First off, kudos to Sasha Victorine for getting the sit-down interview with Jürgen Klinsmann.
That’s the kind of must-see pregame interview that there needs to be more of in MLS.
As for what Klinsmann said, it makes me wonder if USSF president Sunil Gulati realizes that the pressure in this World Cup cycle is squarely on him.
Gulati admitted that the United States missed an opportunity to do something special at the World Cup in South Africa. But after bringing back Bob Bradley as coach, Gulati backtracked a bit.
“With a little time to reflect, more than a day or two, you look back and that was a good World Cup experience,” Gulati said in a conference call. “That hasn’t changed my view that we all would have wanted another game or two. Bob agrees with that; we’ve talked about it. So the disappointment comes from being in a situation where we had a chance to advance.
“It’s a little bit strange because if we had finished second in the group, played Germany and lost in overtime 2-1, my guess is we would have all felt differently even though the performance for the final outcome would have been the same except we wouldn’t have won the group.”
Talk about wishful thinking. Anyone who watched the World Cup would be hard-pressed to believe the United States was capable of taking Germany to overtime. Germany wasn’t at full strength when it beat Ghana in regulation during group play, and it likely would have had an easy time with the Americans.
But I digress.
Think back to May of this year. Most U.S. fans believed a trip to the second round of the World Cup was inevitable. Group C was a cakewalk with Algeria and Slovenia in the pool. Yet the United States struggled in each of its games and won the group in large part because England was so inept.
A change of coaches would have been welcomed, but the stumbling block with Klinsmann appears to have been about control.
No surprises there. Even Joachim Löw has had battles about player development in Germany.
But Gulati wouldn’t loosen his grip, even if it meant bringing in Klinsmann.
“Verbally we agreed on that the technical side is my side, and I should have a 100 percent control of it,” Klinsmann told Victorine. “Written terms, they couldn’t commit to it. At that point I said, ‘Well then, I can’t get the job done because I have to have the last say as a head coach for my entire staff, for all the players issues, for everything that happens with the team."
“Unfortunately they couldn’t commit to that, and that was basically the end of our talks, and then they agreed then to continue with Bob as the head coach, and that’s totally fine.”
It is totally fine. It’s clear that Gulati strung Bradley along (again) and no matter what happens in Brazil in 2014, Bradley is off the hook. Gulati wants control, so he has to suffer the consequences if the United States doesn’t advance to at least the quarterfinals in Brazil.
That’s got to be the benchmark. The U.S. made a stunning run to the quarterfinals in 2002. After a dismal showing in 2006 and an expected finish in 2010, there must be a return to the excellence we witnessed eight years ago.
And if there isn’t, it’s all on Gulati.
| Pete Grathoff, email@example.com