Skip to content

Harsh but right, Jurgen Klinsmann sends a message to his stars

Jan 23, 2013, 11:05 AM EST

US national football team head coach, Ge

You’re going to read a lot about Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent thoughts on Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, thoughts published today. The U.S. Men’s National Team boss touched on a myriad of topics in a lengthy interview with the Wall Street Journal, but two missives are going to be picked out, dissected, and used as fuel by national team fans trying to get inside the mind of their team’s head coach.

The most talked-about passage will be Klinsmann’s thoughts on Dempsey, a blunt assessment juxtaposing the attacker’s accomplishments against the U.S.’s aspirations:

My whole talk to Clint Dempsey for 18 months was [about how] he hasn’t made s—. You play for Fulham? Yeah, so? Show me you play for a Champions League team, and then you start on a Champions League team and that you may end up winning the Champions League. There is always another level. If you one day reach the highest level then you’ve got to confirm it, every year. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi. Confirm it to me. Show me that every year you deserve to play for Real Madrid, for Bayern Munich, for Manchester United. Show it to me.

I’m not comfortable completely dismissing Dempsey’s accomplishments as a Cottager, but as we’ve seen during Dempsey’s initial struggles (and recent, relative successes) at White Hart Lane, Tottenham is a different world. And that big move is only a few steps up the English table.

MORE: Better weekend? Dempsey? Or Altidore?

If the U.S. wants to meet Klinsmann’s goals, it’s worth noting that the Spains and Germanys of the world have rosters almost entirely full of players playing at the very top level. Places like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are not only more prestigious, they’re far a more competitive environments than Spurs’. While Klinsmann’s views may be excessively dismissive of somebody who has worked his way up from Furman University, the remarks are still a good reminder: There’s much more left to accomplish.

“Just because you won a game in the World Cup in the knockout stage, you haven’t won anything,” Klinsmann said, views on the States’ World Cup 2002 run that could easily be applied to 1994 and 2010. In each of those years, the U.S. advanced to the second round, but by the time they were shown out of the tournament, they’d still failed to win more games than they’d lost. Winning a second game at the World Cup has been a problem.

It’s a glass half-empty view, one that makes you wonder Why now? Why has Klinsmann picked now — as opposed to a year ago (or months into the future) — to send this message? He seems to want his players humbled before their trip to Honduras. Ahead of a tough trip to open qualifying, he doesn’t want any of his players thinking they’ve accomplished anything, yet.

One person that won’t be joining them in Honduras is Landon Donovan. The LA Galaxy star is still evaluating when to resume his career, but as Klinsmann tells it, that state left to an early decision Donovan would not take part in January camp or the U.S.’s first final round qualifier:

He made certain decisions throughout the last couple of years that are his decisions. I watch that. I evaluate that. I could have evaluated him a few times when he was with us, not that many times, but a few times. I will make the call at the end of the day if he fits into my plans or not. I told him in December he’s not part of the January camp, and I told him in December he’s not part of the Honduras game.

Klinsmann’s not closing any doors, and everything points to the coach wanting Donovan back. But he also doesn’t want to perpetuate an atmosphere defined by Donovan. For somebody for whom attitude and focus are paramount concerns, Donovan’s sojourn has to be confusing. At the same time, if you’re Jurgen Klinsmann, you see that, you make a decision, and (ultimately) you move on. You have no choice but to move on.

MORE: Donovan IS returning in 2013, just not yet

Contrast that with Bruce Arena’s attitude. It really illuminates the difference between the two coaches. While Klinsmann has elected to control what he can, momentarily crossing Donovan off the list for the sake of moving forward, Arena has let the game develop in front of him. He’s reacting to the world he’s given, and he will make the best of whatever he’s presented.

It’s the juxtaposition of an idealist and a pragmatist. Klinsmann’s been brought in to enact a vision. At this point, pragmatism leads to the type of short-term decisions that undermine that goal. Arena, be it now or in his time with the national team, has always reacted to his parts. He’s had favorites and preferences, but nothing was predetermined.

As today’s interviews show, Klinsmann’s predefined concepts demand much more of his players. The Clint Dempseys of the world still have work to do. And the team will not wait for its Landon Donovans.

MORE: Klinsmann talks Zusi, Bruin

More from the interview:

  • On the schedule: “In order to catch up with the rest of the world you need to have an 11-month calendar …”
  • On the region: “… when you go through CONCACAF … I see that as a huge learning opportunity. Inhale it, whatever the opportunity gives to you … If the conditions are bad, it’s the conditions for both teams. As a really good player you always find ways to solve it.”
  • On development: “… it would be great if our 18- or 19- or 20-year-olds would have an environment where they get pushed every day …”
  • On attitude: “There is a difference between arrogance and confidence.”
  • On style: “I can’t come with my German approach and say this is how I want to do it in the U.S., because in the U.S., it would fail.”
  • On what’s missing in U.S. soccer: “This is the problem we have because we are not socially so connected so deeply to soccer in the daily life.”
  • On the down points: “The inconsistency.”

Definitely go read more, both the long form interview and the accompanying piece.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Team of the Week: Find out who starred on Matchday 12

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:25 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-CRYSTAL PALACE-LIVERPOOL Getty Images

    Find out who made it into the starting XI in the latest edition of Premier League Team of the Week.

  2. Champions League Tuesday preview: City and Chelsea face German opposition

    Nov 24, 2014, 6:28 PM EST

    FC Bayern Munchen v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Manchester City hosts Bayern as Chelsea travel to Schalke on Matchday 5 of Champions League group play.

  3. Premier League Playback: Should Liverpool fire Brendan Rodgers?

    Nov 24, 2014, 5:30 PM EST

    Crystal Palace v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an in-depth look at the PL during Week 12.

  4. Aston Villa 1-1 Southampton: Nathaniel Clyne secures point for Saints

    Nov 24, 2014, 5:11 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Aston Villa led at halftime but a Nathaniel Clyne strike ensured a point for Southampton at Villa Park.

  5. Adam Lallana says Liverpool are ‘fighting for their lives’

    Nov 24, 2014, 4:32 PM EST

    Crystal Palace v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Struggling in England, the Reds need a result midweek to remain in the Champions League.

  6. At the half: Agbonlahor gives Villa 1-0 lead over Saints

    Nov 24, 2014, 3:54 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    It’s a rare halftime lead for Aston Villa as they look to shock Southampton.

  7. Schalke’s Di Matteo plays down Chelsea reunion ahead of UEFA Champions League clash

    Nov 24, 2014, 3:00 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Schalke is three points back of Chelsea despite drawing 1-1 in the Stamford Bridge portion of group play.

  8. Tesho Akindele brings FC Dallas its first MLS Rookie of the Year award

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:23 PM EST

    Tesho Akindele AP

    The league announced Monday that Akindele edged Steve Birnbaum of DC United and Harry Shipp of the Chicago Fire for the honor.

  9. Watch live: Aston Villa vs. Southampton (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Nov 24, 2014, 2:05 PM EST

    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

    The second-placed Saints need a win to keep pace with a Chelsea team threatening to run away with the Premier League.

  10. Young American defender Will Packwood leaving Birmingham City on short-term loan

    Nov 24, 2014, 1:17 PM EST

    bcfc.com bcfc.com

    Packwood is a promising defender who can be a big part of the US U-23 picture and onward.

  11. Lukas Podolski is “not some clown” and sounds like a man ready to leave Arsenal

    Nov 24, 2014, 12:36 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Getty Images

    Seven of his eight appearances have been substitutions, all in the 76th minute or later.

  12. Yikes: Suspended Bradley Wright-Phillips, teammates, Petke “didn’t know rules” of card accumulation

    Nov 24, 2014, 11:35 AM EST

    Bradley Wright-Phillips AP

    No one told Wright-Phillips another yellow card would keep him out of an MLS Cup Playoff game. Pretty unsettling if you’re a Red Bulls fan.

  13. Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta “shocked” at loss to Manchester United, rues “lack of ruthlessness”

    Nov 24, 2014, 10:45 AM EST

    Arsenal v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Arteta felt they were dominating the game before an own goal from Kieran Gibbs changed the temperature and, at the risk of losing something in the language, doesn’t think highly of the Red Devils.

  14. England women set attendance record in loss at Wembley Stadium

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:46 AM EST

    England v Germany - Women's International Friendly Getty Images

    It wasn’t quite a number that rivaled top American matches, but women’s soccer in England can take an extra bow.

  15. Americans Abroad review: Boyd bags brace, Johannsson heads home (video)

    Nov 24, 2014, 9:09 AM EST

    Dutch Eredivisie - "AZ Alkmaar v Vitesse Arnhem" Getty Images

    A trio of American attackers scored goals and a bevy of defenders and netminders worked good shifts in the own end.

  16. FIFPro’s World XI five goalkeeper shortlist includes… Iker Casillas???

    Nov 24, 2014, 8:20 AM EST

    iker_casillas Getty Images

    Certainly keepers like David De Gea, Tim Howard, Wojciech Szczesny, Hugo Lloris and Salvatore Sirigu are scratching their heads.

  17. Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Southampton

    Nov 24, 2014, 7:30 AM EST

    http://www.avfc.co.uk/ http://www.avfc.co.uk/

    Two teams on very different form meet on NBCSN to finish off the weekend’s Premier League action.

  18. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Valencia, Napoli falter in Champions League bids; Milan derby a stalemate

    Nov 23, 2014, 10:20 PM EST

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-LEVANTE-VALENCIA Getty Images

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action and movement in La Liga and Serie A.

  19. Inside Look, MLS Cup Playoffs: How Revs, Galaxy built very different one-goal leads

    Nov 23, 2014, 8:15 PM EST

    Jermaine Jones AP

    The Revs and Galaxy may both hold one-goal advantages, but they’re very different leads built in very different ways.

  20. Video: Warnock delighted with “old fashioned cup tie” from Palace

    Nov 23, 2014, 7:45 PM EST

    Warnock Getty Images

    The Crystal Palace manager hailed his side’s “Neil Warnock performance” as they pull themselves out of the relegation zone.

Featured video

Week 12: PL Sunday recap