In Defense, Klinsmann Plays the MLS Alternative | US Soccer Players

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 20, 2013) US Soccer Players - United States National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has rarely passed on an opportunity to suggest ways Major League Soccer could improve itself. His dual laments that the American season is too short and the environment not soccer-centric enough are constant refrains as he simultaneously coaches the senior squad and attempts to philosophically transform American soccer. It’s not that Klinsmann doesn’t believe MLS is good enough to produce quality players, he just clearly thinks it could be doing more.

That explains why Klinsmann has spent so much of his tenure as US coach pushing MLS players to challenge themselves abroad and exhibiting a clear preference for foreign-based players. In those cases when Klinsmann does call-up domestic talent, it’s typically due to issues of depth. His most recent roster for crucial Hexagonal World Cup qualifying games against Costa Rica at home and on the road against Mexico is the latest example. Faced with a rash of poorly timed injuries, Klinsmann called in a group of defenders with just two foreign-based players.

Preferences go out of the window in times of great need, like those the Americans are facing now with games against the top two teams in the region in a span of five days. Instead of a retinue of players getting regular time in Europe ready to step in, Klinsmann has found ready – and match fit – replacements in Major League Soccer. His attitude about the league’s ability to produce international quality players gets set aside mostly because he has no other choice.

Sitting on the bench in Europe, no matter the pedigree of the club or the level of the league, is no substitute for playing. Even MLS players, who Klinsmann seems to be slowly warming to, are better options than idle names once written in ink on the National Team lineup sheet. Say what you want about Klinsmann’s methods, but he’s clearly not blind to that fact.

There’s reason to think that Klinsmann is coming around on just how much talent MLS has to offer. Though, if we’re being fair, his issue has never been with the quality of American players the League possesses, but in the type of professional soccer experience it provides.

For players in America, soccer is a job. For players in Europe, soccer is life. The former might be the healthier condition for long-term personal happiness, but the man in charge of the National Team sees the latter as more conducive to helping players reach their full potential on the soccer field.

Klinsmann has settled on Omar Gonzalez as the team’s center back of not only the future, but of the moment. Would he like to see Gonzalez move to Europe this summer, further stretching his capabilities in an environment Klinsmann views as more immersive, and therefore better suited to bringing out the best in players? Of course. Whether or not that happens, as long as Gonzalez is playing well and the older guard of US central defenders are struggling to get time with European clubs, Gonzalez is the best option.

The same logic applies to several defenders Klinsmann called for the round of two games coming up on Friday and Tuesday. Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, and Steve Cherundolo are unavailable, leaving Klinsmann with only MLS players as viable options for fullbacks. Enter Justin Morrow of the San Jose Earthquakes and Tony Beltran of Real Salt Lake, two players without a cap between but with whom Klinsmann is familiar through their calls-up to the MLS-heavy January camp. Klinsmann’s issue now – in the fourth round of qualifying with two of the toughest matches on the calendar back-to-back – is whether debuting those players now is too large a risk.

So why not bring those players in earlier in the cycle, when the stakes weren’t quite so high? Because despite Klinsmann’s incorrigible tinkering, he identified a select group of players to introduce during the last round and did not delve any deeper. Naturally, those were foreign-based players, keeping the potential MLS depth out of the picture. In a few cases, Klinsmann chose to play players out of position, both in qualifiers and friendlies, rather than dip further into the MLS-heavy player pool. Jose Torres, a midfielder by trade, made an appearance at left back. Maurice Edu, a defensive midfielder, played center back. If the idea was to maintain a measure of continuity, Klinsmann belied it by constantly shifting his starting lineup.

Klinsmann has never repeated a starting eleven in 24 games in charge. When the Americans hit the field against Costa Rica on Friday, it will be 25 for 25.

Thankfully, it gets somewhat easier from here, and the injury plague that hit the team will probably never again be this bad. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be a significant MLS element in the squad. Again, Klinsmann appears to have warmed, perhaps reticently, to the idea of more MLS influence. Yet, with the return of first team names, the US head coach won’t have his hand forced. MLS will continue to serve as an emergency pool of players who are regularly playing, making for better options than foreign-based stars who aren’t.

Under Klinsmann, Major League Soccer is the US National Team’s alternative. It’s there if it’s needed, even if it’s not always wanted.


Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the co-host of The Best Soccer Show. Contact him:matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/davisjsn.

More From Jason Davis:

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Upside: Well in contention | US Soccer Players

Their Words

“If we’d showed a little more concentration in some of the games, we could easily have had another four or five points on our account. That said, our position in the race for a European place hasn’t changed that much. We’re still well in contention, though it remains very tight.” Schalke 04 goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.

The Radar

    USA – Costa Rica. Brad Davis added to roster. Gold Cup gets soft drink sponsor. MLS plays through international break. Other leagues don’t.

Ten Stories

A history lesson ahead of USA vs Costa Rica – from ESPN FC’s Roger Bennett: “CONCACAF felt like the wild, wild west back then,” Harkes recalled.

U.S. Soccer’s Missing Piece – from The NY Times’ Sam Borden: “If he didn’t take the break, it would have been unhealthy,” Dunivant said.

Amid new scrutiny, Klinsmann may already have recipe for survival – from Pro Soccer Talk’s Richard Farley: The U.S. boss is always aware of the conversation, but as the legend holds he doesn’t take any of it personally.

Arrieta, Costa Rica prepare for American test – from Goal.com’s Kyle McCarthy: Arrieta will hope to play a more significant role in this affair than he did in Panama City.

USA needs result against Costa Rica – from Fox Soccer’s Jamie Trecker: A win against Costa Rica is hardly out of the question.

Premier League warned over ‘rich and poor’ split in wake of TV deal – from The Guardian’s Owen Gibson: but it is understood that the Premier League is unlikely to unpick the deal.

LMA boss Richard Bevan ’embarrassed’ by recent sackings – from BBC Sport: “I’m not sure where the arrogance of football comes from that we don’t have to behave as any other industry.”

Michael Owen – a penalty-box predator who became a victim of his success with Liverpool and England – from The Telegraph’s Paul Hayward: He was too good and too dangerous to leave out of the Liverpool starting XI and was forced to hone his skills as he went along.

Is being ordered to play behind closed doors really a punishment? – from The Independent’s Matthew Campelli: Have previous results suggested that the punishment is successful?

Failed Baltic Bank Risks Breaking Hearts 1,000 Miles Away – from Bloomberg’s Bryan Bradley: A supporters group is in talks to acquire the club.

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

In CONCACAF Qualifying, Winning at Home is Key to the Region | US Soccer Players

By Charles Boehm – DENVER, CO (Mar 21, 2012) US Soccer Players – A warm sun has been shining down on Colorado’s Front Range this week, raising daytime temperatures to late-spring levels. Combined with the belated mountain snowfall that salvaged the ski season earlier this month, it has prompted giddiness among the region’s famously outdoorsy population.

A similar mindset seems to have taken hold regarding Friday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier between the US National Team and Costa Rica at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Tickets for the match sold out in around an hour, and local ticket resale websites reflect a bustling secondhand market with top-dollar prices.

“We’re excited, the guys are excited,” said US goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who will take over the No. 1 spot between the pipes due to Tim Howard’s recent back injury. “We’re looking forward to the game, it’s going to be a great atmosphere here in Denver.”

The weather forecast looks to be somewhat less hospitable on game day. Snow showers are incoming and nighttime winds will be icy.

That strong fan support will be welcomed on Friday, when the US face Los Ticos – a side they have not defeated since 2005 – in a pressure-packed situation which could tell us a great deal about how the rest of this Hexagonal round will unfold.

They say the first goal in every match is the hardest. It may prove to be much the same in terms of wins and standings points in this Hex. If the injury-hit Yanks hold serve and garner three points in this “must-win” (in the words of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann himself) match, the waves of worry currently washing over the US soccer community will recede rapidly. Both the team and its fans can move on to Tuesday’s tall task against Mexico at Estadio Azteca with soothed nerves and modest expectations.

“Every home game in the hexagonal is a must-win situation,” Klinsmann, who wasn’t available to media on Wednesday, told reporters on a Monday conference call. “You want to get all the points possible in your home games so, independent of the result in Honduras, it’s a must-win on Friday night here against Costa Rica. We approach it that way.”

Qualification is still possible should the week ahead garner one or even no points against stiff competition. Just as pundits and fans filled the time between last month’s loss in Honduras and this week with critical postmortems, worst-case scenarios, and unsettling “what if” questions, the aftermath would present its own mental and psychological challenges. There’s two months of downtime before the squad gathers again for the friendly against Belgium in May.

The intensity and complexity of the team’s current situation was portrayed in explosive fashion in a lengthy Sporting News article by Brian Straus on Tuesday, a searching, exhaustively reported piece which has set tongues wagging at an even higher speed and raised questions about collective morale.

Veteran striker Herculez Gomez, however, laughed off the idea that a 0-1 start to the Hex — or the kerfuffle about Straus’ article — ramps up the pressure for a group that always knew every point would be precious at this stage.

“This is our second game. It’s funny, really, how everybody’s almost pressing the panic button,” Gomez said. “This is a long road. That being said, every game is a must-win for us, not just Costa Rica. Every game at home is a must-win for us. That’s our mentality. You have to win at home and steal points on the road. That’s the key to this region. Once people start figuring that out, we’ll all be better for it.”

Much of Klinsmann’s tenure is a big picture discussion about style, development, and ambition. Now, however, the focus is laser sharp. It centers on one rugged but clearly understood task. The United States must beat Costa Rica at home.

“It’s an opportunity for the rest of us to step up and make sure we take care of business on Friday,” said Guzan.

Because in the end, only standings points can answer the critics. There’s a storm coming, and the US, regardless of the litany of injuries which have robbed them of several key contributors, know they need to come through with flying colors.


Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Follow him on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/cboehm.

More from Charles Boehm:

Four to Watch for the USA in MLS this Weekend A Work in Progress: Better Late than Never for Brad Davis The Future We’ve Been Waiting to See Pressure in Puebla

US Soccer Announces Venues for Home World Cup Qualifiers | US Soccer Players

On Thursday, the United States Soccer Federation announced the remaining four venues for their home World Cup Qualifiers. 

June 11 against Panama at CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.) June 18 against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah) Sept. 10 against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio) Oct. 11 against Jamaica at Sporting Park (Kansas City, Kan.)

“We are really excited about the venues we have selected for our home World Cup qualifiers,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Winning your games at home is crucial, and we know that at each of these stadiums we will get amazing support from the fans. There are so many great facilities in this country, and to be able to play in this many soccer specific stadiums in MLS cities shows how far this sport has come.”

Also on Thursday, US Soccer announced that the US National Team will play Germany in an international friendly on June 2nd at Washington DC’s RFK Stadium. 

Questions: Streaking Teams in Major League Soccer | US Soccer Players

By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Mar 21, 2013) US Soccer Players – Tony examines the playing situation in New England before their home opener, wonders if the Crew will score in the first half any time soon, and asks when it became ‘release an international player week’ in Major League Soccer.

How close are the Revolution to being undefeated?

They’ve got a stingy defense, and the fifth best player in MLS (Matt Reis), according to the Castrol Index. Those are the positives.

Looking at it another way, even though they have just played twice, they’ve got Kansas City for their home opener. They’ve only scored once (off a set piece). They only have two players in the Castrol Index top 40. They’ve only had five shots on goal in two games (including zero for Juan Toja, who has twice as many fouls created as shots), along with the same number of corner kicks.

You can argue they held out well on the road against Philadelphia, but right now Jay Heaps’ team would win the MLS ‘most likely to suffer for a momentary lapse of concentration’ award. That’s a lot of pressure on a young, growing team, who need to prove to a fan base begging for good soccer that they are worth watching.

Just like last season, are you likely to miss a goal for the Crew if traffic delays mean you don’t get to the stadium until halftime?

The Crew have five goals this season, and each and every one of them came in the second half, following 21 of their 34 last season. Five different players have scored already this season for Columbus, showing either nice balance in the attack without Eddie Gaven (who returns this weekend) or that teams are focusing on Higuain and Arrieto and others are stepping up. Consider it mixed news. Columbus needs to do more with the opening 45, but other teams keying in on the Crew’s elite attackers already shows its limits.

What is the longest home winning streak in all competitions in MLS history?

Real Salt Lake’s 34, which Houston are approaching (they are at 32 currently). Well, winning should be amended to ‘non-losing’ streak, or Houston wouldn’t have finished fourth in their conference last season. Nevertheless, with streaks in the NHL and NBA receiving considerable attention, that Houston has gone 33 games without losing at home, despite injuries, call-ups, Champions League, playoffs, is pretty impressive.

So what does it mean when a soccer club, even one with more than one club under its umbrella, has a sporting director and a director of soccer?

We’re going to find how it works under the Guadaljara – Chivas USA situation, as Juan Francisco Palencia was appointed as director of soccer for both clubs this week. Palencia, whose red card in the 2006 playoffs sank a very good Chivas USA team, will apparently work with Sporting Director Dennis te Kloese. However, the press release makes no mention of the Los Angeles club.

When did this week become ‘cut international players from your roster’ week?

Toronto released academy product and Canadian international Matt Stinson, while Seattle was expected to release last year’s starting right fullback Adam Johansson yesterday. Both teams cited salary cap concerns, along with new or supposedly imminent signings. Interestingly, the ‘roster rules’ section of pressbox.mlssoccer.com, states that teams are not allowed to buy out guaranteed contracts during the season to free up budget space.


Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.

More Questions:

What We Learned from the Texas Derby Breaking Ties in MLS and CONCACAF The CONCACAF Champions League Roster Conundrum Defense in New York and MLS in Control

Opportunity knocking for Joe Corona? | US Soccer Players

By Charles Boehm – DENVER, CO (Mar 21, 2012) US Soccer Players – An absentee list as long as the one facing the US National Team this week is always going to become a leading story line ahead of two massive World Cup qualifiers. One man’s crisis is another’s opportunity, however, and after just 26 minutes in his first three caps, 22-year-old midfielder Joe Corona can hardly see his latest call-up in any other light.

“Yeah, of course,” he said on Wednesday at the close of a USA training session at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting for a long time. I mean, every time I’ve gotten called up, I haven’t had much playing time. I think I’m doing good in my club, I’m trying to do my best here at practices to get that opportunity and show why I’m getting called up.”

Corona’s exploits with reigning Liga MX champions Club Tijuana, along with his Yank teammates Edgar Castillo and Greg Garza, have provided head coach Jurgen Klinsmann with a perfect demonstration of one of his central concepts: the value of competing on successively bigger, tougher stages.

Corona has been a familiar face in the Xolos midfield as they climbed to the summit of their domestic league, then waded into the Copa Libertadores tournament that was their reward for Liga MX glory.

“Like Jurgen says, it helps me a lot, personally, to keep going as a player,” said Corona. “You play different teams with different styles of soccer, with great players that help you be an international player. I think all that confidence and all that soccer, I can bring it into here and support my team.”

Schedule congestion and long-haul travel are the side effects of that opportunity. Xolos have already played five games this month alone, including a mind-boggling 12,000-mile road trip to Sao Paulo for a bruising meeting with Corinthians, 3-0 winners over Tijuana last Tuesday.

“When I flew into Denver, I was feeling a bit tired, to be honest,” said Corona, a dark-horse candidate for a spot in Klinsmann’s first XI, most likely on the left side of midfield. “But I got my rest in. I’m 100 percent ready to get some playing time.”

Corona was a member of last year’s US Under-23 team and showed enough promise in the unsuccessful Olympic qualifying effort to draw an invite up to the senior squad, making his debut in the 5-1 trouncing of Scotland in Jacksonville, Fla. on May 26.

A parade of more experienced faces have started ahead of him in subsequent matches, limiting him to late-substitute roles in last summer’s friendly win over Mexico and the win over Guatemala in Kansas City which wrapped up the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying. Now he’s returned to the US camp with the circumstances in his favor, and he sounds cautiously optimistic about his place in Klinsmann’s thinking.

“Sometimes,” Corona said on Wednesday when asked about the feedback he’s received from the US boss. “In the past camps he would talk to me a lot. In this camp, I think he gets a little bit more that I understand the way he likes to play, and so he doesn’t give me as much feedback because he knows that I’m doing fine.”

Some positional adjustment is usually required when he rejoins the Yanks. While he admits he’d love to play a No. 10 role in US colors, the left-footed Corona is ready to take on a flank role should his coach persevere with his preference for twin defensive, ball-winning presences in the center of the park.

“I personally like to play in the middle; attacking mid, behind the forwards,” said Corona on Wednesday. “That’s where I usually play with Xolos and that’s where I feel comfortable. But here with Klinsmann, I play more wide. But sometimes I like to get into the middle.”

A native of the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, Calif., Corona has been soft-spoken in his US career thus far. But he expresses his excitement about the prospect of the USA’s Mexico-based contingent playing a bigger role in these pivotal qualifiers, with him, Puebla winger DaMarcus Beasley and Santos Laguna goal scorer Herculez Gomez all in the frame for a role on Friday.

“It’s a different style of soccer, Mexican. We like different things,” he said, acknowledging that playing tendencies can vary greatly in the US squad thanks to the different qualities of the European and North American leagues where they play their club ball. “We like to get the ball, we like to look for those goal passes, those assists. That’s just the way we play and I think we can help the National Team a lot.”


Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Follow him on Twitter at:http://twitter.com/cboehm.

More from Charles Boehm:

In CONCACAF Qualifying, Winning at Home is Key to the Region Four to Watch for the USA in MLS this Weekend A Work in Progress: Better Late than Never for Brad Davis The Future We’ve Been Waiting to See

Upside: A more vocal leadership role | US Soccer Players

Their Words

“Clint is one of our most experienced players and ready to assume a more vocal leadership role.” US National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann on naming Clint Dempsey captain.

The Radar

    USA – Costa Rica. The Hexagonal. Dempsey gets US armband. 18th-ranked Brazil vs 5th-ranked Italy. MLS plays through international break.

Ten Stories

Klinsmann playing with volatile U.S. chemistry set – from ESPN FC’s Roger Bennett: Klinsmann has witnessed the multiplier effect of great team chemistry up close.

Guzan and the long wait – from FIFA.com: “I wouldn’t want anyone else.”

The (G)loved Ones – from The NY Times’ Tom McCabe: “America Soccer Goalies Equal to Best in the World” — so read a headline in The Newark Evening News on Jan. 18, 1935.

USA VS MEXICO: A RIVALRY – from The Inside Left’s Dominic Bliss: he hinted that he wanted to bring more of a Latin influence to the team, but I don’t think they have achieved that yet.

Crew seeks to build momentum in tough opening stretch – from The Columbus Dispatch’s Adam Jardy: but definitely I think we’ve underachieved our goal for this month,” midfielder Justin Meram said.

Impact puts up some impressive numbers – from The Montreal Gazette: There is some bad news for the Impact, however.

It’s next man up after last man down for Colorado Rapids – from The Denver Post’s Nick Groke: “It’s been a little bit crazy, a little bit hectic,” Irwin said.

Belizean bacchanal: Frustrated Warriors force venue change – from Wired 868’s Lasana Liburd: Nothing has come easy for the Warriors of late….

Applause for Blatter as Platini continues to lose the plot – from World Soccer’s Brian Glanville: So the daft thirteen, count them thirteen, country tournaments now proposed is a desperate compromise.

I’M AUBREY, FLY ME – from In Bed With Maradona’s Martin Cloake: These days the idea of travelling to watch your team abroad is seen almost as a rite of passage….

All links are provided as a courtesy. US Soccer Players nor its authors are responsible for the content of third-party links or sites. For comments, questions, and concerns please contact us at editor@usnstpa.com

Friday's Soccer TV: World Cup Qualifying

 The United States hosts Costa Rica in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying at 10pm on ESPN and UniMas. Also in CONCACAF, Telemundo has Honduras – Mexico at 5pm.  Jamaica – Panama is on beIN Sport at midnight. 

UEFA World Cup Qualifying on ESPN2: Spain – Finland at 4pm.  ESPN Deportes has Israel – Portugal at 8:45am and Croatia – Serbia at 1pm.  GolTV has Kazakhstan – Germany at 2pm and Sweden – Ireland at 4pm. France – Georgia is on Univision Deportes at 4pm.  CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying on beIN Sport: Colombia – Bolivia at 4pm, Uruguay – Paraguay at 6pm, Argentina – Venezuela at 8pm, and Peru – Chile at 10pm.  All Times Eastern

MLS Adjusts Sounders and Galaxy Schedules | US Soccer Players

With the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy advancing to the semifinal round of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League, Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that the League will adjust both of the clubs’ schedules.  MLS chose to move the league games in between April’s Champions League semifinals to later in the season. 

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA, Sept. 4, 10:00 p.m. ET [MLS Live, Direct Kick]

(Previously scheduled for April 7)

LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact – Oct. 16, 10:30 p.m. ET [MLS Live, Direct Kick]

(Previously Scheduled for April 6)