Why Jürgen Klinsmann is a Perfect fit for USA Soccer and American Sports!
On Tuesday, July 1st the United States soccer team lost to Belgium 2-1. Tim Howard set a World Cup record for 16 saves in a game. Even though America lost, Soccer is on the rise in the United States.
USA soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann received criticism in May when he left veteran forward Landon Donovan off the roster for the 2014 World Cup. Klinsmann described it as “the most difficult decision of his coaching career” but that he sees other players “slightly ahead of Donovan”.
I think I was the only sportswriter in the country who agreed with Klinsmann’s decision 100%. Donovan has been a great soccer player for USA. He is very talented and a very good goal scorer. But, Donovan is 32 years old and his best days are behind him. Donovan’s presence would have taken away from the development of younger players. The United States is not going to win the World Cup this year. If they did, it would have been one of the greatest sports upsets of all-time. It would have been right up there with the 1980 USA hockey team defeating Russia
or Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Since USA is not going to win it all, Klinsmann decided to leave Donovan off the team and develop young players. His plan has worked perfectly. The USA has survived the “Pool of Death” (Portugal, Germany and Ghana) and advanced.
In the first game of the World Cup Jozy Altidore, America’s best scorer pulled up with a hamstring injury and left the game. Klinsmann didn’t panic, he made adjustments and the team did what they had to do to advance. Altidore hasn’t been on the soccer field since his injury. This is an amazing accomplishment because the American’s advanced in the toughest pool without their best player. I would compare this accomplishment to the Miami Heat making the Eastern Conference Finals with LeBron James not playing because of an injury.
When you look at the most successful pro sports teams in America over the past 10 years few names come to mind. The San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, and the Boston Redsox all have the same philosophy, “Don’t over pay for aging players, and incorporate young players ever year” By not selecting Donovan, Klinsmann has basically done this. For example, the Lakers are paying Kobe Bryant $24M a year over the next two years. Tim Duncan went from $21M to $10M per year. It is no secret why the Spurs won the NBA championship last season. They run their organization the right way and the Lakers Don’t. LA basically gave Kobe Bryant a lifetime achievement award. This is not a winning formula.
More American sports team should take a page out of Klinsmann’s book. Don’t give contracts or play athletes for what they were; pay them for what they are now.
Even though USA lost on Tuesday, Klinsmann has been a tremendous success. No one thought that America could survive the “Pool of Death” and they did. The future of American soccer is bright under Klinsmann’s watch. For the first time in World Cup History teams are fearful of the United States soccer team. America has been captivated by the team’s success and soccer’s popularity is growing at an alarming rate. In 5 years soccer will replace baseball as the third most watched sporting event on TV.
Klinsmann’s philosophy and coaching ability has been exactly what USA soccer has needed. I think several USA sports teams could learn from his leadership.