Posted: Friday July 14, 2006 4:46PM; Updated: Friday July 14, 2006 7:14PM
If U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is a smart guy -- and who are we to question the brainpower of a Columbia economics professor? -- then he'll do everything within his power to hire Jürgen Klinsmann as the next coach of the U.S. men's national team.
It's not too complicated, really. By showing the door to manager Bruce Arena -- who was denied his wish of remaining for a third four-year term -- Gulati is saying that he'll find a better alternative to Arena. And no matter how you feel about the U.S.'s performance in World Cup '06, this much is true: There aren't many better viable alternatives to Arena moving forward.
Klinsmann, who resigned as Germany's coach this week, is clearly at the top of a short list.
No candidate combines Klinsi's qualifications for the job:
Proven international coaching success? Check. (He just led the Germans to a third-place finish at the World Cup.)
Commands respect as a former player? Check. (He won a World Cup and numerous individual awards during a sterling playing career.)
Knows the peculiar American soccer system? Check. (He has lived in Southern California for eight years, follows MLS and can often be spotted at obscure coaching conventions and player combines in the U.S.)
Has an attacking mentality? Check. (One look at what the former striker did with the once-restrained Germans and you know the U.S. would get more than four total shots on goal in the next World Cup. Klinsmann could work wonders with the psyche of Landon Donovan.)
Shows a willingness to innovate? Check. (His reliance on American trainers and sports psychologists was mocked by offended Germans ... until they started winning and begged him to stay.)
Can speak Spanish? Check. (Sort of. Klinsmann knows four languages and has begun taking lessons in Spanish, a mastery of which should be mandatory for all future U.S. coaches to help bring more Hispanic players and fans into the U.S. system.)
Surrounds himself with talented people? Check. (Joachim Löw, Klinsmann's assistant with Germany, is a master tactician and a more-than-capable replacement for Deutschland. Former player Oliver Bierhoff was another great hire on his staff. Klinsmann would show the same eye for talent as the U.S. coach.)
But the big question about Klinsmann is this: Does he even want the job? He sure hasn't acted like it in his recent statements, but he has also admitted that he is burned out. If you give Klinsmann some time to rest on the beach, that may change. (It's not like he'd need to be hired next week. The U.S. doesn't have any major events until next year's Gold Cup, and even that notion of "major" seems dubious.)