Friday, February 6, 2015

An (Unlikely) Exit from the (Alleged) Klinsmann Konundrum

The guy on the right just needs blonde hair.
My brain fried irreparably during ExtraTime Radio’s (ETR) latest podcast on What Jurgen Klinsmann Said (e.g. the comments about fitness). Those latest comments turned more pundits and regular people against the United States Men’s National Team’s (USMNT) Teutonic Taskmaster than ever before – or at least they did within my orbit. (Against this, a comment in du Nord’s latest podcast nailed the dynamic: it’s either charlatan or visionary and with little in between). Anyway, I lost my patience with Klinsmann during ETR. I dunno, chalk it up to the power of Borg (as in Simon Borg), but I want the man gone (uh, that’s Klinsmann, not Borg).

Speaking of, is there some booth where interested parties can line up for a turn to punch U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) President Sunil Gulati in his stupid squishy face? I never liked the expansion/extension of Klinsmann’s contract through 2018 and my opinion of it gets lower and angrier every day. Could it be Klinsmann talks like he shits purple rose petals because he feels untouchable? Even if the USSF offered that extension in the midst of brighter days (yes, I did forget all that), his accomplishments hardly warranted such a full and unquestioning surrender to his Bavarian wiles.

Making matters worse, or maybe just more stressful, I keep hearing (David Gass on ETR; Jason Davis on Backheel’s Soccer Morning) that Klinsmann’s not going anywhere, not with that contract and not when he has the full faith and regard on the USSF brass. Helplessness enjoys a very direct, special relationship with anxiety. Gulati will be especially tough to crack because how often do you see an executive actually admit to a mistake. Wait...sensing a theme here...

And, yes, the reality is that Klinsmann will likely survive just fine through 2018. Face it, it just doesn’t take that much in CONCACAF to get results. If the program stagnates, or if Jurgen actually damages it, well, put it this way: signs of rot are notoriously subtle (in fairness, so are signs of progress). That said, I really, really need to believe that there exists some form of failure so unavoidably, undeniably obvious that the USSF would have no choice but to call the Klinsmann Experiment dead. To borrow a scenario from ETR’s podcast, what if Klinsmann “lost” his players? (And don’t forget the rumors from the summer of 2013). Unlikely as the USMNT results/performances will keep on sucking, what if they did? I mean, there has to be point of no return? Even with a contract? Right? Ah, yes. There it is. The USSF canned Bob Bradley.

So, if it did come to that, I had a thought. Why not retain Klinsmann as technical director? It provides some form of escape hatch for all concerned, for starters. Maybe the USSF saves some money if it voids only half of Jurgen’s portfolio (I said could; I’m not claiming to know contract law). There’s one potential, deeper advantage in making this shift. While I’ve never rated Klinsmann as a coach, the man is one hell of a gadfly. So, why not let him continue as the stern, unappeasable father-figure for the U.S. program? Or as the foreigner who gleefully mocks our national laziness, naivete and obesity? (I use "gleefully" advisedly; listen to the audio and tell me the man isn’t cackling as he rips his players).

What the USSF does then is bring in a new head coach, someone who can serve as a buffer between Jurgen, the angry-father and his trembling (waddling?) players. American, not American, doesn't matter. Just find a smart tactics guy with a big teddy-bearish heart. Think good cop/bad cop. Or, hell, think God and Jesus. Whatever you call it, that's a dynamic with long, proud history.

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