To start, you are warned that this post is really long. A lot longer than I expected it to be, honestly.
At his introductory press conference in New York this morning, new U.S. national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann went into quite some depth about what he wants to do with the senior squad and also youth development in this country.
Here is the transcript, as provided by the U.S. Soccer Federation.
(And thanks to them for providing it, because it would have taken an eternity for any of the rest of us to transcribe it ourselves.)
I would encourage you to read the whole thing, although I understand that there's a lot here. So maybe you could print it out and read it on your commute to work in the morning, or something like that.
There's also my post from earlier today with a transcript of Klinsmann's conference call with national reporters.
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati
It’s been an exciting summer, which is still going on with some terrific games – Barcelona and Manchester United over the weekend, lots of big crowds and the excitement of the Women’s World Cup. The excitement of the Gold Cup set all sorts of records in attendance and television ratings.
There were some ups and downs obviously for our teams on the field, but overall the health of the sport in this country certainly is quite good and headed in the right direction. That doesn’t mean there won’t be wins and losses along the way, but we’re very pleased, generally, with where the sport is headed.
Having said that, I think today is a very important day and perhaps the start of a new era for us. We’re extraordinarily excited about having Jürgen Klinsmann join our team, to lead our team and to help lead our technical program.
Jürgen’s experience, both as a player and coach, and as a resident of this country – and I think all three of those are important – we think are huge assets. The latter solves whatever we think about having an international coach, and whether they’ll know America, and know the difference between Duke (University) and the Portland Timbers, and all the things that are specific to the U.S., like the role of education, geography and so on.
Jürgen has that. He’s been a resident of the country for 13 years and has studied a lot of things. He’s lived around the world. He’s multi-lingual, and that is in addition to his vast playing experience and the coaching experience with the German national team and Bayern Munich. His record is extraordinary. It speaks for itself.
We’ve had discussions, which have been widely reported, for quite some time. We’re going to focus today on going forward, although I’m sure there is some interest in how we got to today, and we’ll address that, but we really want to focus on going forward and the excitement in the sport.
It’s also a reflection of the sport that there has been so much interest in this announcement, in the fate of the national team. We think all those things are positive.
On the issue of control
Between [Jürgen and I], there has never been an issue of control. I think that’s a bit of a red herring. Jürgen’s comments previously were about being able to incorporate that onto a piece of paper. The understanding that we’ve had about moving forward and collaborating, quite frankly, has been pretty clear for many years.
How to best incorporate that is something that we’ve been able to get through, and it’s been a collaborative effort in all areas.
On why the change is happening now
Quite a bit of it is always results. We take time after every major competition to reflect on that competition and what led up to it. It’s not a single game, or a single result. It’s where the program is, and how comfortable we feel in the direction that it’s going. That’s based partly on results for sure, partly on the last year, and we made a decision that it was time to make a change.
The timing was never good for a change. We have a game in nine days, so that’s not an easy situation for Jürgen to walk into. In some cases, players have been contacted and he may or may not choose those same players. After the Gold Cup, which is a benchmark for us, it was a natural time to look at where we were.
On whether he thinks there is an American approach to the game
Prior to us having any discussions about coaching the team after the World Cup in Germany, Jürgen outlined what he had done when he had first gone to Germany on that issue of style and why that German team felt, played and looked different than previous teams. It’s exactly what he just outlined which we were fascinated with.
He essentially had a series of conversations in some sense with the country, but with players, with coaches, with media about what they expected, what they wanted German soccer to represent at the international level. Given the diversity of this country, that sort of dialogue here is exciting.
On national team coaches having two World Cup cycles and whether Klinsmann will be given two cycles
The second cycle issue is always an awkward question because most coaches that aren’t very successful, defined at some level for their own circumstances and their own country, don’t get that opportunity, and those that do have generally done well in the first cycle. To improve on a good performance is never easy. On statistical grounds, there’s not many of them and it’s not easy to measure.
The commitment we’ve made for now is through the World Cup, so it’s not a seven-year commitment. We’ll look at that along the way. In the case of Europe, there are four and six year commitments quite often around a European Championship.
The Gold Cup has become increasingly more important for us when it leads to the Confederations Cup and as a competition in itself, so we’re worrying about the next three years, and the next nine days with a game right off the bat. We’ll see how it goes over that period of time.
In the case of Germany, Jürgen was able to get comfortable relatively quickly - not in seven days - to get that team ready, and we’ll look forward to that over the next three years.
On his meeting with Bob Bradley and the importance of Klinsmann’s World Cup experience
After the Gold Cup, we started to review the year and the five years. In the last 10 to fourteen days, we came to some conclusions, and that’s Dan Flynn, our CEO, and I for the most part. I don’t think I’m going to get into details on the meeting with Bob. These are always difficult situations.
Bob has done a very good job with the national team and has been a good friend long before he was the national team coach and I was U.S. Soccer President, so those moments are difficult. With regards to Jürgen, it’s a great thing to have someone who’s been there, who’s been on the winner’s stand at the World Cup, and at the European Championship. That’s a unique situation. He’s had a bronze medal as a coach at the World Cup.
For us, that’s a fantastic situation that he’s played at the very highest level, coached at the very highest level with Bayern and with Germany, but to have actually tasted the success of winning the World Cup we think is a plus for sure.
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann
Thank you for those kind words, and for having me here today.
I’m really excited about this opportunity, this chance to coach the U.S. team having lived here for the last 13 years, and also getting to know the U.S. Soccer environment, having connected with this country in all sorts of environments – the youth level, the college system, MLS. There has always been a feeling around that maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to coach the U.S. team.
Obviously, as most of you know I took over Germany for two years, guiding them to the World Cup in 2006, then had a one-year experience with Bayern Munich. But I have always stayed, for family reasons, deeply connected with the U.S. team. This is a big moment for me personally and for us as a family, and I’m really proud that I get that opportunity to be part of the future of U.S. Soccer.
It’s going to be a challenge, absolutely. It’s going to be quite demanding the next couple of weeks to get my hands around this. There is a game coming up next week against Mexico already in Philadelphia, so it’s a lot to do.
We’ll be calling up the players now, getting the squad together and knowing that isn’t going to be too easy since a lot of players had their breaks and some haven’t even played a game yet in the new season in Europe.
But that’s all just part of the job. I’m really excited about that opportunity on all levels. I’m obviously talking with Sunil and a lot of people here in the U.S. Soccer environment and it’s about the bigger picture.
Obviously, the main responsibility is the men’s team and moving that program forward, but it’s about discussing with a lot of people involved in the game about what happens in the youth scene and in all the developmental areas.
It is an exciting moment and I want to thank you for coming today and giving me such a wonderful reception. I look forward to answering all sorts of questions, and hopefully see you next week in Philadelphia for the first big one.
On why he decided to take this job now
Sunil and I have obviously talked, and sometimes it was just talks in general, not just about maybe someday being the head coach of the U.S. team, but always about where is the sport in this country, the big issues on the table and the challenges ahead. Throughout those years, there were always different moments and different opinions, which is normal.
It was never really the moment before. Now there is a feeling of understanding that it is just a moment of a certain comfort level between the two of us, and the federation and myself. It’s not about power; it’s about topics that float around, challenges. There is so much going on in this country right now.
In the past year we’ve seen Academy clubs rising on the youth level, which is a big topic. We see where the youth national teams are going, and obviously we see the development of the men’s and women’s teams and their directions. There are always different moments, different timing, and right now the timing is right.
We had a clear understanding of what we want to do, and that’s why I’m really happy that we’ve thought about this and found a comfort level for moving forward.
On how he intends to fix some of the issues of the team
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the team. They lost a Gold Cup final against a very, very good Mexico team that over the last couple of years became one of the top 10 teams in the world and have a lot of talent.
When you come into a situation like this, you analyze every individual player, the team itself and the program, which I’ll have the chance to do during the next couple of weeks, to see how I can develop them further.
You build on what was built before, and if you look back on the past 20 years in this country, a lot has been built. The U.S. has, since 1990, always qualified for the World Cup. The U.S. has made a lot of noise with MLS being introduced. Now look where MLS is.
I know in the beginning there were eight or 10 teams and half of those were supported by Phil Anschutz. Now, you have a league with 18 teams and growing next year again. There are development teams being introduced with the Academy program. It’s come a long way, soccer in the United States.
I’m now getting this opportunity to move it further. We can build on what has been built by Bob [Bradley] in the last five years, and before that by Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson and so on. I’m proud to get that opportunity.
Having played abroad in different countries, Italy, France and Germany, I have my own ideas for the program. And I will, step by step, introduce the ideas that I have, always double checking if it suits the American game.
I’m not coming in here to be the European guy. I’ve lived here for 13 years, so I think I know a lot about certain issues. But I think you can also be proud of what you’ve achieved over the last few years where soccer is now. Look at this press conference. Look at three or four soccer television channels. Who would have thought that 15 years ago?
It’s a lot of movement going on, and I want to be part of that movement and help out with it. There is a lot to do.
On whether he thinks there is an American approach to the game
I deeply believe that soccer in a certain way reflects the culture of a country. Having studied the U.S. culture over the last 13 years, it’s quite a challenge. You have such a melting pot in this country with so many different opinions and ideas floating around there.
Every coach obviously has his own ideas, and then you have the whole challenge of youth soccer in this country being based on a very different model than anywhere else in the world. Your educational system is completely different than the rest of the world.
One of my challenges will be to find a way to define how a U.S. team should represent its country. What should be the style of play? Is it more proactive and aggressive, a forward-thinking style of play? Or is it more reacting style of play?
That comes with the players that you have at your disposal, but also the people that you are surrounded with, and the people that have an opinion in this country, like the media, like coaches.
There’s such a wealth of knowledge in this country. In Europe or in South America, it’s unheard of. The college coaches have a four-year education as well. Traditionally in Europe, you become a pro at the age of 18, so you never get to go to college.
It is important over the next three years, especially in the beginning, that I have a lot of conversations with people engulfed in the game here to find a way to define that style. What suits us best? What would you like to see and identify with?
I think a great example is the women’s team, and how they played their World Cup final. This is how America wanted to see their girls play that game, and they did an awesome job. It will be one of our main topics, always sitting down and discussing that. It should reflect your mentality and your culture.
If you talk about Brazil, you know how Brazil plays. You know about Argentina, you know about Italy. They sit back and wait for one mistake, and if you do, they’re going to kill you.
We defined that with Germany in 2004, which was a very difficult process, but we worked through that process and now it’s settled that style of play. Your opinion is important. College coaches’ opinions are important. Youth coaches’ opinions are important. Everyone is involved in that process, players as well. I’m looking forward to a lot of talks.
On whether he has spoken to any of the players or staff ahead of the Mexico game
I spoke to about five, six players over the weekend. We were extremely busy to get this whole thing organized and get officially ready to work and move forward towards the Mexico game. I spoke to five or six players, and I will call the rest tomorrow.
I pretty much have a picture of where they are at right now with their club teams, especially if you look at the overseas players, their personal situations, some without a club right now.
It’s not going to be easy to form a highly competitive team, but we will get it off the ground. That being said, about the staff, me, Sunil and Dan had a good talk about that as well. I would like to approach it in the way that I will work from game to game with different people.
I won’t confirm a full time staff over the next couple of months, because I want to see what’s out there. There are a lot of good, highly qualified coaches in the U.S. that I might not know. I need to talk to people and understand what’s out there.
We’ll talk to a lot of MLS coaches and get their perspective and see who I can invite as guest coaches, guest assistant coaches. I won’t come in and say this is my staff. It was a different situation seven years ago with Germany, because of the media pressure and the speculations. You needed to calm that down right away.
Here, because we’re not jumping into qualifying right away, we have that opportunity where we have exhibition games so I can try out different coaches on my side to see how they are doing.
I had a great conversation with Claudio Reyna, and I want Claudio very close to me in terms of helping him in his new role as a Technical Director for Youth Development at the Federation. He will always be a part of the staff, and he will sit with us coaches at the table so I can tell him how I look at the game and how I can be of help to him.
I spoke to Tab Ramos. I want his perspective, and I want his information about what’s coming through in the Under-20 and U-17 level even if I have seen some of those games already, and I kind of already know most of the players from watching them, but I will take my time.
Hopefully by Wednesday, we can announce the roster for the Mexico game so we can give you a clear picture on who is on that roster of 20 players and also announce who will be my assistants on the training field and on the bench.
It won’t be a coaching staff that will be confirmed for the next three years. We will take our time. I want to make sure that I get to know a lot of different people, a lot of different approaches, because covering this country here is a different challenge than a small country like Germany.
On the debate about foreign and domestic coaches for the U.S. team
There are pros and cons. I think foreign coaches can bring a lot to the table because of their experience in certain high intense environments. If you coach a national team in South America or Europe, or a club team, you are in the daily grind.
This is really something you have to deal daily with - this amount of journalists instead of once in a while. You have a different perspective on the game, and you are used to working in a different environment.
It is important to understand the specifics of U.S. Soccer. It is important to understand your culture and how you grow up and where your emotions and priorities are. It took me years to understand how important this whole educational path for people is in this country.
I never got it the first couple of years, and I said, ‘Why is the program really not that important to people, and why is it always about where you are going to college? What’s the high school? Where are your kids going to school?’ I always responded, ‘My kids are going to school at the next closest school. What’s the big deal?’
Over the years, I saw that those are the reasons why you think that way and it’s because it’s a completely different setup. It’s important that I know all those things, and it’s important when a foreign coach comes in, he gets the time to understand all those mechanisms.
You always have to consider the different people in different roles. One thing is to coach the U.S. team and develop players in this country for their future, and the other thing is you may have to prepare them for a World Cup in Brazil or wherever in Europe.
Suddenly, totally other circumstances come in where maybe a U.S. coach, in that moment, is very comfortable in whatever happens in this country, but suddenly he is out of his comfort zone when he is in Brazil and deals with different nations and different styles of play and different issues there.
One of the fascinating topics we will have over the next months and years is what people can we work with on a global basis? That doesn’t mean you bring in an assistant coach from Europe just to have an assistant coach from Europe, but maybe you have some people in Europe that help to work with the U.S. Soccer Federation and they live in Europe.
You have the case that probably two thirds of your squad of the best 20 players are in Europe so maybe a thought is, ‘Should we have somebody in Europe to oversee those players so I don’t have to fly back and forth every weekend?’ I will build, with Dan and Sunil together, we will build a network with people who help U.S. soccer to move forward and quietly. It doesn’t need to be on the media surface.
It’s amazing to talk to foreign coaches about what happened here in the U.S. A good friend of mine is Berti Vogts in Germany, or Cesar Menotti of Argentina, or Carlos Alberto Parreira in Brazil. When I talk to these coaches, they admire what has happened here in the last 20 years.
Carlos Alberto was here for a year and experienced MLS himself, which was a huge challenge for him because he didn’t know how things worked. Suddenly there was a draft and he said, ‘What’s a draft?’ We don’t have that in Europe and South America.
To learn from those coaches for your own program is also very important, and I have most of those relationships already, and I will build further relationships with coaches abroad and then see what is best for U.S. Soccer.
On whether he would like to see a uniform style of play for the youth system in the United States, what changes he would like to see in the youth system and if that was a sticking point in the negotiations at any point
That was never a sticking point. It’s actually a fascinating point and I think, yes, the youth teams should reflect, again, the mixture of your cultures. It should reflect what’s going on in your country and there’s so much going on and that’s why I think Claudio Reyna’s role is very, very important to find a path, with us together, how those teams should play and how they should be put together.
There’s so much influence coming from the Latin environment over the last 15-20 years. It also has to be reflected in the U.S. National Team, and you have so many kids now with dual citizenship, Mexican or other Central American countries and American, so that will always be a topic to discuss.
Obviously, you won’t have a copy in your Under-20 or Under-17 of the Men’s National Team because players are different. Players have all different characteristics, so every coach needs to find his own little path of how to put things together.
But overall it should be a broader understanding of how also the youth teams should play, and this will be one of the main topics going forward. What started from U.S. Soccer with the youth academies, it will expand and will get bigger and bigger.
All these discussions are important and also important for you, media, to have your say in it. I’ve talked to a lot of youth coaches, my boy is playing youth soccer, my girl as well, and they all wait for information.
They are very knowledgeable on the youth level in this country but they also ask those same questions. I think there’s a huge opportunity to discuss things and bring different people in and hopefully define more and more how the style should look like.
On how he would describe the mentality of the country in regards to how he thinks the U.S. Men’s National Team should reflect the mentality of the U.S.
Studying your culture and having an American wife and American kids, mainly right now my understanding is that you don’t like to react to what other people do. I think this is maybe a starting point. I think America never really waits and sees and leaves it up to other people to decide what is next. I think America always likes to decide on its own what is next.
This guides maybe towards a more proactive style of play where you would like to impose a little bit the game on your opponent instead of sitting back and waiting for what your opponent is doing and react to it. It always depends, also, on your opponent.
If you play Brazil or Argentina, you might play differently than maybe a country in CONCACAF, but it is a starting point if you say we want to start to keep possession, we want to start to dictate the pace of the game, we want to challenge our players to improve technically in order to keep the ball.
All those components you have to build into your training sessions and have to build it into the curriculum for the youngsters because the earlier they start with that type of work, the better it is.
Barcelona was not born in the last couple of years. It was born, the style of play now, in the early 90’s through Johan Cruyff. It took 20 years for that moment today that we see and all admire, just to take an example. So I’m really curious to hear all the different opinions out there.
On the expectations of the U.S. Men’s National Team over the course of the next three years
Expectations are always based on what was built over the last 10-15 years. When you coach Germany the expectations are to be in the final. Other than the final, the country is not happy.
I think expectations here certainly are different because of how the game grew in the last 10-20 years. I think a quarterfinal is already huge. I think going through the group stage is really, really important and then going to the knockout stage where anything is possible.
But obviously you want to improve, you want to get better, you want to be better than the last World Cup and the World Cup before, but you can’t promise anything because once you’re in the knockout stage, anything can happen.
On the challenges he faces
I think there are a lot of different challenges ahead of us, especially on the foundation level and the foundation is youth; how they should be trained, how often they should train, how much time they should spend with the ball, how they should develop their talent, and it all feeds into Claudio’s new role here.
This is really important to be addressed from the beginning because I think this is what is really missing compared to the leading soccer nations around the world, the first 10-12 nations around the world, is the amount of time kids play the game.
If you have a kid that plays in Mexico 20 hours a week, and maybe four hours of organized soccer but 16 hours of unorganized soccer just banging the ball around in the neighborhood, but if he gets up to 20 hours it doesn’t matter how he plays it, with his dad or with his buddies in the street.
This will show later on with his technical abilities, with his passing, with his instinct on the field and all those things, and I think that’s certainly an area where a lot of work is ahead of us.
If you look at MLS, they took major steps forward. It’s come a long way, but it’s still a hectic style from the college game, which slowly we have to get it more on a technical level, we have to get it on more comfortable level with the ball, and so there are developmental issues.
I think there are pros and cons. It’s come a long way, but we have a ways to go still to break into those top 10 in the world. We need to be realistic that we are not belonging there right now, or not yet.