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. CONCACAF Champions League Roundup: Champions fall in Panama; Sporting slips at Estelí

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:47 AM EDT

    concacaf champions league logo

    Portland victorious in CCL debut,while Club América affirmed their place as one of the competition’s favorites.

  2. Where in the world is Juan Agudelo? “Munich” may soon be the answer

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:53 PM EDT

    Agudelo Getty Images

    21-year-old striker may turn to the 2.Bundesliga to get his young career back on track.

  3. Moor’s season-ending injury sends Rapids’ defense into upheaval

    Aug 19, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    Injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for slumping Colorado.

  4. Spanish Super Cup: Late goal allows Atlético to claim first leg draw at Real Madrid

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT

    gareth_bale AP

    James Rodríguez’s opener is pulled back in the 81st minute, sending the rivals to the Calderón even.

  5. UEFA Champions League Roundup: Arsenal held; Athletic takes 1-1 draw out of Naples

    Aug 19, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    arsenal_besiktas AP

    Steaua Bucharest, Bayer Leverkusen, and Red Bull Salzburg earned first leg wins.

  6. PST Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Fabián Castillo

    Aug 19, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

    Colorado Rapids v FC Dallas Getty Images

    Tesho Akindele won the league’s honor, leaving is with one question: How? Teammate Fabián Castillo was clearly FC Dallas’s (and the league’s) best player.

  7. Fantasyland: Week One heroes, leaders, busts, three names to monitor

    Aug 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Udinese - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    A pair of Liverpool midfielders let down their owners, while Hull was the key to big, big scores.

  8. VIDEO: Ba hits the bar from midfield off opening kickoff vs Arsenal

    Aug 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Ba 1

    Demba Ba had the gumption to try and score one of the earliest goals of all-time in Besiktas’ UCL match against Arsenal on Tuesday

  9. Man says Liverpool tattoo helped him through 19 hours vs sea, sharks

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:45 PM EDT

    Channel 7 via The Mirror Channel 7 via The Mirror

    Swimming with sharks, and knowing his fishing companions faced death, Kim Thomsen leaned on the fact that he wasn’t swimming alone.

  10. Tuesday transfer rumor roundup: Falcao to Liverpool, Welbeck to Hull?

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Vincent-Aboubakar Getty Images

    Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer claims Marco Reus is headed to Manchester United… next summer.

  11. Sporting CP confirms swap of Rojo to Manchester United for Nani, money

    Aug 19, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina AP

    Hours after apologizing for trying to force a move to Manchester United, Argentina defender Marcos Rojo is commenting on said move.

  12. Tim Leiweke denies reports that he’s stepping down in Toronto

    Aug 19, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    MLS Toronto FC Gilberto Soccer AP

    The MLSE boss has been good for Toronto FC, bringing in Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, and is denying a report that he’s leaving town.

  13. Report: Malky Mackay wins Crystal Palace job over Tim Sherwood

    Aug 19, 2014, 1:24 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Mackay’s hiring at Palace would be a reunion with sporting director Ian Moody, the latter also unceremoniously replaced at Cardiff

  14. Many changes in Dunga’s first Brazil call-ups since World Cup disaster

    Aug 19, 2014, 12:51 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund - Pre Season friendly Getty Images

    Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho is among the new names on the list.

  15. American teen Hyndman trying to earn Magath’s trust at Fulham

    Aug 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    www.fulhamfc.com www.fulhamfc.com

    Playing in the Championship club’s first two matches, both losses, Emerson Hyndman is being hailed as an ‘old head on young shoulders’

  16. Liverpool, Barca target could become youngest capped in Norway history

    Aug 19, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    http://www.fotball.no/ http://www.fotball.no/

    When Norway hosts the United Arab Emirates in Stavanger on Aug. 27, it could see Martin Odegaard break a 104-year old record.

  17. DC United executive steps up confidence in new stadium project

    Aug 19, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    DC United DC United

    Good news or just politics as usual for DC United fans?

  18. Americans Abroad Wrap: US teenagers go distance for Fulham, Utrecht

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT

    Chelsea U18 v Fulham U18 - FA Youth Cup Final: Second Leg Getty Images

    Brad Guzan had a better weekend than Tim Howard, as the Yanks in the Premier League witnessed a mixed bag of fortunes.

  19. Report: Pair of World Cup stars undergoing medicals at QPR

    Aug 19, 2014, 7:46 AM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Netherlands Chile AP

    Could players from Norwich City and Napoli be heading to Harry Redknapp’s Premier League side, along with Niko Kranjcar?

  20. Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 1

    Aug 18, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT

    Sterling AP

    Life after Luis Suarez isn’t too bad for Liverpool thanks to this guy…

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1