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Jurgen Klinsmann, Mix Diskerud and comments that may sound harsh – but probably aren’t

Jan 28, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

Mix Diskerud-2

HOUSTON – If there is one guiding tenet of Jurgen Klinsmann’s philosophy that he has poured as a foundation of his program, it’s the constant drive for individual improvement.

Doing well with your club? Fantastic. Now do more!

Doing well enough to join the national team? Wonderful! Now do more.

Getting into some games for our United States of America? You go, boy! Now what else you got?

A bigger club wants you? Suh-weet!  But, uh, you still gotta keep improving.

We saw the very same thing under Bob Bradley, who pulled the first-timers aside and explained in no uncertain terms that arrival into the team was a starting point. Loose translation: “You are not there yet, kid … so don’t think you are.”

Klinsmann has just made that comprehensive crusade for personal advance – I like to call it the “blessedness of discontent” – a bigger slice of the overall program management pie.

(MORE: Who is this year national team breakout player?)

We see it again today with Mix Diskerud, the technically gifted and versatile midfielder who is pushing his way up the order. His nearby competition seems to be Benny Feilhaber (also in the current camp) and Sacha Kljestan (not in the camp).

All are roughly the same kind of player, technically gifted “tweeners” who aren’t really midfield hard men, aren’t really classic playmakers and aren’t really two-way linking men or hell-bent work horses. But they all have some qualities of each position.

At any rate, Klinsmann clearly sees something in Diskerud, 22, who recently moved to Norway’s top side, Rosenborg. Klinsmann says the coaches see Diskerud’s good qualities … but that they notice his current limitations, too.

Mix brings a lot of qualities, but he also needs to learn to become more robust, to become more physical, to not be kind of just moving around and not getting into real battles. You know, battles are everywhere; we all go into battles. This is something he will pick up the more he is playing in a certain environment, and so we are there to kind of guide him in that process.”

By the way, none of this is ever said with a derisive lean. For Klinsmann, it’s always about going farther, about pushing ahead.

Which is why I would imagine last week’s comments from Klinsmann on Clint Dempsey probably sounded surprising. They did sound harsh. But anyone who has followed the preternaturally positive U.S. manager has heard him say the same thing. Over and over. It’s never about criticizing the last move, although you could certainly have read his comments on Dempsey in last week’s Wall Street Journal piece that way. Rather, it’s Klinsmann’s colloquial way of saying “Great! Now what? Where will you take it from here.”

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