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. D.C. United takes a point out of Columbus, but referee has some explaining to do (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    bernardo_anor_davy_arnaud Getty Images

    Juan Guzman gave Giancarlo Gonzalez a pass. Columbus came back to claim a draw.

  2. Late strike from Manneh allows Vancouver to salvage a point against LA Galaxy (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    jay_demerit_robbie_keane Getty Images

    Two separate leads were pulled back as the Whitecaps fought back at BC Place.

  3. WATCH: Arlo White, Jim Beglin on Chelsea’s shock loss to Sunderland

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT

    jozy_altidore_cesar_azpilicueta Getty Images

    NBC’s team on the scene reacts to the day’s big result:

  4. Colorado, San Jose combine for one shot on target, no goals (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

    Clint Irwin AP

    San Jose remains without a win beside playing the second place Rapids to a standstill.

  5. WATCH: All the goals, highlights from Saturday in the Premier League

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    sunderland_chelsea AP

    Look back at a Saturday that helped bring clarity to the Premier League’s title race.

  6. More late PK heartbreak sees Chicago draw sixth in a row (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa Getty Images

    Two weeks ago, it was Mike Magee. On Saturday, it was Juan Luis Anagonó who couldn’t covert late from the spot.

  7. Union, Dynamo fail to break through, end deadlocked at PPL Park (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    gilles_barnes AP

    Will Bruin and Andrew Wenger came close, but neither were able to keep his team from playing out a scoreless draw.

  8. Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski of Poland, center, scores during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between BvB Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) AP

    A host of teams are battling it out to determine who will fill Germany’s European spots. Meanwhile, the rush to avoid the drop continues.

  9. Watch Live: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa_jack_mcinerney AP

    Chicago goes for its first win while New England looks to make it two-in-a-row, and it all starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports Live Extra:

  10. Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Borini and Sunderland stunned Chelsea, as the bottom club beat the title chasers. Getty Images

    All the recaps, analysis and video highlights from a sensational Saturday:

  11. VIDEO: Jose Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Watch Chelsea’s manager implode in the post-match TV interview, as his unbeaten streak comes to an end:

  12. Serie A Roundup: Milan look set to sneak into Europe

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:52 PM EDT

    AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli, second from left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Livorno at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) AP

    Lazio, Torino and Parma all dropped points, opening a path for AC Milan to push into Italy’s final Europa League spot.

  13. Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland: Blues’ title dreams in ruins, as Black Cats grab shock win (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea lose at home in PL under Mourinho for first time in 77 matches, as Sunderland shock Blues:

  14. Watch – Chelsea and Sunderland level with title and survival on the line

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Eto'o is at the center of a huge controversy as Mourinho was recorded without his knowledge. AP

    Blues and Black Cats locked at 1-1 after nervy first half, watch live online right here:

  15. Magath insists Fulham will be able to avoid relegation

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    According to the Fulham manager, if his side win their two remaining home matches, the Whites will stay up.

  16. Cardiff City 1-1 Stoke City: Tale of two penalties in fiery draw (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Cardiff and Stoke both score PKs, as Bluebirds fail to take another step towards safety:

  17. Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton: Villa break four-game losing streak (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT

    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Jose Fonte (R) of Southampton tackles Gabriel Agbonlahor (L) of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park on April 19, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Getty Images

    Aston Villa may have clinched a vital point in the battle for safety, playing out a goalless draw with Southampton at Villa Park.

  18. Newcastle United 1-2 Swansea City: Bony’s brace seals crucial win for Swans (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Swansea secure vital win, as Newcastle slump to yet another defeat.

  19. West Ham United 0-1 Crystal Palace: Eagles assure second season in Premier League (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 19: Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace and George McCartney of West Ham compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Crystal Palace at Boleyn Ground on April 19, 2014 in London, England. Getty Images

    Tony Pulis has done it once more – with three points from West Ham, Crystal Palace are now assured of a second consecutive Premier League season.

  20. Watch Live: Chelsea vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 19, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Can Chelsea go top of the Premier League by beating struggling Sunderland? Watch live, right here:

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title