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German Engineering
Grant Wahl
August 08, 2011
Can Jürgen Klinsmann right Team USA's ship before the 2014 World Cup?
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August 08, 2011

German Engineering

Can Jürgen Klinsmann right Team USA's ship before the 2014 World Cup?

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Last week's hiring of Jürgen Klinsmann as U.S. soccer coach, one day after the dismissal of Bob Bradley, who was 43-25-12 in his five years at the helm, did more than cap a five-year-long pursuit in which Klinsmann twice said no to the U.S. The arrival of the German playing legend and coach of his home country's 2006 World Cup semifinalists heralds a new era of U.S. soccer, one that will be defined by Klinsmann's undeniable charisma and his desire to cultivate a recognizable American style. "Soccer in a certain way reflects the culture of a country," said Klinsmann, 47, at his unveiling on Monday before nearly 100 media members in New York City. "You have such a melting pot in this country, so many different opinions and ideas."

Klinsmann appears ideally suited for his new task. Not only has he played and coached at the sport's highest levels, but he also has lived in Southern California since 1998 and spent plenty of time learning about soccer in North America as a partner in a sports marketing consulting agency and as a consultant with MLS's Toronto FC. He promises to pursue a more entertaining style with the U.S.'s youth and senior teams, both by bringing in more Latino players—"There's so much influence coming from the Latin environment over the last 15 to 20 years that has to be reflected in the national team"—and by being less reactive on the field. "America likes to decide on its own what is next," Klinsmann says. "This guides me toward a proactive style of play, imposing more of the game on your opponents instead of sitting back and waiting."

Klinsmann won't finalize his staff for a few months, he said, preferring to use a cast of "guest coaches" in the team's upcoming friendlies. But it was encouraging that two names he mentioned as potential right-hand men were Claudio Reyna and Tab Ramos, the most creative midfielders in U.S. history. Victories are by no means guaranteed—Klinsmann's potential for spectacular success or failure, such as his dismissal from Bayern Munich after less than a full season as its manager in 2008--09, is a fascinating aspect of this project—but his hiring has injected a jolt of electricity into a U.S. men's program that had been stagnant in the year since the World Cup in South Africa. Klinsmann won't have much time to settle in. After a handful of friendlies, qualifying for Brazil in 2014—from a group that includes upstart Jamaica following the FIFA drawing last week—starts next June.

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