Friday, February 13, 2015

Survey says: X X

Maybe it is not quite a family feud, but Sporting KC boss Peter Vermes and actual real life Nat Matt Besler have hit the buzzer on the recent USMNT fitness critique(/excuse) given by Jurgen Klinsmann. To succinctly distill the Vermes take, he termed the comments 'utterly ridiculous'. Seems fair to me considering Klinsi did not even use all his subs in the Chile loss.

So... who is making the popcorn tonight? Can we have Parmesan on it instead of salt?

- Greg Seltzer


Dr.Jon said...

See Greg, I took that as an admission that Klinsman's assessment was correct. Besler (and "other guys" or however he phrased it" were weeks away from match fitness it their goal was to be bit on 3/1.

The gaffer looks right, to me, in this case. Not fit.

John Luck Pickerd said...

@Dr. Jon: You might be right that there were players who lacked the appropriate fitness. Personally, the lack of ability on the ball, the lack of tactical ability, the lack of passing accuracy,the lack of chances--these were far more damning in recent friendlies. Klinsmann talks of fitness--perhaps he is speaking of being match fit in terms of skills? Don't know, but I am far more concerned with the relative lack of progress in the technical skills of the USMNT than I am with normal fitness issues.

What bothers me is how former USMNT players have rallied to pillory Klinsman on this point. Sure, he is wrong, but don't make blanket statements saying US players can never be accused of lacking fitness (Lalas). Don't join in with analysis that lacks nuance and fails to explain how Klinsman has supposedly failed the USMNT (Wynalda). If former USMNT players are going to be forced into giving analysis on games, hopefully they grow a few more neurons to support actual thought and real analysis of the game,instead of spouting the same stupid lines about fitness or, even worse, falling into Klinsman's trap of debating fitness. Lalas admitted this is what Klinsmann was doing, but went along for the "debate" anyways, like our ginger Skip Bayless.

We don't need former Nats--including Meola and Harkes--attempting to sing the same silly tune on an issue that one should not hang Klinsmann for. Wait until the Gold Cup ends before bringing out the knives. And certainly do it for a justifiable reason, and not because he's a foreigner who doesn't appreciate the US soccer, the greatness of MLS, or how US players train. Sensing quasi-English features here that could really damage the USMNT--nationalism, brainless analysis, former players muttering whatever thought first crosses their limited minds.

dikranovich said...

twenty years from now, some loud mouth, know it all brit is going to be spouting off the same crap

same crap different decade.

dikranovich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Luck Pickerd said...

As US soccer fans, we want and deserve better commentary. Greg and others online provide smart analysis of the game, of tactics, formations, coaching decisions, and positioning, than many of the individuals on tv and radio. Soccer fans should encourage this kind of analysis to trickle up to the broadcast level. Rolling out some bromide about a team's identity, "will to win," or determination sounds bad in British or US english. That is why I am worried about the current crop of former players who grew up with dry, unsophisticated British commentary and are perpetuating its unthoughtful features, with even less consideration, on Fox and SiriusXM FC and ESPN.

Jimmy Conrad has started to do something different across his various platforms, but his analysis of the game, rather like his humor, is flat, uninteresting, and childish. I hope that Stewart Holden doesn't follow his USMNT forerunners, because his analysis of the Klinsmann fitness flap was as dumb as Lalas and Wynalda's views of the situation. Add Lalas's desire to inspire "debate," and we could wind up with discussion of little interest and of very limited intellectual credence.

Dr.Jon said...

I think you are pretty spot on, @John Luck Pickerd, on both of your comments.
Skills quickly erode when fitness is lacking. The fine motor skills needed for good touches are lost when tired, in my own playing experience.
In terms fitness, the game has changed a lot over the past few years in terms of tempo, possession, and high press 4-3-3s. The amount of fitness needed to absorb pressure for long stretches of time with 10 behind the ball vs. this more hi-press game are very different, IMO.

dikranovich said...

Doesn't it all come down to style? If you can define the style by which USA plays, you can understand where the commentary of former players comes from. These former players are commenting based on their experiences. These players grew up watching soccer made in Germany, or Italian soccer on RAI, or Mexican soccer on something like a channel 56 or 45, back in the day.

Does anybody even for a second feel like all English commentators are the same? I don't get it?

Dr.Jon said...

I think it does come back to style and these guys are saying I was wildly fit - play 70 of 90 minutes in my final third and perform a 60 yard dash 10 times a game.
Not quite the same level of fitness as needed to play (or pretend to play or want to play) tika-taka.

Dr.Jon said...

One last question, what does Vermes think is "utterly ridiculous" that players should come into Jan national team camp fit?

John Luck Pickerd said...

@ Dr. Jon-Nice point about the connection between skill and fitness. Perhaps Klinsmann was attempting to make this kind of point with his comments. Even an individual with slightly deficient fitness will see a greater drop-off in skill if there is limited skill present. With USMNT of the past, players needed to extremely fit, partially to maximize their limited talent, but, more importantly, to successfully play 10 behind the ball. I would like analysts such as Lalas and co. to recognize the distinction you made concerning high press vs. low press and the differences in the last decade in how different teams attempted to play defensive-minded football. One does not now need to play like the Greeks of the past two decades, 10 men in the defensive third. One could claim that the strength of Spain's recent success came from their defensive ability to press high, keep shape, and possess the ball after turnovers.

My frustrations with corporate soccer punditry grows every time we, the less educated, working soccer fan, quickly discuss a number of significant ways the game needs to be discussed, while the corporate dimwits mire themselves in boilerplate ("Style!" "Spirit" ect.)

John Luck Pickerd said...

@ dikranovich: There is a common way of calling the game that most UK-born announcers share. For the most part, when not indulging in cliches, this manner of calling the game is rather enjoyable to listen to. It needs to be updated with a far more informed understanding of the game, informed by contemporary analytics.

As for the point on "style": I think the term does a great disservice to a deeper understanding of the game. We can talk about the USMNT having a tradition of being fit, rugged, dedicated, humble, team-players, ect. Consider what those terms mean. They don't help us understand changes in tactics. For example, one could claim a side is "defensive-minded." Recent tactical innovations suggest this term could mean anything from playing a majority of players with defensive skills, to playing more men behind the ball, to waiting for the counter and pressing, ect. The general problem with "skill" is that it is too crude of a description to really explain why a team is successful, or how it ought to play to be successful.

dikranovich said...

Certainly the English media is not to blame for England not being able to reach a World Cup final since the 60s? I mean, do the Dutch announcers call a super informative game, that gives the audience total insight?

Every country has a style. We ain't playing tiki taka anytime soon, I mean, we don't even have bullfighting in our country. How can we play tiki taka???

dikranovich said...

John luck, I'm sorry, but maybe a disservice is being done by talking about the U.S. men's team and style, and using words like tough and rugged, and team play.

Greg Seltzer said...

A couple of you fellas are dancing around a few rather important contextual variables to criticize the critics here.

I agree with those who who say or feel it is ridiculous for the coach to fully pin a loss on fitness when 1) he did not even use all his subs in the game & 2) obviously his decisions also have an impact on the outcome. I also agree it is ridiculous to say your squad is slacking ahead of camp when you only notify them of the call-up 3-4 days before camp starts... in the exact middle of the offseason for nearly all of the players present... and you were able to personally oversee their work for 16 days prior to kickoff.

I write it all the time: Klinsi says a lot of things. He even means some of them. This one was not quite cool either way.

dikranovich said...

Coach klinsmann quotes for the chile game are available at US soccer dot com. He gave an assessment, which frankly he stated before the game was even played. He said before the game, USA is in preseason, and chile is into their season. He knew going in the challenges of this game, and it is not as if he has never held a January camp before.

So coach klinsmann reiterates after the game that fitness was lost after about the 65th to 70th minute. Maybe coach klinsmann could have used more subs, or maybe he wanted to see what these players would bring under tougher conditions.

On top of this, we have "pundits" who will tell us that we did not see the USA take a 2-1 lead into halftime in a certain formation, that it was just a figment of our imagination, and that such a formation has no place in our national team setup. Forget that it was the formation in the most important ever dos a cero in US history.

John Luck Pickerd said...

@ Greg: My comments about the "fitness" row did not fully express my views about Klinsmann's responsibility and ineptness when it came to preparing the team to play Chile. Klinsmann's actions before, during, and after the game were dispiriting; he was rightly criticized by Lalas and co. for not exercising more control over the USMNT to prepare during camp. I also agree with Lalas that claiming fitness problems is a sign of coaching weakness. I was disturbed by what happened against Chile for plenty of reasons (for example, as you pointed out, his tactic and formation experiments were not properly implemented or considered).

But it was how Lalas and Wynalda and Holden, and Harkes and Meola, all jumped on the simplistic, poor fitness excuse and attempted to make the debate about the honor and virtue of the fit USMNT player. This was a case where noticing the silliness of the fitness charge, then pivoting to the lack of skill, tactical discipline, and failure of the various experiments, would have benefited the public and soccer dialogue in the US. Instead, we got a low-brow, dumb discussion that took Klinsmann's bait and only focused on that minor point, at the expense of an informed, enlightened debate about tactics, development of skill, ect.

Greg Seltzer said...

Fair enough, JLP, but I'd only referenced the Vermes and Besler comments. I usually do not get to see the TV discussions you all do. :)

John Luck Pickerd said...

@ dikranovich: Your comment @ 2.47 is problematic for many reasons. For example, it suggests that what makes a "style" is something organic, essential to the origins and folkways of a people. We don't merely want to stay away from insane völkisch movement talk: Blut und Boden do not make a starting national eleven. Instead, any talk of "style" is inferior and reducible to talk of players, abilities, tendencies, skills, fitness levels, experience, ect. One can talk loosely about "style" as a combination of these other features. Analysis that begins with "style" without or before mentioning the actual features of the players on a team is vapid air, uninformative, presumptive, and void of significance.

dikranovich said...

John luck, player personnel is talked about day after day on this site and others. Analyzed and re analyzed, so I therefore discount your entire last statement, except your german which I don't understand. Although I have been on a volks march before.

dikranovich said...

The idea that style is not something organic is so preposterous. When exactly do little English boys go play on dirt fields, in bare feet, kicking a rag ball around? if style wasn't interwoven into the fabric of teams, samba ball might refer to the way Australia play soccer, but it's not. When you hear samba ball, you know it's Brazil.

Arsenal have a style, man united have a style.... The Pittsburg Steelers have a style, and it comes from the fabric of the society where these teams call home. They are called home games for a reason.

dikranovich said...


Greg Seltzer said...

Funny, but most of the teams you have mentioned concerning regional style have spent most of the past decade or two playing either a variation of the Dutch style (such as Barcelona and ManU) or a French style (Arsenal).

dikranovich said...

Yes, there are clearly regional styles. It s evident in England. There is a northern style, and there is a southern style, or a London style. Teams like Bolton and Wigan and Blackburn from the north play a similar manner, and teams from London, Like QPR, west ham, arsenal, they have their city style.

It's like man united and Liverpool ar closer in style and arsenal and Tottenham are similarly close. It really took a personality like Morinho to come in to Chelsea and really initiate change away from what Chelsea use to be, which was more like arsenal and Tottenham, and west ham, and all the other London clubs.

Let's start talking more about style and what it means for the future. Styles don't just come and go with national teams, or even club teams. Just because a coach comes into a team and changes the tactics, that does not always change the style of that team.

John Luck Pickerd said...

@ Greg: True, I was only partially considering the Vermes-Besler comments, along with the video where Lalas, Wynalda, and Holden rip on Klinsmann. I also listened to Meola and Harkes comment on the matter. I think Vermes and Besler do make some good points about the consistency of Klinsmann's position. The whole debate is significant for the reasons you mentioned--consistency of expectations, Klinsmann not doing his job--and not for the reasons Lalas and the rest of corporate soccer believe.

@dikranovich: Here's the problem talking about styles: style talk allows for messy, crude thinking and misguided conclusions. Unlike others in the national media, Greg and other bloggers actually understand what "style" reduces to--tactics, abilities, skills; things that are not the result of simply growing up in a region and having the same lineage as others. Style talk fails to appreciate the nuance that actually is required to understand why the USMNT has not succeeded to the degree we want. Your example of samba is merely a way in which we talk about a kind of football. Just as much as one can use 'corruption' to describe FIFA, it doesn't help explain why FIFA is corruption without a more fine-grained way of making distinctions about what actually makes FIFA corrupt. Talking about how Chelsea changed its style from being "more like a London style" to some other style is uninformative and sloppy unless you can explain the elements of that style and how they change.

In short, styles might be important ways of denoting aggregations of various elements, but it is the aspects of the elements that matter far more than talking about some general conglomerate. And certainly more important than talking about some ethnic-geographical fiction that supposedly "explains" why the USMNT struggles against certain squads. I'll take "cannot pass from the defensive into the midfield third against a pressing opponent" against "style X, the result of blood and soil, is inherently inferior to style y" any day of the week as a superior explanation.

dikranovich said...

What I'm seeing, when an American style is talked about, it is usually through the eyes of someone's preferences.

If you live in Amsterdam and breathe Dutch football, well, you are going to look at the USA team through that lense.

Even coach klinsmann has talked about Barcelona as something to strive for. So from the top down, we are not really focusing in on what the style actually is, but what we would like it to be, as if we really even have a choice.

dikranovich said...

defense wins championships, its pretty much true in every sport. offensive innovation bring stronger defenses that cancel out those advances. that could be part of the reason the dutch have been unable to get over the hump, and teams like spain and france were able to find that winning formula.

it is certainly a fine line that could go one way or the other. Holland could have won in south Africa. they were close. spain found it though, and if you think about it, it was spain and their strong defense that was the difference. in 06 you know Italy is bringing defense. even the brasil teams of 94 and 02 switched their tactics, not their style, just their tactics. after 1982 brasil surmised that more defense was needed. they felt they could not just attack teams for 90 minutes anymore.

heck, this also relates to players moving abroad, because it was during this time that brasilians started going to Europe, and by the mid 90s and early 2000s, lil brasileros were playing all over Europe. brasil club teams were also winning south American copas left and right.

it sort of makes it seem like at first maybe playing in Europe is good for those elite players from countries outside of Europe and the contries they represent, but then over time, it seems like maybe national teams lose something, if they give away the strength of their domestic league.

clarify the style with witch our country plays, so it can be disseminated down through the masses, keep building up the domestic league, win continental club tournaments, and a world cup trophy will follow for our country, and probably more than just one.

Greg Seltzer said...

"Yes, there are clearly regional styles. It s evident in England. There is a northern style, and there is a southern style, or a London style. Teams like Bolton and Wigan and Blackburn from the north play a similar manner, and teams from London, Like QPR, west ham, arsenal, they have their city style."

Ummmmm, what in the wide world are you babbling about?

"Even coach klinsmann has talked about Barcelona as something to strive for."

And once again, the Barcelona style is nothing more than a custom variation of the Ajax style.

"So from the top down, we are not really focusing in on what the style actually is, but what we would like it to be, as if we really even have a choice."

Oh, now soccer people have no free will... mmmmmokaaaaay. Is there any way to get you to stop dumping metric tons of utterly meaningless word salad on our heads every couple hours until the end of time? I have seen you make an actual point without rambling for five paragraphs with stuff you already said 412 times, so I know you can do it.

dikranovich said...

If I'm an MLS team, I'm thinking Esteban Cambiasso is two years younger than frank lampard, with twice the trophies, and he might be got for half the cost

Dr.Jon said...

I think Klinsmann would say you dont need to explicitly know you are going to be called into national camp to be fit. That aspect of being a "professional" is lacking, per him , in certain players.

Greg Seltzer said...

And that would be an utterly ridiculous view on so many levels. Some of those guys were just four weeks into offseason, some a few weeks longer. If he wants them near peak fitness when they show up, then he should tell them so. He is the manager, the players are not there to do his squad managing job. If he actually wants them *at* peak match fitness, then he needs to either move the camp away from January or wake up and apologize for somehow imagining players with no games to play in the preceding 4-8 weeks could possibly arrive in peak match fitness. Match fitness comes from... anyone? anyone? Bueller?
It comes from matches and nothing else. Where exactly does he think they will achieve this in the weeks leading up to camp?

None of which really matters because the guy just says stuff sometimes. He cannot help himself. The entire diatribe was ridiculous. The guy should be able to say, hey, some of my shit did not work.

dikranovich said...

there was no diatribe, not from our national team coach anyway. coach klinsmann pointed out that match fitness is needed at the international level. our coach stated that many players were in fact match fit. as you have said recently about Julian green, he would go to the HSV II to get match fitness. you don't need to play an EPL game to gain match fitness.

coach klinsmann also said that three or four players did not have that match fitness, so when you have ten field players and three or four don't have match fitness, that could present a problem.

coach klinsmann is publicly telling players who might be interested in playing for the national team, that they will be held to a higher standard.

dikranovich said...

sometimes you might have to differentiate between coach klinsmann the coach, and coach klinsmann, the technical director. he may give an interview and be both at different times, or even both at the same time.

if peter vermes has any thoughts of being national team coach, he might be wise to take notice, and win at least one more MLS cup.

or the first American to win concacaf champions league is going to move to the head of the list.

Greg Seltzer said...

Look, in my opinion, the guy is absolutely allowed to not be perfect and have everything he does work every time. And as is he allowed, he should just say so when it doesn't work quite so well.

The whole fitness discussion is a red herring, for the list of very moderate and sensible reasons I gave. I'm tired of hearing about fitness in January.

Dr.Jon said...

I agree Greg if he wants match fit players he should be explicit. Perhaps he felt this is the standard, professionally, and he didn't need to be explicit about it, but clearly he does.

dikranovich said...

When youre fighting a war, you don't just announce what you think is not working. What kind of freaking nonsense is this.

It makes it seem like Greg is looking for some kind of validation with these comments, honestly.

No qualifiers necessary!!!

Wouldn't that be nice? Maybe '26