August 2, 2011


Klinsmann on style: 'America likes to decide on its own what is next' (Mike Woitalla, August 1st, 2011, Soccer America)

"Studying your culture and having an American wife and American kids, mainly right now my understanding is that you don't like to react to what other people do," he said. "I think this is maybe a starting point. I think America never really waits and sees and leaves it up to other people to decide what is next. I think America always likes to decide on its own what is next. This guides maybe towards a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it."

Klinsmann is credited for changing the German national team's style, from a patient build-up game to a quicker, attack-minded approach, when he took over in 2004 and guided Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, at which Germany was the highest scoring team and one of the few that resisted a one-forward lineup.

"We re-defined that in Germany in 2004, which was a very, very difficult process but we worked through that process and now it's settled, that style of play," he said.

Settling on a soccer philosophy in the USA, he says, is "quite a challenge, because you are such a melting pot in this country, so many different opinions, and ideas floating around.

"Every coach has his own ideas, then you have the whole challenge of youth soccer being based on a very different model than anywhere else in the world. Your educational system is completely different than in the rest of the world. One of my challenges will be to find a way to define how a U.S. team should represent its country. What should be the style of play? Is it a more proactive and aggressive kind of forward-thinking style of play, or is a more reacting style of play?

"That comes with the players you have at your disposal but also with the people who you're surrounded with and the people who have an opinion in this country, like the media, like coaches - and there's such a wealth of knowledge in this country. ...

"I think it's important over the next three years and especially in the beginning that I have a lot conversations with people involved in the game here to find a way to define that style.

"What suits us best? What would you like to see? What would you like to identify with?"

Klinsmann cited the U.S. women, who lost to Japan in this summer's Women's World Cup final on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie, but had played exciting attacking soccer in the final.

"I think this was how Americans wanted to see their girls play that game. And they did an awesome job."

There's real insight there. Bob Bradley's team was never more dangerous than when they were behind (which they frequently were early because he tried to play counterattack but only briefly [in the Confederations Cup] got his defensive alignment straight) nor more vulnerable than when they were ahead (see that Cup final against Brazil and the recent Gold Cup final loss) because he'd take his foot off the gas. Likewise, even people who never watch the game, but who got caught up in the Women's World Cup, asked in bewilderment why the US didn't keep attacking with the lead, given how awful our defenders were (as well as why we didn't just play crosses into the box given our huge height advantage.)

Mr. Klinsmann is an unlikely choice to fix the problem at the back, but he just might be the right guy to Americanize the game, and that could accidentally solve those problems. A more attacking formation, especially one that uses the two outside defenders to bring the ball up the wings, would not only suit our character and play to our strength in athletics and fitness, but it would force a greater emphasis on sturdy central defenders paired with two capable defensive central midfielders. In effect, you'd put the same sort of box in front of goal that the Boston Bruins use to such good effect. After all, goals aren't scored from out wide and a big physical defense can dominate when you try to play it in.

Posted by at August 2, 2011 7:11 AM

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