SCOTT PETERSON - Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Despite the loss to Ecuador on Tuesday night, Jurgen Klinsmann's third camp as head coach of the US Men's National Team has been a fruitful one.
Not only did Klinsmann pick up his first victory as coach against Honduras during this past international window, but he has also begun to see some significant progress regarding not only technical merits but also the overall mentality of the US squad.
With the next World Cup cycle set to kick off next year, Klinsmann is well aware that improvements have to be made, and that such improvements have to take place in a facets of the game.
With a typical blend of MLS and foreign-based players invited to camp, Klinsmann sees the openness of established national team players towards newcomers as essential not only to integrating foreign-based and young players alike, but also to developing an American style of soccer. Klinsmann's approach has been markedly less rigid than that of his home country or even of his predecessors Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena, even conducting training sessions open to the public.
"You can see a bit of the American spirit here. I mean the open mindedness and the openness that players show the youngsters coming in is really awesome. I remember my days - I kind of had to be at the very end of the line and be quiet, and not say a word the first few years, and just work my way up in a more hierarchy driven system. And the system that we have here is more open and more casual."
With taxing two-a-days the norm, Klinsmann is putting the onus on his players to develop into players ripe for the international stage.
"We had training sessions that were very intense and physically demanding, but also tactically demanding, but still with the same focus on the organizational shape of the team and a couple of principles that we wanted to point out. The spirit of the group is tremendous. [The] players have a good time. The way they put their energy in the sessions is very good."
By no means a finished product, he has, however, begun to see a payoff in affecting changes to the culture and playing style of American soccer. And that, just like any modern soccer country, means scouring the planet for prospects from other countries, who are eligible to play for the United States. This, Klinsmann feels, can only have a positive effect on the development of soccer in the United States going forward.
"The way things go in soccer globally is that there are many players [with] dual citizenships who grow up maybe in a different place or grew up here but moved overseas. This [helped] France win the World Cup in 98 or how we were in 2006 with Germany."
And with Klinsmann's native Germany emerging as a potential hotspot for developing future generations of American soccer players, Klinsmann is quick to point out the advantages of having players who play nearly year round.
"We get these players now they have come through system where they play 11 months a year, and have learned all the tactical foundations going through the academy system overseas and you can see that. They jump in there and they are right there."
However, Klinsmann is quick to point out that securing future prospects with dual citizenship cannot simply outweigh the necessity to field the best possible team the US could potentially have.
"Yes, we want to make sure that we don't let these kids slip through and have another Giuseppe Rossi who decides to play somewhere else. We want to have the next one play for us. On the other hand, on the senior level I have to make sure that we maintain the highest quality."
Although Klinsmann's tenure has not yet produced the results most US fans have hoped for, the German skipper is characteristically upbeat that the intense training sessions in camps such at all levels of the US national team picture will have their desired effects in the long run and aid players in their future development.
"If we see that a 17 or 18 year old is not there yet, we still want to bring them in either to this camp, or down the road to the Olympic team, the under 20 team, which we will be starting the process for that pretty soon as well. These are all possibilities of helping them reach the next level."