Saturday, May 24, 2014

Klinsmann the Younger, the Zapruder Film, and Other Stray Thoughts on the USMNT WC Roster

The 160-pound Icon Not in the Room

Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the WC Roster has obviously taken the Internet hostage over the past few days and will, undoubtedly, remain one of the USMNT’s top story lines through the World Cup.  In my humble opinion, the former is both understandable and deserved, but the latter is unfortunate. 

Every four years, the World Cup shoves soccer into the faces of millions of Americans who are either ambivalent or downright resistant to the sport’s development in the US.  Far more important than sticking it to the cranky old heads is the pulling of open-minded sports fans into the inescapable vortex of soccer fandom – exhibit A being your faithful scribe, the 2006 World Cup, and a genuinely unhealthy love for Riquelme.  NBC’s ratings for the Premier League increased all season and MLS is in the middle of an Anthony Davis-esque growth spurt, but the World Cup remains the single most influential advertisement for soccer in this country – a quadrennial referendum on what American soccer is and what American soccer will be.

The issue now, in light of the roster release, is that I imagine Donovan’s exclusion could become a central tenant of every USMNT pre and post-match analysis this summer.  The team wins?  "Hey, Klinsmann knew what he was doing, we never needed Donovan!"  The team loses? "What was Klinsmann thinking leaving him off?!"  It’s the kind of simple, reliable, black or white narrative that the mainstream media knows soccer-uninitiated fans will inherently “get.”  It’s made for online polls, it’s made for Twitter #’s, and it’s absolute liquid gold for the trolling heads who can’t be bothered to watch the actual game.

All of this is to say that Donovan’s exclusion is major news and should be revisited during the tournament.  I just hope that it doesn’t stop American “soccer-fans-in-waiting” from exploring all the little details – from outside of the boot passes to inspired tactical shifts – that make the Beautiful Game, the Beautiful Game.

Now that my rant is concluded, let’s eat a pu-pu platter of Donovan-related analysis.

We Talkin’ Tactics??

Over at, Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle finally confirmed he has ice in his veins with a tactical analysis of LD’s exclusion from the roster.  For my part, I always felt Donovan was more likely to play the role of impact sub whether the Yanks lined up with a midfield diamond (as nicely outlined by Doyle) or in the 4-2-3-1 we’ve also seen under Klinsmann.  Donovan’s athleticism may be on the wane and his goalless start to the MLS season confirms he’s not in peak form, but he’s scored a lot of goals, big goals, for club and country over the years. 

The last time we saw Julian Green, he looked to be exactly what he is: a technically-gifted teenager of enormous future potential.  I think it’d be reckless of me to further any conspiracy theories regarding his citizenship without any actual evidence.  I do think it’s fair to say that if we’re down 1-0 against Ghana in the 62nd minute, I’d be happier seeing LD taking off his substitute bib than the “green” Green (couldn’t resist).  If I’m the only one with flashbacks to Theo Walcott at Germany ’06, please let me know.

Klinsmann the Younger Takes Enforced Social Media Sabbatical

Of course, Doyle is one of the few people actually analyzing the California Kid’s exclusion on purely technical terms because of the widely-perceived personal rift between Donovan and Klinsmann the Elder.

As Alexi Lalas discussed, Klinsmann was openly displeased with Donovan’s (in)famous sabbatical in 2013.  Yet, LD’s key role in the Gold Cup later that year seemed to signify at least a “new normal,” if not clean start, for Donovan and the Klinsmann-era USMNT.  Their public exchanges have always been appropriately cordial and honest, even through the roster announcement last week.

Yet, there was a slip – a rather significant one to mine eyes – by Klinsmann’s son Jonathan, who let this typo-stricken tweet fly after the news broke.  Klinsmann the Younger is far from the only 17-year old to make a poor social media decision, but that he would even bother gloating about Donovan’s painful cut raises questions as to what the Klinsmann family chats about when they sit down for dinner.

The Roster Announcement Zapruder Film

Here’s a video of Klinsmann meeting with his final 23 for the first time, and there are a few stray observations I’d like to make.

1.) What was the score in the ping-pong game between Mix Diskerud and Graham Zusi when it was interrupted?  Was Mix upset about a “next point wins” ruling?  If there isn’t a recorded best of seven series with the loser having to shave his hair I’m going to be sorely disappointed.  Let’s make this happen.

2.) Klinsmann immediately seeking out Clint Dempsey to grab his shoulders and tease him about a lack of music will live on as one of the most awkward moments in USMNT history.  Reminded me of a well-intended, but poorly-conceived joke during a eulogy.

3.) You’ll notice Timothy Chandler, Jermaine Jones, John Anthony Brooks, and Julian Green all sitting together.  To be fair, that couch also included Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Ale Bedoya (while excluding Fabian Johnson, as far a I could tell) so I may be reading too much into it.  Regardless, it would certainly behoove Klinsmann to ensure the “German” contingent’s full social integration into the squad.  Johnson and Jones have been around awhile and I can’t see the team blaming Brooks and Green for being selected, but that group’s collectively shaky grasp of English means some extra get to know ya time may be required -- time they now have due to the early announcement.

That’s all I got, let me know what I missed below.


dikranovich said...

I am always reminded of jimmy Johnson's famous quote, "I treat all players the same...... Differently". I think what the great coach was saying was that every case is unique and the bar may be different for different players, and that is just the way it is. The fans often times don't like or understand this.

Another pretty good coach said if LD is not one of the best twenty three players than USA has a chance to win the World Cup. He might just be right.

Klinsmann jr., very poor choice of tweets, and very disrespectful, and not appropriate, but why did he do it? In his heart, wasn't he defending his father, who has not only gone to bat for Donovan, but also had to deal with his self imposed sabbatical, at a difficult moment.

There were more than a couple people calling for the coaches head after the sporting news article. And many people, fans, still to this day want to bemoan some tactics or perceived deficiency in said area. Meanwhile we have seen our national team play it's most beautiful soccer ever over the past 18 months, and that is a fact.

Go back and watch USA v Mexico in Columbus back in 05, or even 09, and USA has moved beyond that. We are sharper now and the movement is better, and so much about the way we are playing football today is so much better than just four years ago. Man!!!

There was a time not to long ago, this USA national team could not opporate without Landon Donovan on the pitch. Times have changed. I say people should be embracing this.

dikranovich said...

Carpe diem my little friends!!!

Unknown said...

For once I agree with Dikranovich on the LD exclusion issue.

jh16 said...

Too often we speak about the best 23 players. It is not about getting the best 23 players. It is about getting the best team comprised of 23 players. There is a good chance that JK felt that LD would have been a bigger distraction than contributor. LD was a great player and should get all the kudos he receives for past performance. He may still be a better player than some of the guys on the plane, but he may not have made the team better than it is right now.

RobUsry said...

Who hacked dikranovich's account and posted a rational and intelligent thought? Is this April 1st?


I watch the games. I have no life. That's all I do. Landon Donovan isn't Landon Donovan anymore. Could he have helped off the bench? Sure. Is Klinsmann giving up on this World Cup for not selecting him? Of course not.

soccer boy said...

Let's go back to 05-09. Bruce had less team in mls to pick players from. Plus weren't too many in europe to pick from. 09 we were in confed had a good striking core defense was solid. Till costa rica. Now today klinsman has the most 1st div teams to pick players from since the nasl stupidly expanded too soon in the mid late 70's. Plus their are a lot of players plaing in europe. Since you brought up 05-09 we will be returning to that. Cause even cause of all the attacking we'll be trying we will still be defending. Cause the teams who have the ball will be better than us.

soccer boy said...

Wonder if you'll ever get to a game (insder joke).

Unknown said...

Oh, and that 160 lb icon is looking more like 175 these days.

Brad said...

Twellman mentioned a second treat by Jr. in which he said someone else made the team over Donovan because he worked harder. Has anyone seen this tweet? Twellman wouldn't say who Jr. was referring to.

AWF08 said...

I'd just like to comment on the hyperbole being tossed around the comments section the past few days about the USMNT playing the best soccer it's ever played over the past year or just completing it's best year in history. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!
The best soccer ever played by the USMNT and their most successful year occurred at the exact same time in 2002! That World Cup was the single best moment in USMNT history for it's results and it's play. There has not been a string of games before or since in which the USMNT played a better style or got better results.
Using such hyperbole to make your point about current goings on of the USMNT only weakens your stance. It is an absolute joke to take any game played in the past year, or two even, and say it was anywhere near the quality of those games against Portugal, Mexico, and Germany in June 2002.
Just make your point. Leave the hyperbole out of it. The discussion will be better for it.

Unknown said...

The second tweet Taylor spoke of was "I doubt that he thinks Davis is better than Donavan, I think (OPINION) that he wanted someone who would give it their all."

Tom said...

AWF08: I don't really agree about the best *style* but clearly you are correct that was the peak result thus far.

dikranovich said...

"Since Jurgen was hired we have trusted in his decision making and his opinion on what he thinks is best for the team. He obviously has a vision for his team that he thinks is a winning one and we believe in that."

These are comments from our starting goalkeeper, made since the announcement of the 23 players.

Read it, and let it sink in!!! Then read it again.

AWF08 said...

Tom: I have no problem agreeing to disagree about "style." In fact, I could debate myself about the USMNT playing a better at the Confed. Cup in 2009 playing better than the play in 2002. But, IMO, those results were based on too much of a counter attacking style to me.
I guess my question to you would be: When has the USMNT played better against the "A" teams of the quality that they saw in 2002? Because, that counts. Great style against minnows means nothing at this point. It has to come against quality. For me, the best play against the best competition came in 2002 when JOB and Reyna led a team that attempted to (and largely succeeded) knock it around against some of the best teams and players the world had to offer at the time.

AWF08 said...

Dik: What's he supposed to say if he disagrees?
I think we'll only get their real thoughts after the World Cup. Most likely, when their playing days are done and they've included their feelings in their biography.
Finally, I find it interesting that Dempsey hasn't said a word on the topic (that I've been able to find). Only the PC Howard and Bradley.
Howard, after seven days of training with Donovan and one day before the cuts: "For me it's a very easy equation. If Landon's (Donovan) on the field he's in our top one or two players... for me he's easily one of our best players and he strikes fear in opponents."

dikranovich said...

"We are excited by the 23 that are here, and now we can push forward." This is a quote from our captain.

Referring to playing in the World Cup, deuce said this "I've gotten to play in two and now I have an opportunity to play in three. I'm blessed."

Anonymous said...

I love your take Seltz esp in reference the looking into much the video. I had an issue with the speech. Being a speech that well its scripted, taped and big one supposedly to the selected 23 it should had been more motivational. Jesus seeing that they were sitting in a mural of AMERICAN Basketball legends I would had started there. Maybe its the German in Klismann but it sounded more like a political speech of politician begging to understand his position on things, it didnt sound like a coach (ex: Simeone or Mourinho) of knowing the guys and well motivating them and painting the way forward without those 7 he cut. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY not telling them that to not be complacent.

UnitedDemon said...

Re: the whole German players sitting together thing.

This isn't earth shattering, but of course there should be concern about integrating the squad. The problem is, in that infamous article with all the intrigue, JK was quoted as saying he doesn't see it as his job to integrate the squad. So, there's that.

Tom said...

AWF08: fair enough, but I think that while the WCF is absolutely the most important benchmark, it is overstating the case to completely deprecate our confederation championship or our WCQ tournament TOO much.

soccer boy said...

Gen. Pickett trusted Gen. Lee at gettysburg... only to have his whole div wiped out.

Unknown said...

wow, dramatic much? Lee won numerous battles before hand. And the difference here is that if your squad gets annihilated in a tournament, you can still use them in the future.

dikranovich said...

Soccer boy, it is called divine providence