Skip to content

Breakfast with United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann: Today’s topic – Carlos Bocanegra’s evolving role

Dec 12, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

Italy v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

I was among a small group of journalists who had breakfast recently 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: Carlos Bocanegra’s evolving role

Clearly, Carlos Bocanegra cannot bravely strap on the armband forever. A shame, too, because he’s a heck of a fellow, a reliable center back and a captain that U.S. soccer supporters can be proud of in every way.

But we all have calculators on our smart phones, laptops and i-Whatevers … so no supporter can ever drift far from the hard truth that their trusty U.S. captain will be 35 by the next World Cup. Ouch.

Supporters may wish away the harsh realities, hoping against hope that Bocanegra’s little hiccups on the field of late were just that – hiccups, glitches in the Matrix.

Trouble is, Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t have that luxury. “Wishing” and “hoping” cannot be variables in the player selection equation. The U.S. manager has hard choices ahead, and none seem more critical than this one. Because the final stage of World Cup qualifying looks like a bugger – and the Americans didn’t exactly waltz effortlessly through the semifinal stage, if we’re being honest.

So what does that mean for Bocanegra and his evolving role? Clearly, whether it’s on the bench or in the starting XI, Klinsmann wants the former Rangers man in the picture.

“To that group, Carlos is a tremendous leader. He leads by example. The way he is kind of fighting through his career [with Rangers and the unfortunate, forced switch into Spain] … every time he comes into camp with us, he is still a role model. That’s why it’s important to have him around.

“At the same time, I tell Carlos, ‘The other ones are knocking at your door! Geoff Cameron broke in, Clarence [Goodson] is not happy sitting on the bench. Gooch [Oguchi Onyewu] is waiting for his moment. Omar Gonzalez is a name who will become part of that future, too. … We have had Matt Besler come in. There are other center backs who want your spot. He knows that. But he is standing his ground.”

source:

That last part, Klinsmann said with a note of respect rather than annoyance.

For most of us, this is just delicious fodder for discussion over a good ribeye and a merlot. But it’s a critical choice for the manager – when to begin the inevitable transition? Considering all the moving parts, just what is the ideal synchronization for this switch-over, when Bocanegra becomes more valuable as a guiding shepherd than as a member of the herd?

Just guessing – well, “guessing” while listening closely to Klinsmann – it sounds like the manager hopes Bocanegra can sustain starter status through qualifying. Then, perhaps, might come the switcharoo. We asked Klinsmann if he believed Bocanegra would accept a different role?

“Those roles exist as well. I don’t know. It will be down to conversations with him. We will approach that step-by-step.”

But then Klinsmann talked about similar situations. And, without prompting, he began speaking of the chemistry, selflessness and leadership that are essential elements for any World Cup roster.

“A world Cup roster is a different animal. A World Cup roster is made out of players that are there 24-7 for the team. The chemistry is the biggest card to play,” he said.

Klinsmann believes toxic chemistry is frequently to blame as some of the talented global heavies fall out of the World Cup race earlier than they should. African teams, he mentioned, are notorious for this. Others, too.

“They can’t sustain it within their own group. … They are falling apart after the group stage. England usually falls apart. France usually falls apart. … You need to have a group of 23 guys who really are there for each other. They are pushing each other. Everybody understands his role.”

Klinsmann said that six years ago with Germany, en route to that surprising third-place finish, he left more talented players off the roster, preferring self-aware worker bees who were satisfied with support roles.

Klinsmann cited a like-for-like in Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who keeps earning call-ups but is not starting for the United States lately. No matter, in Klinsmann’s eyes, because he loves what Beckerman brings in attitude and daily training.

source:

“He’s a giver, and you need givers,” Klinsmann said. “When you go two months in such a stressful campaign, you can only carry along a few takers. Very, very few takers. Sooner or later, the energy [of the group] will be gone.”

In Germany before the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann had a toughie to deal with in Oliver Kahn, a giant figure in German soccer, Die Mannschaft’s longtime No. 1.  Only, Klinsmann had to inform Kahn that he would be No. 2 in goal for World Cup 2006. Not a pleasant conversation.

“Obviously he was not happy. But he understood it. I told him to take a couple of days and think about it. We feared he would say ‘I am not part of it anymore, because I am … who I am.’  Then he came back and said, ‘I am pissed off.  I am mad at you, but I am in.’

“If you understand your role, if you become a real driving force from the bench, a real connector, a kind of a solution finder when there are problems [between players] … He became that driving force. He became that mentor. He became that pusher. Even though he was pissed as hell at me, that was OK. So there are specific roles that are even more important than guys on the field.”

Remember that was about Oliver Kahn – but it’s not hard to draw the parallels with Bocanegra. (Well, all except the huge ego part; that’s never been part of Bocanegra’s DNA.)

So has Klinsmann begun having those conversations with Bocanegra?

“No, it’s still too early for that. A lot will happen in 2013 … Hopefully, all for the better.”

MORE of the Klinsmann conversation …

 

Latest Posts
  1. Done Deal: Transfer activity roundup

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT

    Cerezo Osaka v Manchester United Getty Images

    Roundup of football transfers across Europe today.

  2. Ancelotti: Real Madrid’s ‘attitude and concentration’ must change

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-PSG-PRESSER

    Real Madrid manager insisted that his squad just lost focus on Sunday when they were upset by Real Sociedad.

  3. Darren Fletcher ‘confident’ Manchester United will trump struggles

    Aug 31, 2014, 8:24 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Galatasaray - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Darren Fletcher isn’t perturbed by Manchester United’s super-early season struggles.

  4. Toronto FC confirms Jermain Defoe transfer talks have taken place

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT

    Toronto FC's Jermain Defoe scores from the penalty spot against San Jose Earthquakes during first half MLS action in Toronto on Saturday June 7, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young) AP

    Jermain Defoe has been linked away from Toronto FC, with a possible return back to England.

  5. HIGHLIGHTS: Real Madrid falls to Real Sociedad in remarkable comeback

    Aug 31, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    _77293433_hi023702086 Getty Images

    Real Madrid didn’t display their standard victorious level of play as Real Sociedad shocked Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

  6. MLS Snapshot: D.C. United 2-0 New York Red Bulls

    Aug 31, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    D.C. United keeps strong at the head of the Eastern Conference, defeating the New York Red Bulls, 2-0.

  7. Geoff Cameron removes himself from U.S. national team roster

    Aug 31, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    Geoff Cameron AP

    Geoff Cameron has withdrawn from the United States’ latest roster prepped for the Czech Republic match.

  8. Watch Live: DC United vs. New York Red Bulls (Lineups)

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    RedBulls AP

    DC United hopes to fend off Bradley Wright-Phillips and company in the Atlantic Cup.

  9. Reports suggest Arsenal unlikely to sign a replacement striker for Giroud

    Aug 31, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

    Sanogo Getty Images

    Despite Yaya Sanogo’s disappointing performance against Leicester City, Wenger may sit on his squad.

  10. Reports: “Chicharito” Hernandez close to loan at Real Madrid

    Aug 31, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Hernandez Getty Images

    After spending a career on the bench at Manchester United, he’s going to another club where he’ll likely be a backup.

  11. Leicester City 1-1 Arsenal: Home side holds strong for draw

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    Leicester Getty Images

    Leo Ulloa hit back at Arsenal’s early goal and Leicester held on strong against a tired and wasteful Arsenal.

  12. Judging by his debut, Brendan Rodgers has broken through Mario Balotelli’s mental block

    Aug 31, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

    BalotelliRodgers Getty Images

    It appears the usually erratic, angry, and impulsive Mario Balotelli is nowhere to be found, and the Liverpool manager is to thank.

  13. Done deal: Chelsea sign Loic Remy from QPR

    Aug 31, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    Picture credit: Squawka Picture credit: Squawka

    With Torres, Lukaku, and Ba all gone and Costa proving injury prone, Remy comes in as cover at Stamford Bridge.

  14. Watch Live: Leicester City vs. Arsenal (Lineups)

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    Sanogo AP

    Yaya Sanogo starts up front in place of the injured Olivier Giroud. Esteban Cambiasso is on the bench for Leicester.

  15. Aston Villa 2-1 Hull City: Swarming start, shaky finish leave Villa undefeated still

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    VillaHull Getty Images

    Aston Villa were bright nearly the whole match but struggled to fend off Hull late in a close victory.

  16. Tottenham 0-3 Liverpool: Familiar scenes as Reds storm Spurs in London

    Aug 31, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

    Liverpool Getty Images

    Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard both scored as Liverpool rocked Spurs yet again in London.

  17. Reports: Alessio Cerci to Atletico Madrid is nearing completion

    Aug 31, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

    Cerci Getty Images

    Torino continues to sell off last year’s successful attack force for a big profit.

Featured video

Week 3: Saturday Premier League recap