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 player ratings: How Klinsmann’s men fared against Peru

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT

    Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood AP

    The United States put in a pretty good team performance tonight, but questions still remain at center-back.

  2. Three things we learned from USMNT’s comeback win vs. Peru

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:55 PM EDT

    Brad Guzan, Renato Tapia, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream Brad Guzan, Renato Tapia, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream

    A superb second half comeback from Klinsmann’s boys has exonerated some of the Gold Cup demons.

  3. USMNT 2-1 Peru: Altidore double leads USA to come-from-behind win

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT

    US Men's National Team vs Germany Getty Images

    Jozy Altidore was handed the captain’s armband tonight, and his two goals were the difference in Washington D.C.

  4. VIDEO: Peru take early lead. Is USMNT’s Omar Gonzalez to blame?

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Brad Guzan Brad Guzan

    U.S. trailed 1-0 at the break after this goal from Chavez via Gonzalez’s back.

  5. Reports: Pogba turned down Chelsea move despite offer of $275,000 per week

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Juventus v S.S. Lazio - 2015 Italian Super Cup Getty Images

    Paul Pogba was wanted by every club in the world this summer, but even some pretty massive wages couldn’t bring him to leave Juventus.

  6. FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Peru in important tune-up match (Lineups)

    Sep 4, 2015, 7:02 PM EDT

    Panama v United States Getty Images

    Tonight’s match may be a friendly, but it’s way more than that for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.

  7. Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor fails to report for international duty with Togo

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FA CUP-TOTTENHAM-LEICESTER Getty Images

    After being essentially cut from Tottenham, Adebayor was a no-show for his national team.

  8. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Germany downs Poland, Keane sets records for Ireland

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwixmde5zjc2mta3nmi0yta0zmmwngnmothlmmzhntnh AP

    Mario Gotze’s brace led Germany to a big win at home, while Robbie Keane became the all-time leading goalscorer in EURO qualifying history.

  9. Manchester United calls Real Madrid’s handling of De Gea transfer “clumsy”

    Sep 4, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjytliymewnjuzzwnjogm3mjrmytc1nzawmja3ytu3 AP

    The transfer window may have closed, but the war of words between Manchester United and Real Madrid is still going strong.

  10. Bournemouth’s record-signing Tyrone Mings ruled out for rest of season with knee injury

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Bournemouth v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    A massive loss for the Cherries as Tyrone Mings’ season is over after tearing his ACL and MCL against Leicester City.

  11. WATCH: On Japan duty, Shinji Kagawa flubs a sitter of the most comfortable variety

    Sep 4, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Cambodia's goalkeeper Sou Yaty falls on the ground upon getting a goal by Japan's Shinji Kagawa (10), top second right, as Japan's Yoshinori Muto (14), Cambodia's Say Piseth (4) and others look back during their second round soccer match of regional qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Saitama, north of Tokyo Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Japan defeated Cambodia 3-0 to secure its first win of World Cup qualifying. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT AP

    We need a bigger term than sitter for this Japan miss. Sofa? Futon? Beanbag chair?

  12. With two friendlies before the Confederations Cup playoff, who should be the USMNT’s center back pair?

    Sep 4, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, the United States national soccer team poses prior to the start their friendly soccer match between Austria and the United States in Vienna, Austria. Background from left: Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Brek Shea. Foreground from left: Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore.  (AP Photo/Hans Punz, File) AP

    The USMNT’s Tinkerman takes a lot of risks with his formation and use of his best players (See: Bradley, Michael), but there is at least one area where we just don’t get it: center backs.

  13. PHOTO: Can this cigarette disposal unit end the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate (at least in London)?

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    CNaarYiWoAAxXqT

    Who knew we could’ve settled this whole thing ages ago, just by asking smokers in England?

  14. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Canada, Jamaica hope to avoid upsets; USMNT to learn group mates

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - JULY 11:  Cyle Larin #21 of Canada avoids pressure from Jermaine Taylor #21 of Jamaica and Je-Vaughan Watson #15 at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Yanks will face the winners of two two-legged ties: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda vs. Guatemala.

  15. WATCH: New Spurs forward Son’s hat trick helps South Korea let loose on Laos

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT

    South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, scores his first goal as Laos's Pinkeo Khamla tries to block it during their Asian zone Group G qualifying soccer match for the 2018 World Cup at  Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. South Korea won 8-0.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) AP

    Son scored in the 12th, 74th and 89th minutes of South Korea’s 8-0 win over Laos in AFC World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

  16. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC

    Week 27 is upon, and though international call-ups have decimated a number of teams, this weekend’s MLS action should still be decent.

  17. Real Madrid’s Perez says De Gea move failed because Manchester United lacks transfer “experience”

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 09:  Real Madrid President Florentino Perez gives as speech as he attends the 7th edition of the 'Catedra Real Madrid' Project at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Perez says a move that should’ve taken an hour “took eight”, and blasted the Red Devils’ chairman by using examples from 2013.

  18. Providence and its big American striker Mac Steeves are off to a red-hot start (video)

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne) PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne)

    A 6-foot-4 American striker has Providence aiming for another College Cup, and U.S. Soccer fans on notice.

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day