With everyone trying to cure their hangovers from last night’s historic win at Azteca, it is time for me to rain on ya’lls parade. I can say with dead certainty that JK will not bring an attractive and attacking style of soccer to the USMNT, even if he keeps the job through 2018.
The single biggest reason JK will not succeed in his quest is because national team managers do not change the style of players on the pitch. For the USMNT ‘A’ team, he gets maybe 20 – 25 days of practice during the entire year. That contrasts with 20-25 practices per month with a club team. Klinsmann simply doesn’t have enough time to turn players into attacking threats. At most he can try to get his ideas across, but trying to get players to radically change their style of play after 20 years is difficult at best, impossible at worst.
It also doesn’t help JK that the US does not produce technically proficient players, with a few obvious exceptions. Even stars like Landon Donovan are not going to set the world alight with their technical skill. Donovan succeeds because of speed, grit, and playing simply. Anytime he is asked to be a creative midfielder, the entire team suffers.
Look at every national team since we became relevant again in 1990, there has been a distinct lack of attacking football. The US is at its best when it sits back defensively and looks for opportunities on the counter. Our biggest wins have all come when we sit 9 behind the ball, and get a lucky break. Spain in 2009, Howard had a stupid amount of work to do before we got 2 goals on the counter. Italy and Mexico this year were both excellent examples of this defense first mentality.
The freest flowing game we have played in years came at the 2011 Gold Cup final, and our defense was terribly exposed in that 4-2 defeat. (Side note, Fuck Rafa Marquez) This lack of free flowing ability also helps explain our struggles against CONCACAF minnows. We are so comfortable in defense that any opportunity to attack leads to struggles. The previously mentioned lack of creative players makes it even harder to create chances in these games
The US will never begin playing attacking soccer until changes at the lowest levels of play take effect. Claudio Reyna is starting things with providing an emphasis on practices and quality training, but that is not enough. Players need to be learning the fundamentals of play at younger ages. It is shocking how many kids come into high school without the ability to trap a ball, or make a good instep pass. Mind you I’m referring to kids going to D1 colleges, not just the bench warmers for the season.
Of course Klinsmann was able to pull of changes similar to Reyna’s in Germany, but he did not have the same problems that he does here. In Germany JK just needed to deal with the various club academies and German FA teams. Plus, the only thing he had to do was to convince them to change the style of play they taught youth players. Not only would JK have to change the style of play in the youth ranks here, but he also has to convince youth clubs to completely change the way they change. The idea of 1 game per week and 4-5 practices per week is completely foreign to American sports not named football.
All we can root for is fantastic performances, and success at the World Cup. It may not always be pretty, but even Stoke has fans.