Skip to content

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

Dec 12, 2012, 12:30 PM EST

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. New York City FC now focusing on Queens, Brooklyn in search for stadium site

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    Yankee Stadium Yankee Stadium

    NYCFC won’t be calling the Bronx home, but they’re still hopeful a deal can be done elsewhere in the city.

  2. Arsene Wenger says Arsenal could spend big in January, if the deals are right

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Arsenal Training Session

    Arsene Wenger says he’s not cheap, and that you should join him for a night out if you don’t believe him.

  3. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona keep Real Madrid close; Roma fall further behind Juventus

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST

    Luis Suarez, FC Barcelona Luis Suarez, FC Barcelona

    Barcelona are keeping things tight in Spain, while Roma are losing sight of Juventus once again.

  4. Real Madrid outclass San Lorenzo, win 2014 Club World Cup

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final

    Four trophies in one calendar year — it’s a good time to be Real Madrid.

  5. Stuttgarter Kickers forward scores match-winner wearing heart defibrillator (video)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:42 PM EST

    mdzol.com mdzol.com

    After collapsing on the field in a game back in July 2013, Engelbrecht had undergone four heart surgeries to get back on the pitch.

  6. Premier League Sunday preview: Loaded morning sees Tyne-Wear Derby and Liverpool vs. Arsenal

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:16 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-SUNDERLAND-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Things are going to be extra intense all Sunday morning, so put on a pot of coffee and enjoy the rush.

  7. Bundesliga wrap: Robben keeps up Bayern’s history-making pace, BVB falls… again

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:25 PM EST

    1. FSV Mainz 05 v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Pep Guardiola’s side carries a gaudy plus-37 goal differential, is 9-0 at home and has five wins and three draws on the road.

  8. Roberto Martinez “very disappointed” as Everton’s inconsistency continues

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EST

    Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his "transition period" seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.) Getty Images

    Martinez can’t put his finger on Everton’s struggles, but does think his side must defend better.

  9. Stoppage time goal decides inaugural Indian Super League title in front of nearly 37,000 in Mumbai

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:40 PM EST

    Closing Ceremony Of Indian Super League Football Tournament Getty Images

    Mumbai was the home of the title match, with Atletico de Kolkata knocking off the Kerala Blasters 1-0.

  10. Premier League roundup: Goals galore as Saints, Tottenham, QPR, Man City win

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:33 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE

    Seven games took place in the PL on Saturday. Here’s videos, analysis, recaps and more.

  11. VIDEO — Christian Benteke turns Evans inside out to give Villa a 1-0 lead over Manchester United

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester United  - Premier League Getty Images

    Benteke dances for space before lashing a curler into the goal to give Villa a 1-0 lead. It’s one of those “Why we watch” goals.

  12. WATCH: Match of the Day – Recap Saturday’s madness in the Premier League

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:40 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Match of the Day begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch it live online, here.

  13. VIDEO: Tottenham Hotspur’s Erik Lamela scores stunning goal

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:34 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch Lamela scored a stunning strike to give Spurs another win.

  14. After “two points dropped” at Aston Villa, Wayne Rooney says media was driving title talk

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    United captain Wayne Rooney wasn’t interested in discussing his club’s failure to keep up with Manchester City.

  15. Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Burnley: Lamela’s stunner seals win for Spurs

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:13 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs seal third-straight win in all competitions to move up to sixth.

  16. West Ham United 2-0 Leicester City: Carroll, Downing have Hammers blowing bubbles

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The Foxes are six points back of safety and share the worst goal differential in England’s top flight (minus-14).

  17. Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion: Austin the hat trick hero

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:03 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Incredible comeback from 2-0 down seals yet another home win for QPR.

  18. Aston Villa 1-1 Manchester United: Falcao header equals Benteke’s stunner, 10-man Villans hang on for point

    Dec 20, 2014, 11:52 AM EST

    CORRECTION-FBL-ENG-PR-ASTON VILLA-MAN UTD Getty Images

    United loses ground to No. 2 Manchester City, which trounced Crystal Palace, while Villa grabs its 20th point of the season.

Featured video

Man United thrash Liverpool