The Jurgen Era
Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, September 1, 2011
It’s finally here. He’s finally here. Could you imagine waiting for Santa Claus for five years — knowing that he really is coming one day — but just not knowing when?
Well he’s finally here — equipped with an Augustus Gloop accent — with a long-awaited present for Sam’s Army, presents for the likes of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and presently in charge of everything U.S. Soccer.
Jurgen Klinsmann has arrived, the German coach who famously led his kinsman to third place at the 2006 World Cup with a group of kids who could have been classified into two categories: who-is-that and what-are-they-doing-here.
The move created a buzz bigger than Mesut Ozil’s eyes and a mood more intense than Donovan’s death glare. Why? Because we finally got him.
Immediately after the 2006 World Cup, the shallow high-school relationship between Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer began. Talking here, courting there, rumors swirling above, genuine intent within, but still no deal.
So what did U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati do when Klinsmann asked for total control of the program? He hired Bob Bradley. Yeah, that’ll show him, hire the coach of Chivas USA. Sure Bradley’s team’s provided some of the greatest memories American soccer fans will ever posses, but did Bradley?
Let’s start with the classic Landon Donovan goal to put the U.S. through to the knockout stages. It was definitely a great moment, but it was against Algeria and it took them 90 minutes to score against the group’s last place team.
How about that huge comeback against Slovenia at last year’s World Cup? Due to tactical and borderline-idiotic positional issues (such as starting Donovan at central mid-fielder), the U.S. was down 2-0 early against a weak Slovenian team that barely got into the World Cup in the first place. The 1-1 “win” against powerhouse England? The U.S. was shut out on their own accord, needing a beautiful assist from British goalkeeper Robert Green to score.
That era of American soccer — or lack thereof — needed a change, an infusion of foreign genius that truly understood the game, yet more importantly, the American game. Klinsmann lives in California and even served as a consultant to Toronto FC in the MLS. But now he has come, and the future of U.S. Soccer looks like a bar of Kinder chocolate: sweet with a good mix of German intuition and American manufacturing. Never has it looked this optimistic, not with the silent Bradley, nor with the five-year old accent of his predecessor Bruce Arena.
Soccer has turned a corner in this country. It’s not there yet, but just hiring Klinsmann shows that U.S. Soccer is serious now, ready to compete. They could have just hired another MLS coach (Carlos de los Cobos anyone?).
Who knows, this place could turn into a soccer country after all. Don’t think so? Just look at the millions of Facebook statuses and tweets from the Women’s World Cup final.
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
Contact Andrew Gastelum at firstname.lastname@example.org