Klinsmann Blames Lack of Fitness for Loss to Chile
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U.S. MNT players Jozy Altidore, Mix Diskerud, and potential teammates Juan Agudelo and Sacha Kljestan, have signed with Major League Soccer, continuing a trend established by the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Jones to cast their lots with the American, and Canadian, domestic league.

Jozy Altidore will be hoping he can get back to scoring goals and being the impact player he once was.(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Jozy Altidore will be hoping he can get back to scoring goals and being the impact player he once was.(ISI Photos/John Todd)

Altidore made the biggest splash joining Toronto FC, Diskerud went to expansion club New York City FC, Kljestan to NYC neighbors New York Red Bulls, and Agudelo ended his exile by returning to his former club, the New England Revolution.

Normally a national team coach likes to have his players nearby, although the U.S. national team manager has always juggled domestic and foreign based players in his squad.

And while current coach Jurgen Klinsmann has groomed numerous MLS products for national team duty, in recent times the coach has been quick to point out the league’s shortcomings.

Don Garber was not impressed by Klinsmann's comments.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Don Garber was not impressed by Klinsmann’s comments.(ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Just last October MLS Commissioner Don Garber called Klinsmann to task for comments that he felt undermined the league. Klinsmann was unhappy to see U.S. stars Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley give up on European careers to return to MLS, and said so.

Garber and Klinsmann have since patched things up, but in a recent interview with MLS.com the coach again critisized the league and his players, while appearing disinclined to consider his own culpability for his team’s recent struggles.

Klinsmann explained that his team’s loss last week to Chile came about because his players were not fit enough to maintain a 2-1 lead, running out of gas after 60 minutes. The coach’s observations were hardly damning, given that the league is in its off-season, and that the majority of the roster was MLS based.

But with the U.S. MNT on a one win in nine match slide, Klinsmann elected to double down, blaming his team’s form on fitness issues, calling out both Major League Soccer, and the professionalism of his national team players in the process.

Klinsmann explained the team’s post World Cup slump by saying, “the tension drops after the World Cup. I think all of the teams go through that, but I think the more experienced teams, the teams that have far more peer pressure in their environment, they maybe allow themselves to drop 10 or 20 percent and not 30 or 50 percent.”

Klinsmann went on, “It’s an educational topic we try to talk them through. You’ve got to understand again to take these things in your own hands, and whatever you lack in that moment, when these phases happen, that you have to work yourself back: ‘OK, I understand that I’m not where I should be now … for sure I’m behind now, so I’ve got to get myself back into pole position,’ and that’s what they’re going through right now.”

Then Klinsmann took another swipe at one of his favorite targets, the MLS schedule. “It’s difficult for me now to get them out of vacation. Some of them played their last game in October. In October!” he said. “I want to help them get back into shape, get back into rhythm, but, oh, by the way, we’re going to play (two friendlies). So some learned over time and prepared themselves really well, and some don’t have that knowledge yet.”

Klinsmann surely should take some responsibility for his team's lack of fitness. (ISI Photos)

Klinsmann surely should take some responsibility for his team’s lack of fitness. (ISI Photos)

Three and half year’s into his tenure it seems truly remarkable that Klinsmann is still unable to get his team of international soccer players fit, fit being the one thing U.S. soccer players have always been acknowledged to be.

Klinsmann was fairly showered with praise for guiding the U.S. MNT to the Round of 16 last summer in Brazil, far more praise than his predecessor Bob Bradley received for advancing precisely as far four years earlier in South Africa. Then when his team was eliminated by a superior Belgian side in Brazil, Klinsmann exhibited that same tendency to put the blame on his players.

“I think,” the coach said at the time, “there is a little bit too much respect when it comes to the big stage, why not play them eye to eye.”

Virtually three years into his tenure as coach of the U.S. MNT, Klinsmann seemed to absolve himself of any responsibility for his teams mentality when he added, “I don’t know how many years that takes to change, but it’s something we have to go through.” “The players,” Klinsmann continued, “have got to realize they have to take it to the opponent.”

These remarks are undoubtedly intended as motivational by Klinsmann, and with a contract as both coach and Technical Director running through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Klinsmann is free to say pretty much whatever he likes.

It’s just that for a man who likes to preach accountability, it would be nice to see Jurgen Klinsmann hold himself to that same standard.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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2 Responses to Klinsmann Blames Lack of Fitness for Loss to Chile
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  1. Ben Myers says:

    I am 100% behind Klinsmann. It’s not just an inferior MLS, but also the totally disorganized crazy quilt of US soccer below MLS, that contributes to US National Team weakness. There has not been a cohesive program in place for the development of elite players, especially goal scorers. The top goal scorers in MLS have almost always been players trained in other countries. Jozy Altidore is the best we’ve got? I’m sure Jozy tries hard, but it is clear and obvious to this soccer observer that he is the product of a serious shortfall in US soccer training methods. By contrast, just watch the front runners at work in the EPL, and you see moves and plays to which few Americans have even given thought. I’ve written a long paper on this subject.

  2. Oscar Feliu says:

    I happen to agree with Mr. Myers on some of his observations… MLS is still in it’s infancy and it cannot be faulted for all the troubles that our National Team is facing, if you look at the world of Soccer globally, US Soccer is very new and doesn’t have the systems that make European or South American Football succeed. You may look at the field and find our players not as physical fitted and I do agree that their individual physical fitness should be and must be a personal commitment… I think that our players do not face the incredible competitive demands that exist on other leagues in the world and how the general public in those countries support their players and show their admiration… We must touch on this terrible problem with the U S Sports Media, that continuously discard Soccer; I know is getting better, but not even close to what it should be… Imagine a kid that loves Soccer and is enthused to watch the Us National Team play, but you can’t find the game on any US TV Station and have to watch the game transmitted on a foreign language; that’s discouraging, and parents can see no future in a sport that doesn’t get any media attention, so why should they support??
    Besides MLS is surely becoming a home for “has been great players”… We must BELIEVE in the future of soccer in America and spend our money in building our own players: That’s at the base of our lack of success…

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