As the surprise announcement of Bob Bradley's firing lit up the social networks and media outlets yesterday, the rumors swirled that Jurgen Klinsmann would be appointed the new head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. Today, those rumors were confirmed, as the United States Soccer Federation formally announced Klinsmann's hiring. The former German international player and coach has an impressive resume: 1990 World Cup Champion and 1996 Euro Champion, 2 UEFA Cups, a Bundesliga title as a player, in a career where he played for Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Spurs, Bayern Munich and Sampdoria. As a coach, he led Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup (as the host country) and coached Bayern Munich for less than a full season. That last coaching stint was widely regarded as a disaster, so Klinsmann will likely be motivated to make a better impact on the U.S. job.As American soccer fans are no doubt aware, Klinsmann has lived in California for a number of years, and is raising his family in Huntington Beach. Earlier this season, he signed on as an advisor to Toronto FC's front office, but that position has ended and it is unclear if he really did much as a consultant, but one can presume he has at least a little familiarity with MLS and the American soccer system. Just because he knows the system does not mean Klinsmann will adjust to it, however. While coaching at Bayern Munich, he attempted to transform the training system and style of play, presumably in a fashion like the successful Barcelona system, but his ambitious plan was not supported by many Bayern fans, players, and most importantly, the Bayern board of directors.
In the United States, Klinsmann is very publicly on the record saying that the American soccer system is totally flawed. He has said the system is completely backwards, and has been very critical of college soccer. As a commentator for ESPN during the 2010 World Cup, Klinsmann said the U.S. produced the best educated soccer players on the planet, but were not producing the best soccer players they could. So expect fewer top level players to use college as a way to develop their game, and expect a proliferation and greater institutional support for academy systems. More MLS clubs, including Chivas USA, have created club academies, and have started promoting players to their senior squads. It would appear Klinsmann will encourage this development moving forward. Put simply, Klinsmann is likely to have an extremely ambitious program for U.S. soccer that is high risk and high reward.
How does Klinsmann's appointment impact players? Obviously, it represents a new slate for everybody, and will surely benefit a number of players who haven't gotten a look or are on the margins of the national team under Bob Bradley. In the upcoming friendlies before World Cup qualifying begins at the end of the year, expect very experimental squads and a lot of different players getting time. This may prove to be a boon for many players with dual nationality, and Klinsmann has apparently said before that he thinks U.S. soccer should incorporate Latino players into the national team ranks much better, so maybe up and coming players like Tijuana's Joe Corona will be swayed to represent the United States. There's no telling if Jurgen Klinsmann has much respect for the Mexican league, but it seemed pretty clear that Bob Bradley did not, as he did not seem to trust Jose Francisco Torres or Herculez Gomez, both of whom have been successful in Mexico. And it is not necessarily a given that he will rate MLS players highly, either. Much like Bob Bradley preferred a mix of MLS and European players, including players scattered in the third and fourth tier of European leagues, it remains to be seen how Klinsmann will rate Americans in the various leagues around the world. I also think former Chivas players Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan may be on the outside looking in from now on, but who knows?
What about the impact for players of Chivas USA? Like all American players, the American players on the team will feel they at least have hope of getting a shot. I think the most likely player to get a call up would be Heath Pearce, who has a decent amount of U.S. National Team experience already (32 Caps) and is a full back, a very problematic area for the national team (like the entire defense, really). I am not sure if Pearce is truly world class, but he at least deserves a shot, and getting some all-star recognition two years in a row shouldn't hurt his case. Along the same lines, Zarek Valentin may have a shot at being on the backline of the future, but at 19 he still has a lot of developing left to do before we can assume he will have a role on future senior national teams. I also think Justin Braun could get a call up if he can score more consistently for Chivas. He is big and has a good work rate, but the national team strike force needs actual goal scorers, so any forward who can score consistently deserves a look (that is why Gomez should get an extended look).
As for 2011 breakout star Nick LaBrocca, he could get a call up, but I wouldn't hold my breath about him because of the depth at central midfield and his age. He's not old by any means, but at 26, he may not be groomed to take the reins from Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey when they retire from the national team, as he will be pushing 30 by that time himself. However, if LaBrocca continues to play lights out soccer, he may give Klinsmann no choice but to give him a shot. I think Dan Kennedy is in a similar position: a very good MLS pro, but while there doesn't appear to be an heir apparent to Tim Howard, the talent pool at goalkeeper is just too deep to expect Kennedy to get into the conversation at this point. But like LaBrocca, if he continues to develop his game, who knows?
What do you think? Like Klinsmann's appointment? What changes need to happen for the U.S. National Team? And will any Goats benefit from the coaching switch? Leave a comment below!