US hires Klinsmann as new national coach

Posted July 29, 2011, at 5:09 p.m.
Last modified July 29, 2011, at 6:23 p.m.

Juergen Klinsmann was appointed as the U.S. national team coach on Friday, a day after Bob Bradley was fired.

The former Germany coach will be a familiar face to American fans, given that he nearly got the job after the 2006 World Cup and then again last year before Bradley was given what turned out to be a short-lived contract extension to 2014.

The former Germany striker’s first game in charge will be a friendly against archrival Mexico in Philadelphia on Aug. 10. Qualifying for the next 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins next year.

“We are excited to have Juergen as the head coach of our Men’s National Team,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “He is a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the program. Juergen has had success in many different areas of the game, and we look forward to the leadership he will provide on and off the field.”

Klinsmann will be formally introduced Monday at a news conference in New York.

“I am proud and honored to be named the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Klinsmann said. “I would like to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I’m excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

Klinsmann, who turns 47 on Saturday, has a considerable World Cup pedigree.

As a player, he scored 11 goals in three World Cups, 1990, 1994 and 1998. That ties him for sixth on the all-time scoring list, just behind Pele.

Klinsmann was a key cog for West Germany’s 1990 World Cup-winning team and the German team’s captain from 1994 to 1998. He retired in 1998 and moved to the United States shortly afterward.

Klinsmann and his wife, Debbie, reside in California with their two children, Jonathan and Laila.

Germany coach Joachim Loew, who was Klinsmann’s assistant before becoming his successor, wished him well — and expects big changes.

“I am happy for Juergen, that he has found a new challenge and I wish him a lot of success,” Loew said. “The way we know Juergen, he’ll go into the job with power and shake up a lot of things.”

The German football federation said Loew, federation president Theo Zwanziger and three other top officials were told by Klinsmann by telephone that he was about to sign the contract with U.S. Soccer.

Klinsmann took over as coach of the German national team in July 2004, after the team had a poor showing in the 2004 European championships. Klinsmann led Germany to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup.

He went on to coach German club Bayern Munich but lasted less than a full season after falling out of favor with management. He has worked as a consultant since then, most recently with Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.

Former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, who worked alongside Klinsmann for ESPN at last year’s World Cup, expects him to inject energy into the program but notes that he’s not a miracle worker.

“It’s not as if all of sudden because Juergen Klinsmann is coach that we’re going to have an American Lionel Messi drop into our laps,” Lalas said. “The players are what they are. It’s up to him to make sure he has the correct mix of players and to motivate them, to coach them up. For the experienced veterans that are part of the national team setup, this will be a source of motivatio n — and maybe a kick in the pants.”

Although the U.S. federation has discussed the job with Klinsmann in the past, the coach’s desire for wide-ranging authority over the entire U.S. program was considered a point of contention. That now seems to be resolved.

“When you look at where we are and where we should be, Juergen is coming in with a full-blown plan,” said former U.S. forward Eric Wynalda, now a commentator for Fox Soccer.

“There’s a lot of things he’s been very adamant about, things he feels need to change. The reluctance from U.S. Soccer’s point of view to relinquish power was the only piece of red tape in his way.”

Klinsmann will have a chance to make his mark in the federation’s youth teams, given current coaching vacancies at the U.S. Under-20 and Under-23 teams.

Klinsmann is the first non-American to coach the national team since Bora Milutinovic (1991-95), who was succeeded by Steve Sampson (1995-98), Bruce Arena (1998-06) and Bradley.

“I believe he understands the American system as well as anybody, having observed youth development and the professional game in the United States,” Sampson said.

Given Klinsmann’s long-established U.S. roots, Wynalda didn’t expect a cultural clash.

“His greatest weapon is the fact that he understands the American people more than any other foreign coach possibly could,” Wynalda said. “If you’re going to make the move, he’s the perfect choice.”

Bradley’s dismissal after five years in charge came as a surprise on Thursday.

He led the U.S. team to considerable success and several big moments. But the U.S. seemed to take a step backward this summer, and a stinging 4-2 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final last month — when the U.S. blew a 2-0 lead — appears to have convinced U.S. Soccer officials it was time to make a change.

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