Great first FanPost, gladly fronted. Hopefully we start seeing a lot of this kind of stuff from the community, we're happy to promote good FanPosts to the front page frequently. -KM
Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival into the USMNT camp proclaimed the arrival of a new attacking style of soccer for the national team. After four years of a conservative Bob Bradley, fans were delighted to see a man who led a new-look German side to the World Cup semifinals take charge. Delusions of beautiful attacking soccer danced in USMNT fans’ heads, and all of our problems were assumed to be a thing of the past.
One year into JK’s reign, it is clear that even by Brazil 2014 the USMNT will still be playing the same type of defensive and counterattacking soccer that defined it under Bob Bradley. This is not an indictment on Klinsmann or Bradley, but rather the cold hard reality the USMNT does not have enough of the type of players to play a high-tempo attacking soccer style favored by Klinsmann.
As painful as it is to admit, a national team manager has little control over the development of the players under his command. There is no selling players, sending them out on loans for more playing time, or even multiple practices to work on new techniques and strategies. If the coach is lucky, new players will grow of age and be able to contribute to the national team. Managers are lucky if they get more than 3-4 practices during an international break, hardly enough to cover tactics for the upcoming match let alone improvements to technique.
The two biggest wins under JK have looked eerily similar in tactics, though the talent of the players available makes things look slightly different. Against both Italy and Mexico the USMNT bunkered down in their defensive end and stayed compact. The players picked their spots moving forward on the counter, and were able to get several chances. Through a little bit of luck and good fortune, players capitalized on these chances and then the team held out for the victory.
The story sounds pretty familiar, if I removed Italy and Mexico and replaced them with Spain and Brazil, it would sound exactly like the Confederation’s Cup matches against Spain and Brazil when coached by none other than Bob Bradley.
Now I’m not knocking the JK appointment. I don’t think a national team manager should ever stay more than four years, and it was Bradley’s time to go. Klinsmann has also shown an ability to bring out a more attacking personality with the USMNT, but he can’t fix glaring weaknesses with the roster. A great national team manager works with the players he has to maximize their potential. Maybe he brings in some new additions by looking outside the traditional player squad, but he can’t spend a year implementing a style of play like he could at a club.
If you want an even better example of why the USMNT isn’t going to suddenly play attacking soccer ask yourself how radically national teams change their play style. The Dutch still try to play attacking soccer without defense. Spain has always played possession soccer, the only difference is they now have the talent to play that way effectively. England has always been a 4-4-2 hoof it up top style, and the Italians haven’t changed their ways in decades. Even the Germans are still similar to their style before Klinsmann, he just ushered in a youth movement and changes to the backroom workings of the federation.
There is only one way the USMNT is going to change their play style, and that is from a drastic overhaul in how youth players are coached in the US. But that is the subject of another Fanpost for another day.