Seven years after last USMNT-Germany match, Klinsmann facing similar challenges

Jurgen Klinsmann

 

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

WASHINGTON- Jurgen Klinsmann is feeling the heat. He is coaching a team in transition, with his moves and decisions drawing serious scrutiny after a humbling loss to a strong European opponent. He is facing a busy and important summer ahead and a USA-Germany friendly offers him an opportunity to ease some fears and help instill some confidence in a team that can definitely use it.

Then, Germany delivers a blowout win over the United States and Klinsmann suddenly feels much less pressure, and his team eventually comes together and goes on to an impressive showing at the 2006 World Cup.

If you thought that first paragraph was about the current state of the U.S. Men’s National Team, you understand just how many similarities there are between Klinsmann’s current U.S. team and the German national team Klinsmann managed heading into the last meeting between these countries, a 4-1 Germany win in Dortmund on March 22, 2006.

Back then, Klinsmann was on the hot seat as German manager. His team had just suffered a 4-1 loss to Italy and the calls for Klinsmann’s head as head coach were growing. The newspapers in Germany were picking apart his moves, and questioning his approach to rebuilding a German team clearly transitioning away from a disappointing era.

“When we had that game in Germany against the U.S. we were still in a full transition and it was only three months prior to the World Cup,” Klinsmann told SBI on Saturday. “The transition we had those days were maybe a little bit more dramatic than we right now in the U.S. because we had that deadline.

“The country expected to win the World Cup, simple as that. Even not looking at what team you had, or the quality of players you had, it was just simply the expectation that people had.”

The subsequent 4-1 victory against Bruce Arena’s U.S. team changed things for Klinsmann, and the headlines in Germany after that result were of a far different tone. His team didn’t lose another match until a dramatic extra time defeat against Italy in the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

The success Klinsmann enjoyed with Germany, enduring the ups-and-downs of rebuilding a program, has given him confidence in the process he is putting his current U.S. team through.

“You learn as you go and the experience you have now is you know that, okay, here’s maybe a negative stretch of games and results and you know how to handle them and move forward and build the whole puzzle, and also communicate that to your team,” Klinsmann said. “What we see over the last stretch, over the last year, is that the team really starts to grow together. It’s redefining itself.

What we had to do years ago with the German side was also we had to kind of change enough elements” Klinsmann said. “We had to try out things, kind of do things differently because the way they were done before didn’t work. When you go into a phase of change you always get some critical moments. You’ll always get people getting nervous a bit, some people getting cold feet. It’s just an absolute normal thing.

“But if you don’t, you know, throw in Sacha Kljestan and let him play his game, or if you don’t see Matt Besler and let him play his game, you would never know. If you don’t let Omar get a rhythm of games and an inner confidence and say, ‘Hey, don’t worry. We all make mistakes. Don’t worry too much about it’, we will not know so we will not improve.

“The only way to improve is to see different elements and trying things out, and taking the risk to also have a negative result,” Klinsmann said. “Eventually we all know that bottom line is we have to qualify for the World Cup, and going to do well in the world Cup, and give that program stability.”

Now Klinsmann heads into the first USA-Germany meeting since that 2006 friendly on the other side of the contest. He faces a strong German program that he laid the foundation for, a program strong enough to field what will largely be a second team, but still is strong enough to beat the U.S. handily.

As much as Klinsmann would love to beat the Germans, he is fully aware that the result isn’t as important as finding out more about the U.S. team he is still trying to mold into a team not only strong enough to qualify for the World Cup, but do well when it gets to Brazil.

Despite the team’s continued struggles offensively, and the rebuilding phase the defense is undergoing, Klinsmann sees progress in the way the team is coming together as a group. One of the things he definitely learned during his run as Germany head coach is the importance of a team coming together at the right time, both on and off the field.

The chemistry is really crucial when you go into Brazil,” Klinsmann said. “The chemistry is the foundation for success, or not success. And this is all just in the middle of it right now (with the U.S.), that’s why it’s important to play these games and not complain about the timing, or some players are missing.

“We know we did a couple of mistakes against Belgium, but now it’s a wonderful opportunity to play Germany and get a really good result.”

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32 Responses to Seven years after last USMNT-Germany match, Klinsmann facing similar challenges

  1. Beto says:

    Great read!

    Jurgen really is a madman but if it works out like it did before il take it. No other coach i have been exposed to makes the entire world around him so anxious but i guess thats what we signed up for..

  2. SanFran415 says:

    Well, he turned Germany back into a powerhouse when he was hired after they failed to qualify for the Euro Cup–and people all over the Germany soccer community were begging him to come back as the German head coach after their World Cup run. Instead he hand picked Loew and endorsed him as his replacement to continue what he had started.

    But I have to disagree–he is feeling no heat (no heat that matters anyways). We’re in a great position in qualifying and that’s all that matters.

    The discussion on transition has been long played out across the soccer community boards, but I think we all agree it’s a long-term play. CONCACAF qualifying has never been easy, and it will only get more difficult as the other teams benefit from the chance in FIFA nationality regulations and the strength of MLS.

    With the rash of injuries and more exposed lack of talent in the player pool, we knew this would not be a walk in the park. Our success is going to be predicated on MLS’ ability to scout talent. Klinsmann has placed far more emphasis on utilizing MLS players in big matches (Alan Gordon, Eddie Johnson, Beckerman, Gonzalez, Besler) and hopefully the new wave of players will be of higher quality and success (Jack Mac, etc.)

    By the way–we’re probably going to lose 5-1 today.

    • biff says:

      Lose 5-1 today? No way. This is Germany’s C-team and the early word is that there will be major changes in today’s line-up from the line-up against Ecuador. USA wins 2-1. Goals: Dempsey, Johnson.

      • Benny says:

        I think the U.S. does well against a strong German B side today.

      • CroCajun says:

        You realize this “C” team has names on it like Podolski, Klose, Mertesacker, and Shurrle on it right?

        • biff says:

          yeah, CroCajun. I have heard of those four guys once or twice. And of those four, the only one who is now a true A-team member of Germany is Schurrle. Klose in his day was great, but now 35 years and coming off injuries. As for Podolski, the only reason he is still around the team and keeps getting chances is because he is good buddies with Jogi Low and I will not be surprised to see Arsenal let him go this summer. Both Schurrle and Gotze have surpassed Poldi. Mertesacker is decent, but also no longer an A-teamer.

          If you want to see the C-team members look no further than three who play for Hamburg, Marcell Jansen, Heiko Westermann, and Dennis Aogo. Then Aaron Hunt from Bremem, Stefan Reinartz and Sidney Sam Bayer Leverkusen and Max Kruse of Freiburg. And there are others.

          The German team being fielded today will not come close to being as good as the Belgium team we faced on Wednesday. Plus, we are playing the Germans at home with plenty of fan support and with a point to prove and I think our guys are going to have a lot of fire in their bellies.

          I am not saying the German team today will be bad. Germany’s C-team is a good team and the players also will be trying to impress Jogi Low to get a second invite. But not many of them will because they aren’t good enough. I think we are close to being on equal terms TODAY with Germany.

          One player to keep an eye on is Jermaine Jone’s Schalke teammate Julian Draxler. He is definitely an A+ player who I think he might end up being better than Mario Gotze. He is incredible.

    • David M says:

      Klinsmann turned Germany into a powerhouse?? Germany has been a powerhouse for some 60 years, an occasional glitch notwithstanding. So, they didn’t have a good Euro-04 — big deal. Semifinal in a home World Cup is the least you would expect of any German team. As are home wins against Poland, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Sweden. In two world cups immediately preceding and following 2006, Germany, playing far away from home, did at least as well. In any case, it’s a well-known fact now that Loew was the real x’s and o’s guy behind that Germany team — Klinsmann was just a motivational figurehead.

      It’s pretty safe to experiment in Germany and bring in new players — they have plenty of world class footballers. We don’t have them.

      Klinsmann, prior to the US job, had had very little coaching experience, none outside of his native Germany (i.e. none, to use his own words, outside of his own comfort zone), never coached in a WC qualifier, never coached a non-world class team. He’s now way out of his comfort zone, and he has no idea what to do.

    • louis z says:

      but JK doesn’t Loew to relying on. Which is I think is a major difference.

    • David M says:

      Klinsmann turned Germany into a powerhouse?? Germany has been a powerhouse for some 60 years, an occasional glitch notwithstanding. So, they didn’t have a good Euro-04 — big deal. Semifinal in a home World Cup is the least you would expect of any German team. As are home wins against Poland, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Sweden. In two world cups immediately preceding and following 2006, Germany, playing far away from home, did at least as well. In any case, it’s a well-known fact now that Loew was the real x’s and o’s guy behind that Germany team — Klinsmann was just a motivational figurehead.

      It’s pretty safe to experiment in Germany and bring in new players — they have plenty of world class footballers. We don’t have them.

      Klinsmann, prior to the US job, had had very little coaching experience, none outside of his native Germany (i.e. none, to use his own words, outside of his own comfort zone), never coached in a WC qualifier, never coached a non-world class team. He’s now way out of his comfort zone, and he has no idea what to do.

    • Travis in Miami says:

      Beto,

      I think your comments are excellent. The one point I would add is that the system that JK is implementing on the current talent pool is not one that (especially the ones coming up within the US system) have the skill set or field IQ to succeed with immediately (if ever). As with Germany I think the fruits of this labor will be harvested down the road – in 2018 and even more so in 2022 – long after JK is gone. It is however frustrating to watch at times even having the belief the entire US soccer program is benefiting long term. Oh and 5-1…c’mon man :)

    • Jupp Derwall says:

      Germany did not fail to qualify for the Euro 2004, but was eliminated at the group stage. Otherwise, I agree on on Germany winning 5:1, 4x Klose, 1x Podolski.

  3. Ben says:

    Can we get the time and station on more than just the weekend kickoff? It is one of the most frustrating things about the site.

    • pancholama says:

      2:30 PM Eastern (ET) – ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas

    • Old School says:

      This isn’t lip service but SBI is one of the most informative websites for scheduling and general matches. I’m fairly certain this was listed several times in recent days/weeks.

      Either you live under a rock or haven’t cared enough to know until the day of the actual match. Neither are the fault of SBI.

      For future reference, link to ussoccer.com will always have the schedule for today, 5 days from now and the rest of the summer, including TV listings.

  4. Josh D says:

    Klinsi also had the benefit of “discovering” world class talent like Podolski. Unfortunately, our version of him – Shea – hasn’t really panned out yet. Managers of countries like Germany always have the benefit of world class youth coming through. While I’m excited for Mix and Agudelo and Corona, etc, they don’t scream game changers.

    He also doesn’t have a world class tactical genius as an assistant. Klinsi is a great general and enabler; he just misses out on tactics sometimes.

  5. Freddie Footballer says:

    If chemistry is so important to him, why do we keep fielding different lineups?

    • SanFran415 says:

      I’m sure every coach would love to have all their players available and injury-free.

    • Old School says:

      “Chemistry” isn’t just the Starting XI. Chemistry has so many variables and can be defined on a number of levels.

      As SanFran mentioned, we haven’t exactly been blessed with everyone being healthy (or available) at one time.

  6. Jason B says:

    I love that we are playing these teams. I think it’s good that we play tough teams before qualifying,……BUT isn’t it important to play teams that resemble somewhat the styles of teams we will see in qualifying. These two teams we are playing play NOTHING like the teams we are about to face in qualifying. I think USMNT missed by preparing for the wrong types of teams.
    Anyone agree? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!!!!

    • twh says:

      I disagree (but it is an interesting point to consider).

      CONCACAF is so weird, if we prep especially for the qualifiers we won’t be very good when we get to Brazil. I f we play the type of games JK is scheduling, we should still qualify, and we’ll be better off at the WC.

  7. bizzy says:

    We have nobody in our line-up that can turn up field, dribble pass defenders (or even attempt to), keep their defense honest out wide, draw fouls with crafty foot work, able to create space to shoot…..we are in for a long painful game…..but it builds character

  8. Mig says:

    I hope it snows.

  9. Gene says:

    Does anyone know whether ESPN3 is likely to replay the game later today or tomorrow? Thanks.

  10. Clevelandfc says:

    Does anyone else feel that this team is worse than the one 4 years ago? The fall before the wc was really good. Gooch and cahrlie were playing great. Left back seemed to be the only worry. We need A top center back and a striker who can make things happen. I would love Boyd to step up and fill that role.

    • neilla says:

      Those guys were playing great! And if not for Gooch’s freak injury and Davies not buckling his seatbelt, both of them would (presumably) be big pieces of the current setup. Not much Klinsman, or anyone else, can do about it.

      • Clevelandfc says:

        I agreee. The US overall program needs to get better athletes into the sport. In my area (the south) it is still a lower level sport. Therefore the best athletes don’t play it. In the end, it cuts down on the player pool and depth.

  11. Smacking says:

    I think in the past US coaches have looked at qualifying and the cup as separate efforts. We would rely heavily on experienced vets and consistency to qualify, then look to introduce more youth and shape the team in the remaining months before the cup. I haven’t been a big Klinsmann supporter (we just haven’t seen any improvement in quality and I don’t like all the mind games), but assuming we make it through qualifying, the shake up along the back line and mixing and matching may provide flexibility and benefits further down the line. Today’s game is rather meaningless but I hope to start seeing signs for optimism, especially in the final third, in the next set of qualifiers.

  12. mike says:

    does anyone know if this match will be rebroadcast anytime this evening or in the coming days?

  13. fortunate only says:

    US fans have been waving the “transition” card for almost three years now. The fact of the matter is that the players that have entered, or are entering, the fold now are not as good as the ones who are getting older.

    Howard, Gooch, Boca, Cherundolo, Dempsey and Donovan is one hell of a core. While it obviously pales in comparison to what some of the top nations can put out, these guys are/were competitors and allowed us to punch above our weight at times. The addition of Jones and Fabian Johnson are the only positives I’ve seen since the last WC.

    It also goes without saying that Germany’s 2006 WC was a success on a lot of fronts but not necessarily on the sporting side of things. Jurgen even said it, they expected to win the WC regardless of the squad that was out there. A run to the semis would be a dream for most of the teams at the WC but as a host and former WC winner, I’m not sure it qualifies as a success for them. I say that with hindsight as a crutch obviously, since Germany lost the Euro final in 08, lost in the semis again in 2010 and in the semis yet again in 2012. Their resurgence has more to do with long term planning by the German FA and the Bundesliga in 2000 and also the high quality talent they are pumping out nowadays.

    Even though the situations are eerily similar, the US doesn’t have the talent to do a major overhaul of the NT. Gotta recognize your weaknesses and play to your strengths.

    The transition talk loses more and more credibility when one looks at what Javier Aguirre did with Mexico in one year prior to the WC. Aguirre revamped part of his squad, using the 09 Gold Cup to dig up new blood, and maintained the standard 4-4-2 formation during the second half of the HEX. Once qualification was in the bag, he switched to a 4-3-3 that the players adapted to surprisingly quickly. This formation allowed him to get Vela, dos Santos and Hernandez on the field at the same time and tuck Rafa Marquez in the midfield, which proved to be the best tactical move for Mexico during the WC. Even though it didn’t work out quite like what he expected (mostly due to lack of experience and maturity in the above mentioned three), the point was proven. If you have good players, you can change your tactics and formation to get the best out of them. I’m not sure Jurgen has it in him to make those changes.

    • SanFran415 says:

      We don’t have great players. Comparing Mexico’s situation to ours is foolhardy. Mexico has much better players at every level.

      Case in point–Rafa Marquez, however despicable he can be–would immediately be the best American ever.

      The Mexican league >>> MLS. Until that changes we don’t have an untapped pool of talent to work with. The players you see out there are the best we have, and unfortunately, they aren’t really that good comparatively speaking to the good-great teams of the world.

  14. Jeb says:

    Klinsmann 2-1-1 against top 10 opponents. That’s nothin’ to sneeze at.