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Silence, success marks the end of The Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate

Jul 29, 2013, 1:11 AM EDT

Championship - 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Getty Images

As successful as Bob Bradley was during his time coaching the U.S. Men’s National Team — winning a World Cup group; finishing second in a Confederations Cups; claiming a CONCACAF title — his successor was bound to be subject to some difficult comparisons. That his successor was Jurgen Klinsmann, a man who had previously been courted for the job, only heightened the debate. What was so wrong with Bradley? What’s so special about Klinsmann? Why is the U.S. essentially importing a coach, and why are we being told our soccer is needs to change?

A long-time resident of California, Klinsmann is not your typical foreign coach, but the fact he was brought into to enact a stylistic and organizational change only fed insecurities. Add in the transitioning of Carlos Bocanegra out of the team, Landon Donovan’s long hiatus from the international landscape, and a scathing, anonymously-fueled media examination by those in and around the team, and the Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate briefly defined U.S. soccer.

Now, after 11 consecutive wins, a confederation title, and first place standing in The Hex, that debate’s been redefined. Instead of an anti-Klinsmann contingent carrying Philipp Lahm’s quotes to the steps of Soccer House, the opposition’s gone silent. Klinsmann’s shut them up. Concerns about tactical acumen have been answered by solid game plans and an increased ability to make the right in-game adjustments. Critiques that his success with Germany was dependent on an emerging talent base have been addressed by his drastic expansion of the player pool. And the complaint that Klinsmann was unduly imposing an ill-fitting style ring hollow as the team controls matches like they’ve never before.

As a result, the debate has died. Even if the U.S. were to fall on their face from here forward, the conversation would begin a new. The question wouldn’t be why Klinsmann didn’t work. Instead, it would turn into a Chepo-esque discussion. What went wrong, would be the question, one that would acknowledge the reality of Klinsmann’s current assent.

But without a doubt, that assent has reached a point where a few mea culpas are in order. Not that the original criticisms were so outlandish or unfounded. They just didn’t play out. In the mean time Klinsmann’s original visions of a different, more versatile and stylistically imposing U.S. squad have begun to take hold. You can see it in the results. You can see it in the players’ confidence. You can see it in the reverence teams are showing for the way the U.S. is playing. It’s striking how much Klinsmann’s plan’s fallen into place, contradicting so many other’s predictions.

With a major title in the bag and with the United States sitting on top of CONCACAF, Klinsmann has silenced his first set of detractors – those who predicted immediately failure, who were grabbing pitchforks ahead of the team’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Others with more nuanced concerns about the long-term fit may still be proven right, but for now, The Great Jurgen Klinsmann Debate that enthralled U.S. soccer in March has been settled in the coach’s favor.

  1. talgrath - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    People doubted Klinsmann at the start, I never did. The man is exactly what team USA needs to get to the next level, someone unafraid of taking risks who expects the USA to play like a top 25 (soon to be top 20) team in the world that they are. He’s not a perfect coach, but few are, even if he doesn’t take us deeper into the World Cup than Bradley he will make the USMNT a better team in the long term.

  2. boscoesworld - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    Those that were complaining have no vision. I would be the anonymous quotes came from players no longer with the team for good reason. If you watch a USMNT game and do not see a more stylish and dynamic brand of soccer then perhaps you don’t know soccer that well. That goes for both this Gold Cup group and the full MNT. The starting 11 in Brazil will be our best ever!!

    • boscoesworld - Jul 29, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Bet that is!

  3. lyleoross - Jul 29, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    I agree very much with the comments here. The style of soccer that has pervaded CONCACAF limits how far you can go internationally. To move forward we needed to change. Clearly the leadership got that, and clearly the pundits did not. No matter what the outcome of Klinsmann, he takes you in the direction you need to go, win or lose. If you lose, you fear the NAT organization will go backwards, and the pundits and nay-sayers would have called for that.

    We saw the ultimate outcome of that old style of play yesterday. The best you get is Panama. Pack it in, and look for a break down field. If you score first, pack it in more and hold on. If you get scored against first, bend over and kiss that game/tournament goodby. It is boring, physical and sad.

    Even when the Klinsmann group is at it’s worst, it’s still exciting soccer, and I’ll take that and a loss over Panama any day. The problem is that the pundits only measure wins. They can’t think long term, and they aren’t informed enough to enjoy great play on the field. It’s the same thing that has so damaged baseball. Great play doesn’t matter, only the long ball, and high scores.

  4. hildezero - Jul 30, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    This team has become fun to watch under Klinsy.

  5. hmengstrom - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Agree with the previous comments. It seems to me, people were far too hasty in rendering a verdict on Klinsmann. It had been clearly stated that Klinsmann was not brought in to just be another coach; he was brought in to change the system — from the national team all the way down into the lower tiers of the youth system — and the way we play the game. That is a huge task and one that requires time. A couple of bad results and three months later, people were already saying the Klinsmann appointment was a bust. Patience! He’s not here to just take over the same old timid, counterattacking approach that had taken us as far as it could.

    In order to challenge the world’s top sides, the US needed to revamp its whole approach, organization, player development system and mindset. Now, we are taking the game to our opponents, creating chances in droves, keeping shape on defense, efficiently moving the ball through the midfield, organizing space, creating runs in the attacking third and scoring goals (not just off the odd counterattack).

    We’ll successfully work our way through WC qualifying, but there’s still almost a year’s worth of refinement to go. Klinsmann is the kind of football mind who likely mapped out the entire timeline from day one and is working through the necessary priorities, leading to a methodical crescendo for Brazil 2014 – with the fruits of his efforts in the youth system yielding Klinsmannesque results beyond next summer.

    If we’re serious about transforming football in the US – not just cycling through another coach, I agree with Klinsmann’s entire approach: Let’s take our time and do it right.

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