Wednesday is Jurgen Klinsmann‘s 50th birthday, and it also marks three years and two days since he took over as head coach of the USMNT. While many see the results of the 2014 World Cup as positive, the three-year run has not been earth-shattering. Klinsmann has excelled in some areas in the dual role as coach and development director. However, the play on the field has yet to show a major improvement. His run thus far leaves much to be desired.
When it comes to player recruitment, Klinsmann has been excellent. He created a larger pool of players and has swayed many dual nationals to come to the USMNT. Many national teams rely on players that have eligibility elsewhere, so U.S. Soccer was wise to look into possibilities with dual nationals. Klinsmann managed to scout and recruit Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson and others.
With the larger player pool comes the dilemma of selecting the right players to come to training and also to start. His player selection has been slightly above average, but there have been a few confusing picks. Will Bruin and Tony Beltran have been in the picture, largely ahead of Mike Magee. Geoff Cameron was one of several players placed into different positions despite showing strength at other places on the field. Michael Bradley was not up to his usually high standard as an attacking midfielder early in the World Cup.
Klinsmann changed his formation and system along with players only two months from the World Cup. This was detrimental his ability to teach tactics. Tactics has long been one of Klinsmann’s lacking skills, so he surrounds himself with others to fill the void. That will not work moving forward. The outward appearance is that he takes a back seat on tactics, but the stakes are too high for Klinsmann to just accept advice of others.
When it comes to media relations and creating a buzz, Klinsmann is a master. He only looked visibly shaken during a press conference once. That came during the first media availability after cutting Landon Donovan from the World Cup squad, a move that largely paid off, but will be debated for years. Casual soccer fans are aware of his name, and they want to see what his next move will be for the USMNT. Klinsmann’s role in developing soccer in this nation also makes him attractive to media and fans.
For the long term, not much has changed on the field. With the constant juggling of starting lineups and the players out of position, there is still a reliance on outworking the opponent. The attack-minded game plan rarely made an appearance as the USMNT looked to counter. Absorbing the play and looking for the breakthrough is something that fans have grown accustom to before Klinsmann arrived.
Klinsmann moves forward with a long contract as he looks to advance the national team and create a better foundation in the U.S. Time will tell if he is successful in reaching many of his goals from three years ago. For now, there is a slight improvement overall, but the changes need to translate to the field.