A New Mien for the Job

Thursday, August 11, 2011 | View Comments
- Evan Rosenthal

The demonstrative enthusiasm Jurgen Klinsmann brings to US Soccer was palpable last night from my seat in the second row behind the United States bench at Lincoln Financial Field. For those who felt that Bob Bradley was robotic and displayed little emotion and joy for the game, the first match of the Klinsmann era at least showed that there will be some smiles and fun in the US camp. Seeing the new coach standing prominently on the sideline in support of the players, rallying the team to put higher pressure on the Mexican defense, celebrating the goal, and greeting the substitutes with affection like a proud father, I was heartened by the new direction of the US Men’s National Team, and hopefully the entire program.

During the previous tenure, Bradley’s stern, workmanlike demeanor transferred to his team, who often played as if they did not enjoy the game. With his scowl and frowns, Bradley gave off the impression that he was not having much fun – certainly not a look that would inspire the passion of the players. But Klinsmann obviously loves the game of soccer, has fun playing as well as coaching, and from the one game so far, I think we can expect that will be the new ethos of his team – and hopefully the entire program.

Even the post match quotes were refreshing, where Klinsmann was open and honest and positive – and his comments even made sense. American fans have too long had to deal with the vague, guarded, and almost meaningless Bradleyisms, with each game making comments like “there are things we know we will have to improve” or “we fought hard but have to be better in certain situations” – and then never elaborating in much detail on those “situations” or “things.” Bradley’s inability to express himself while hiding behind a wall of stoicism made many followers wonder if there really was anything going on behind those walls or if it was just a fa├žade to hide his inexperience at the international level.

Based on his past as well as his words and actions yesterday in Philadelphia, it is clear that Klinsmann has a mature and well-formed view of the game and how it should be played – based on first-hand experience at the highest levels. Thus he has confidence in his knowledge and is able to talk openly about what he sees on the field and what he expects from his players. This clear thought and expression alone is a huge relief for the US soccer faithful, and will only encourage further support and attention to the team and the style of play they employ.

Klinsmann’s entire quote sheet (available on www.ussoccer.com) is enjoyable to read. But the most salient line to me, words that were new to the ear of national team followers, was “We want them to express themselves and have fun, and I think that’s what we saw.”

Jurgen Klinsmann’s task of advancing US Soccer is massive and has just begun. The fact remains that there still is a lack of professional-caliber talent, and that will have to be addressed through reform in the youth system. But for US soccer supporters, the new boss’s enthusiasm, positive disposition, knowledge, and open honesty offers a refreshing new direction for the sport.

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