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Freedom Ball: Is It Time To Finally Thank Jurgen Klinsmann?

As both a player and a manager, nobody is more accomplished as a player and a manager than Jurgen Klinsmann. Despite scoring goals, coaching Bayern Munich and Germany at the 2006 World Cup, no job has been as daunting the development of the US Men’s National Team.

Last summer, Klinsmann received heavy criticism from the American Media due to his decision to leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster. Since then, Klinsmann has changed the opinions of his doubters and has quickly become a symbol of soccer’s growth on American soil.

“You can only go to another level, when you play someone on another level.”

Image from BBC.UK and Getty Images

Over the past few years, Klinsmann has challenged the United States Men’s National Team by scheduling friendlies against World Class opposition. Klinsmann is big a believer in the idea that in order to become the best you must face against the best. While this has resulted in rifts between Klinsmann and Major League Soccer, his ideals were proved valuable last summer, when America beat Ghana and drew Portugal, escaping the “Group of Death.”

In preparation for this summer’s Gold Cup, Klinsmann took the squad to face off against both the Netherlands and Germany. Faced against World-Class opposition such as Memphis Depay, Robin Van Persie, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil, the make-shift American lineup was able to collect two career-defining victories against both Germany and the Dutch. The two results will eventually prove to be extremely valuable in the future. 

“To integrate new players, to tryout different system, going to other places and risking some results. If we wouldn’t do that, there’d be no growth.”

USMNT vs. Netherlands – US Soccer

Over the past year, Klinsmann has faced unnecessary criticism for using new players at positions where they were not extremely proficient. The defense has allowed their opponents to score eight goals in the final ten minutes. While it’s inexcusable to finish games at a rate like this, it must be noted that these late goals have occurred during games when results were not necessary.

In 2014/2015, we have seen Brek Shea and Jermaine Jones make the transition from the midfield to defense while Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, and DeAndre Yedlin have played in both various positions throughout the experimentation period. Since moving to Tottenham, DeAndre Yedlin has failed to make an immediate impact. His flashes of improved techniques in addition to rapid pace, has Americans’ drooling over potential success.

Despite being criticized by fans in Brazil, Michael Bradley has shown tremendous improvement over the past season. Being paired full-time with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, Bradley’s confidence and skills have vastly improved. While Klinsmann hasn’t always favored Bradley, their relationship seems to be moving in the right direction.

Bradley will be a huge part in the development of Gedion Zelalem. Dubbed as America’s “Next Big Thing,” Zelalem has played for the Arsenal Youth Academy and continues receives high praise. Still only 18 years of age, Zelalem needs a mentor to foster his development as a professional athlete. The combination of Jurgen Klinsmann and Bradley, will prove to be an excellent support circle for the young midfielder.

As a former striker himself, Jurgen Klinsmann is having a tough time finding an adequate strike partner for Jozy Altidore. Altidore’s increased confidence has helped salvage his reputation as the feared striker he once was. Over the past year, here are the forwards which Jurgen has paired with Altidore: Juan Agudelo, Julian Green, Aron Johannson, Jordan Morris, Rubio Rubin, Chris Wondolowski, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes.

Overall, this experimentation phase is necessary and it hasn’t been that horrific. Finishing with 5W-3D-4L since the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann has the Yanks moving in the right direction.

“The U-20 World Cup is  a great experience for them to compete against the best nations from around the world. It gives them great preparation for the future so that they will hopefully have it on the senior National Team.”

US Soccer - Gedion Zelalem
US Soccer – Gedion Zelalem

Tab Ramos, Coach of the U-20 National Team, is overseeing the development of America’s future stars. Like he said in the quote above, the tournament which they competed in was an excellent opportunity for the youngsters to display their talent on the world stage, at the earliest of age. Featuring previously mentioned Gedion Zelalem, the U-20 team suffered a heart-breaking loss in the Quarter-Finals to Serbia.

Every game in this tournament was an audition. Future playing time for the country and also the chance of recruitment by clubs from around the world, were on the line for some of America’s best. To name a few, Emerson Hyndman, Bradford Jamieson IV, Gedion Zelalem, and Cameron Carter-Vickers were extremely impressive in the tournament and are attracting interest. Despite being so talented at an early age, Zelalem and Carter-Vickers will once again be eligible to play in the 2017 U-20 World Cup. While we shouldn’t completely overhype America’s youth, it’s exciting to look toward the future and what it may bring.

Final Thoughts

As a critical fan, I’m content with our progress as a team over the past four years. With that in mind, the task is nowhere near complete. I applaud Jurgen Klinsmann’s work (and what will hopefully continue over the next few seasons). Making soccer a centerpiece in the lives of Americans has been a hard task, but the German international deserves praise for the job he has done.


Featured, Soccer

Michael Anders View All

Born in NYC x Raised in VA

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