WASHINGTON, May 31, 2012 – You have to admire Jurgen Klinsmann. He was a superstar soccer player; a World Cup winner with Germany, and now the head coach of the nation he has come to call home after years of living in sunny California. He’s confident, and eloquent in English. He follows his own drummer and he’s an innovator when it comes to coaching.
It’s inspiring to hear him talk about the game, because here is a man with amazing soccer credentials and a vast experience from playing at the very top of the sport. He was an artist as a player, scoring some wonderful goals and a joy to watch. That’s why it was a little jarring on Wednesday night at FedEx Field after the U.S. lost 4-1 to Brazil, to hear him telling the media that his team has to get “more nastier” and “step on toes more.” Does Klinsmann really want midfielder Jermaine Jones, who collects a yellow card in almost every game, and left Neymar with some bruises, to play nastier?
On another night, perhaps if he wasn’t angry; if the U.S. had not given up a penalty kick, and been beaten 4-1 by what could be called Brazil’s under-23 team, Klinsmann probably would have been saying something else.
He might have said: “There’s a team [Brazil] we need to play like. That’s what we aspire to be. We need to get our kids in the U.S. to play like Neymar. That’s my goal, come join me.”
And that’s not being naive or giving Brazil too much respect as Klinsmann suggested his team had done in the game in Maryland.
Granted, Klinsmann was stressed. They’ve done stress studies that have shown that coaches are more stressed out than the players who run off their stress on the field.
Let’s face it, some of the Americans played quite well. Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson and Herculez Gomez all put in a good performance. Even Jones played well at times. These players don’t need to get “nastier” they just need to play better as a group and learn from teams like Brazil.
We don’t need nastier players, we need ball artists like Klinsmann was in his day, and like Neymar, Brazil’s amazing 20-year-old phenom. American still has a long way to go before it can beat the Brazils of the world. That said, the U.S. team has already come such a long way, evidence by how the U.S. team at times took the game to Brazil.
It was inspiring to see Bradley working so hard on the field and using his imagination. He is developing so well playing in Italy. His pass to Johnson that set up the goal for Gomez was sublime. Yes, the U.S. did give up four goals, but the team was not played off the park. Far from it, this was a good performance in many ways by the Americans who didn’t take on a bunker mentality. Obviously, there’s work to be done on fixing the defense, but there is great potential in this team under Klinsmann and its exciting to watch.
When you watch Brazil play the “beautiful game” the word “nasty” doesn’t come to mind. Klinsmann should never utter the word.
For over 20 years John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon
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