Comment
0
Tweet
0
Print
RSS Feeds

Klinsmann open to staying with US after World Cup

Saturday - 4/6/2013, 3:30pm  ET

Jurgen Klinsmann, the United States men's national team soccer coach, answers questions during an interview Friday, April 5, 2013, in New York, (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

RONALD BLUM
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jurgen Klinsmann was at the top of the world.

OK, not quite. But as he stood on the sun-splashed 86th floor of the Empire State Building, he was 1,050 feet above ground level and had just led the U.S. to a snowy win over Costa Rica and a draw at Mexico that got the Americans' World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.

He's lived in Southern California for 15 years, raising a son and daughter with his American wife. Coaching the U.S. national team for the last 20 months has been an ideal job, and he's open to staying on after the World Cup for the next four-year cycle -- if the Americans play well at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

"It all depends on results," he said during an interview Friday with The Associated Press. "I want to be measured by the outcome of your work, and the outcome of your work is Brazil 2014. It also depends on how the team presents itself, how they play, what really happens in the games."

A member of Germany's 1990 World Cup championship team, Klinsmann coached his country to a third-place finish at home in the 2006 tournament. He quit four days later citing burnout and pretty much said "California here I come," returning home for what became a role as U.S. coach in waiting.

Klinsmann didn't take the job then despite long talks with U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati, who ultimately hired Bob Bradley to replace Bruce Arena. Klinsmann observed the American soccer scene, went back to Germany to coach Bayern Munich, was fired after less than a season and moved back to California.

He consulted for Major League Soccer's Toronto FC and worked as a commentator for ESPN at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the U.S. was knocked out in the second round with an overtime loss to Ghana.

Klinsmann could not shake the impression that he was the shadow U.S. coach. After the Americans played listlessly for long stretches during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Gulati fired Bradley and signed Klinsmann to a contract through August 2014 with a $2.5 million annual base salary.

While he had success in exhibitions, leading the Americans to their first win over four-time world champion Italy and their first victory at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, the Americans struggled in qualifying and weren't assured of advancing to the regional finals until the final game of the semis.

And after the hexagonal -- as the final round is known -- opened with a 2-1 loss at Honduras as U.S. players wilted in the heat and humidity, Sporting News ran an article headlined "Klinsmann's methods, leadership, acumen in question." It cited 11 players and 11 others with ties to players or the national team -- all unidentified -- and painted a picture of a team hampered by rift.

"From a professional standpoint, things like that really don't bother me much because I think I'm open to any different opinions and also criticism," he said. "I think a couple things he mentioned there were just simply not true. So how do you take that one? You take it with a smile."

Given the controversy, two German television crews showed up for the U.S. training camp in Colorado. When Klinsmann coached Germany's national team, so many reporters showed up at Baeckerei Klinsmann, the family bakery in the Stuttgart suburb of Botnang, that the coach issued a statement pleading for the "media crush" to ease. Klinsmann says now that whenever he appears in the German media, "you will have people walking into the bakery who make their comments."

In the U.S., where soccer has long been overshadowed by the NFL, baseball, the NBA and college football and basketball, Klinsmann remains relatively anonymous. When he walked down Fifth Avenue with his family -- his 15-year-old son already is taller than his 5-foot-11 father -- the people asking him to pose for photos or sign autographs all appeared to be tourists.

While the main part of his job is coaching, part of it is expanding America's soccer culture. He's successfully pushed for MLS to lengthen its season, played a larger role in player development with the youth national teams and began a generational change on the national team defense by starting Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler and Matt Besler in recent qualifiers. He's given 17 players their first national team appearances.

Klinsmann has tried to boost players' confidence while at the same time repeatedly reminding them that no Americans other than goalkeepers have played with regularity for Europe's top clubs.

   1 2  -  Next page  >>