Overtrained and Undercoached: Anonymous Sources Close To The USMNT Rip Jurgen Klinsmann’s Method

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Written By Chris Azzopardi

Jurgen Klinsmann might be a native of a small town in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany, but he’s just about as California as they come. The USMNT coach’s holistic approach to leading his charges through World Cup qualifying has yet to produce the type of results promised by his arrival, however, and if today’s story by Brian Straus of The Sporting News is any indication, it’s not just the fans that are frustrated.

Straus collected the thoughts and concerns of numerous sources close to the U.S. Men’s national team, including many players.

On the omission of longtime captain Carlos Bocanegra from the lineup in the loss to Honduras last month:

Bocanegra’s omission wasn’t the only surprise (starters Cameron and forward-turned-midfielder Eddie Johnson had been training with the reserves), but it was the most dramatic. The squad was unsettled.

“It was one of those things where Jurgen woke up the next day and wanted to try something we weren’t familiar with,” a player said.

According to multiple sources, Klinsmann appealed to Bocanegra—now relegated to the bench—for his support during the pregame pep talk. It was described as an awkward, tone-deaf move that surprised several U.S. players and deeply hurt the long-time captain.

“He already broke Carlos’ heart,” another source said. “Why drive the knife in and twist it?”

On the themes of discontent across many parties connected to the team:

In conversation after conversation, the same themes emerged:

— Klinsmann and chief assistant Martin Vasquez either lack the tactical acumen and game-day chops to successfully lead the team or fail to communicate their wishes effectively.

— Too much time and too many resources are spent on initiatives that don’t translate to the field.

— Constant lineup changes and building resentment over the perceived importance and attitude of the German-born players are harming team chemistry.

The first is the “Jogi Löw” factor, missing from this team and often pointed to as a reason Klinsmann’s Germany success might not translate to the USMNT. The lack of a sound tactician on the staff leads to confusion on the field.

“(Klinsmann) didn’t really say how we were going to play. It was a quick turnaround,” one U.S. player recalled. “He just basically said, ‘Guys, we know the importance of the game. We know it’s going to be a tough game down here. They made it a national holiday. They’re going do everything they can.

“ ‘They’re going to bite, kick and scratch. They’re going to do everything to take you out of your game. But at the end of the day, it’s a game. The ball doesn’t change. The way we play doesn’t change. So just go out there and represent yourselves well.’ ”

Klinsmann’s scientific approach has ruffled some feathers.

“We do all this stuff. OK, it’s good for us and it’s scientifically proven. But in the end it’s a round ball. The Pelés and the Maradonas in the world weren’t doing all these things,” a U.S. player said. “I think we spend more time worrying about gyms and nutrition, and we don’t do enough of what we need to do on the field.”

Another source said the players are “overtrained and undercoached.”

Klinsmann, unlike many coaches, eschews strict training regimens.

To add to the confusion, multiple sources reported that Klinsmann’s training camps often are conducted in a “manic” fashion, with the manager frequently altering the schedule on short notice.

“He’s just scatterbrained,” a player said.

“He coaches based on feeling,” another source said.

The thread through Straus’s piece is just how uncomfortable the players seem to be with Klinsmann’s approach. But that doesn’t absolve them of their share of responsibility. At least one player recognized that fact.

“Bob was better at getting his message across. There was more of an identity,” a player said. “We’re still coming to terms with that (under Klinsmann). … Sometimes the message they’re trying to get across isn’t relayed the best, or as players we don’t apply it. It’s just different.”

Perhaps most distressing for USMNT fans is the apparent lack of chemistry in the locker room. If there was one thing the Americans were known for, it was a collective team spirit that often carried them through difficult game. The new German-American element in the team is a point of contention.

“They stay to themselves. Jermaine is the leader, and the rest of them follow him,” one player said. “I don’t know if they don’t care.”

“It’s like they’re here and they enjoy it, but they don’t care as much as you should to play for the national team,” said another player.

Does the German head coach play favorites with the German players?

“(Klinsmann) isn’t going to bring them all the way from Germany and sit them down,” the same player said. “But Bocanegra, who’s the most capped guy on the team, isn’t playing. Everybody found that a bit disturbing, not having our captain. That guy has the most leadership in the squad and to not have him in a game like that was really peculiar. If you go back and look, when did we get together or have any sort of huddle on the field? It was just everyone on their own terms.

“Everyone was doing their own thing. And it showed.”

For all of the scathing indictments of Klinsmann the piece holds, it’s worth noting that team dynamics are a two-way street. With loss in Honduras fresh in their minds, it’s hardly surprising a number of players have derogatory things to say about their head coach. The issue of culture shock, and the dramatic shift Klinsmann represents from Bob Bradley, is certainly a factor.

In other words, everyone needs to get their shit together. The Americans face Costa Rica on Friday in Colorado, an absolute must win from both a qualification and morale standpoint, and Mexico in Mexico on Tuesday.

Read the rest here.

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