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.
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.
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.”
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.