15 minutes in a game, that’s the time I was waiting for. “OK, I am going to kill you guys now.’ ” .. When the players understand that, If I add another session a week, or two, or maybe a run here or there, it’s for the players. You are not running for the coach. If you feel better, strong, if you recover faster, if you eat cleaner, if you live a bit more conscious, it will pay off for you.

“Maybe it’s a good question to ask Eddie [Johnson], ‘What do you think? You are 28 or 29 now. Are there some things you could have done better?’ It would be an interesting discussion.

“It’s a culture. The culture is still that, ‘This is a team sport and I go with whatever the team demands.’ But that’s not the culture for a top athlete.”

The longer U.S. camps always begin with tests of stability, flexibility, power, cardiovascular fitness, etc.  From there, any deficiencies are identified and the staff lays out a plan for improvement. But obviously the athletes can be around the national team staff only a few days a year; it’s up to the players to go about the hard business of betterment.

Not everyone has gotten on board. Klinsmann gave hints that some players were clearly not making the strides he asked, so he laid it on the line for them. Those cannot be pleasant conversations, but even the affable, highly encouraging Klinsmann says he’s had them. It’s about accountability, he said.

“If we see there is no improvement at all. You know, ‘We told you, to improve your stamina or your endurance. But we see there is no improvement there. You come in, you have the same numbers!’ Then I have a talk. ‘You know, it doesn’t seem to me you want to get to the next level. You have settled for that level, you think you are good enough.”

Tomorrow, we can talk about how all that affected on player … Jozy Altidore.

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: explaining Jermaine Jones)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: Landon Donovan’s career crisis)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: the man is OK with being wrong)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: Jozy Altidore’s recent roster omission)

(MORE of the Klinsmann conversation: tough friendlies ahead)

 

Latest Posts
  1. USMNT vs Switzerland preview: Last time they met, Michael Bradley scored the winner with a full head of hair

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Maurice Edu and Danny Szetela helped the goal get going, and Bradley was barely more than 20 years old.

  2. WATCH: Aurelien Chedjou and a flying own goal under zero pressure

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:15 PM EDT

    FBL-AFR-2015-MATCH16-CMR-GUI Getty Images

    Fortunately for Chedjou, Cameroon came back to beat Thailand 3-2.

  3. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 4

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:24 PM EDT

    NE Revolution Vs. San Jose Earthquakes At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

    Lads and ladies, men and women, dudes and dudettes, it’s going to be a bit of an odd week for the MLS Team of the Week here on PST.

  4. Organizers apologize for Salvadoran national anthem mix-up in Washington (video)

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    El Salvador

    The anthem that blared over the loudspeaker happened to belong to Isle of Man, not on-field participants El Salvador.

  5. Missing University of California, Berkeley men’s player Eloi Vasquez confirmed dead

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:46 PM EDT

    Eloi Vasquez

    Reports say he was lost after leaving a fraternity party near the University of Southern California.

  6. MLS Player of the Week — Week 4

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:20 PM EDT

    Kaka AP

    Who claimed the honors for Week 4 in Major League Soccer? The only former Ballon d’Or winner in the league!

  7. NWSL mega deal sends Sydney Leroux Dwyer to WNY for rights to Abby Wambach

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT

    SRFC_Sydney_Leroux_5_4-23-14

    The Western New York Flash are reaping the rewards of Abby Wambach’s refusal to play ball.

  8. UEFA begins investigation into fan, on-field chaos in Russia/Montenegro match

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:49 PM EDT

    Russia's Igor Akinfeev hit by flare at Montenegro, match later abandoned Getty Images

    Just last week, UEFA president Michel Platini issued concerns over the uptick in hooliganism.

  9. Prolific U.S. U-17 striker chooses club home in NASL

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Haji Wright Wearing Cosmos Jersey March 30 2015

    Wright helped the U.S. qualify for this summer’s U-17 World Cup, and recorded 18 goals and 7 assists in 22 games for the side.

  10. WATCH: Andy Najar’s wonder goal helps Honduras into 2015 Gold Cup

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    FBL-CONCACAF-GOLD-CUP-QUALIFIERS-HND-GUF Getty Images

    The tournament begins July 7, with Los Catrachos facing the USMNT in Frisco, Texas.

  11. How will the USMNT line up against Switzerland?

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

    USMNT Getty Images

    Few have successfully predicted the erratic USMNT lineups over the last few months, but here’s our best shot.

  12. Agent: Memphis Depay has had no contact with Manchester United

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    Depay Getty Images

    The Dutchman’s agent says he has not spoken with any teams, including the Red Devils.

  13. Former Barcelona star claims he despises Louis van Gaal

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:32 PM EDT

    Stoichkov Getty Images

    A salty relationship between the Bulgarian striker and his Dutch boss led to the “Dream Team” member departing Barcelona a year later.

  14. Napoli forward Mertens will send aid to African village after seeing schoolboy in his shirt

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Mertens Getty Images

    The 27-year-old Belgian saw a picture that touched him enough to reach out.

  15. Akinfeev fully recovered from flare incident, likely to play vs Zenit this weekend

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:39 AM EDT

    Akinfeev AP

    After being knocked unconscious by a flare, the Russian shot-stopper will be fit to play a crucial league match this weekend.

  16. British exec says England could look towards 2030 World Cup bid

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Gill Getty Images

    England has refrained from bidding for World Cups since their relationship with Sepp Blatter has soured, but that could change in the next vote or two.

  17. Neymar furious after Medel tackle goes unpunished in physical friendly

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT

    NeymarMedel AP

    Barcelona striker Neymar was furious with former Premier League defender Gary Medel, who clattered him hard during the first half of a physical match.

  18. Chicharito unleashes on Real Madrid, “frustrated” with a life on the bench

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Chicharito Getty Images

    The 26-year-old scored for the Mexican team this weekend, but remains frustrated at the club level.

  19. Report: Man United target Nathaniel Clyne won’t decide his future until summer

    Mar 29, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC

    Are Saints about to lose another young star to one of the Premier League’s “big five?” We’ll find out this summer.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment