Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has steadied the ship with the national side.
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has steadied the ship with the national side.

Football: Team USA fans can take it as they like it with Jurgen Klinsmann

Klinsmann has applied his original coaching techniques to get the American side working efficiently again, writes Mike Tierney.

It is easy to lose count of the television commercials and movie trailers that have borrowed for their sound track the musical query, How You Like Me Now?

If we can tolerate one more episode, it would be appropriate for the rhetorical question to be posed by Jurgen Klinsmann, manager of the US national football team.

Nearly two years have passed since USA Soccer dubbed Klinsmann the lodestar of the senior side, giving him a wide berth to fulfil a daunting mission: elevate a recently ascendant but plateaued programme to a nosebleed-inducing level.

Some 209 nations belong to Fifa, football's world governing body, and the populace in most of them eat, sleep and breathe football. Americans might nap and nibble on it; only a few are rendered breathless.

Still, no US coach is under greater scrutiny. To the masses, the players are barely recognisable, if not anonymous, which makes him the face of the federation. And the bar, heretofore set at merely advancing out of the group stage at the World Cup, has been raised.

When Klinsmann was appointed, it was fair to ask: "Do we like him now - and will we ever?"

At quintuple the salary of his predecessor, Bob Bradley, USA Soccer hired a coach of unassailable intelligence and a broad-minded approach in a sport hidebound by tradition, yet whose managerial methods and tactical acumen have been suspect dating to the creditable but disappointing third place as coach of Germany in the 2006 World Cup - and the subsequent blink-and-you-missed-it stint with Bayern Munich.

It is fair to guess that Klinsmann, a German citizen, absolutely kills it in job interviews. Speaks five languages. Eclectic enough to have been educated in the field of bakery, his family's business, and to pilot helicopters, which he has used to commute in traffic-clogged southern California, his longtime residence.

There is no chapter in any mainstream coaching handbook about taking players on field trips. Or introducing them to yoga or meditation.

Klinsmann has embraced both, going so far as to furnish Bayern's headquarters with statues of the Buddha.

The old guard in America must have wondered if USA Soccer were hiring a Teutonic version of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. ("One, two, three omm!")

Klinsmann's methods inevitably caused hand-wringing, especially among players.

In the lead-up to World Cup qualifying, even during it, he would alter the line-up from game to game - and not inform affected individuals until the day of.

The perception was, he was overly focused on the intellectual at the expense of the physical, the psychological rather than the tactical.

Too, the transition to a promised attacking, freewheeling style of play seemed at times moving at a glacial pace.

Much of the American football family covered their eyes and plugged their ears when the team bowed to Honduras - Honduras! - in the opening match of the last phase of Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying.

It now safe for them to free up their senses.

Team USA enter the summer hiatus on a wave of four wins and a draw. With four qualifying matches left and only a top-three finish needed, Klinsmann could insert a few Buddhas in his line-up and still scrape up the necessary points to punch a ticket to Brazil.

Given the overhaul of squad and philosophy, it was too much to expect a seamless, snap-of-the-finger switch to Klinsmann's system.

Team USA have displayed more giddy-up in attack, if not as much as the coach anticipated to this point.

Whether Klinsmann gets credit or not, a star has been born under his watch: the striker Jozy Altidore, who produced 31 goals last season for the Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, is scoring at a goal-a-game pace for the national side.

If the wizened Landon Donovan returns cured of burnout and meshes with Altidore and the back line is sufficiently rebuilt and the German-born team members blend with the home-growns well, not only can Klinsmann ask, "How you like me now?"

Americans can ask: "How you like our chances of reaching the quarter-finals - or beyond?"

sports@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Yuvraj Singh, left, and Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrating after they won their IPL match against Delhi Daredevils at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: IPL 7 action at Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s power-hitters laid down a marker at the first opportunity in IPL 2014 as they cruised past a hapless Delhi Daredevils with eight wickets, 20 deliveries, and about three more gears to spare in front of a packed house at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday, April 17, 2014.

 Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium on April 13, 2014 in Swansea, Wales. Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

‘That’s why we are a top club’ says Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech

Jose Mourinho’s men will temporarily claim the Premier League top spot if they beat Sunderland, leaving them in control of their own destiny in the title race ahead of a crucial trip to face Liverpool at Anfield on April 27.

 Chris Burch will play fly-half as part of a new-look back line for the UAE national rugby union team that will face Singapore at The Sevens grounds in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National

Chris Burch to lead UAE’s charge against Singapore

he UAE’s bid to safeguard their place in the second tier of Asian rugby against Singapore next week will be piloted by a player who was contemplating retirement from the sport at this time last year.

 Opening performance during Day 3 of the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the First Gulf Bank Arena at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National

In pictures: Day 3 of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

All the action from Day 3 of the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the First Gulf Bank Arena at Zayed Sport City in Abu Dhabi.

 Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez, second left, celebrates his goal with team mates, and coach Diego Simeone, third right. Atletico are on the cusp of a Primer Liga title. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki

Atletico Madrid look to edge towards Primera Liga title before Chelsea visit

Diego Simeone's men need to win just four of their five remaining games to seal the Primera Liga championship and they take on Elche before the first leg of their Uefa Champions League semi-final against Chelsea on Tuesday.

 Jorginho accepts the challenge that lies ahead for Al Wasl's improvement, and the club says it will give him time ... if they see results.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Wasl will give Jorginho time but results in Arabian Gulf League are needed

Al Wasl officials said they will provide Jorginho, their new coach, sufficient time to change the club’s fortunes while also warning that his fate ultimately will depend on results.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National