13 Soccer Writers Discuss Jurgen, Panama, Education

To honor Jurgen Klinsmann’s pastry-filled past, we asked 13 soccer writers—yes, a baker’s dozen!—to tell us what they want to see from the U.S. national team during Sunday’s match against Panama.




February 06, 2015

12:29 PM

Liviu Bird, Si.com contributor
I’m unbothered by Klinsmann’s rants on fitness or his notion that the media needs to be educated—after all, he was hired to evolve the American program, not maintain the status quo—but it’s time to start evolving on the field. The result Sunday isn’t important, but some progress in instilling a possession philosophy, which has been advertised as the idea for a while, would be good. The team still has no discernible identity; the U.S. didn’t play out from the back once on goal kicks against Chile and didn’t do so successfully from the run of play either.

Travis Clark, TopDrawerSoccer.com
Considering the U.S. men’s national team looked decent in the first half in a 3-5-2 (yes they were conceding chances and there was uncertainty at the back) I’d like to see it for a full 90 minutes. Also, some playing time for some of the younger bunch, including Perry Kitchen, Wil Trapp, Dillon
Serna, Luis Gil, and Shane O’Neill. And with that, I’m off to become more educated about soccer.

Seth Vertelney, soccer writer
I’ll be looking out for two main things on Sunday. First, I’d like to see if Jurgen Klinsmann tries the 3-5-2 again. Personally, I’d like to see it because the formation showed some real promise against Chile, even though it was the first we’d seen of it. Second, I want to see if the team experiences another second-half fade. This had already been an issue in recent games, but of course, Klinsmann brought it to a whole new level of scrutiny with comments this week suggesting some U.S. players slacked off during the MLS offseason.

John Godfrey, ASN editor in chief
Don’t worry about educating the media, Professor Klinsmann, most of us have advanced degrees from Feline State—a finishing school for kittens. Instead, let’s talk about your current enrollment of student-athletes. We’re getting the sense they might be tempted to tune out, or even cut class, unless you revise the curriculum. Suggestion: Cancel this week’s planned lecture—”Human Anatomy and the MLS Slacker”—and replace it with something like, “String Theory: Combining Passes, Retaining Possession, and Holding onto a Lead.”

Jonathan Tannenwald, philly.com

If fitness is really that much of a concern for Jurgen, let’s see the players who probably have it in them to run the most: the youngsters. Let’s see Gyasi Zardes, Wil Trapp, and Luis Gil. Let’s see Matt Hedges (we’ve been waiting long enough), Miguel Ibarra, and maybe even Jon Kempin. We know what Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and the rest of the veterans can do—and we know they won’t be part of Olympic qualifying. If the time is now to develop the guys who’ll go to Rio next year, then they deserve to be on the field.

Ben Jata, soccer writer

We’ll probably see another mixture of a little bit of old with a little bit of new. All I want to see from Jurgen is commitment. Pick a formation and stick to it. Try to limit the amount of players playing out of position and give Miguel Ibarra and Matt Hedges the start. Try to find some minutes for Perry Kitchen and Dillon Serna too. USA wins 3-1.

Kristan Heneage, soccer writer
I want to see progress. The World Cup was a good example of one way the U.S. can play. Now the team must diversify and push ahead. They need to be about more than fitness and begin to truly display a culture and a style that you can tell the kids at U-23, U-20, to play. This is another important test for Jurgen. He’s been praised for finding the dual nationals but now he has to build something on the pitch and prove he’s a manager and not just a tech director. I also want to see more Miguel Ibarra.

Jared Dubois, soccer pundit
If Jurgen was on Lost he would’ve already collapsed the universe in on itself. Mainly because he has no Penny. He needs a constant. By changing so many variables at once (formation, players, style) I’m struggling to see what he can truly glean from the run of games since the World Cup. The upside is that his next formation is a 4-8-15-16-23-42.

John D. Halloran, Bleacher Report, ASN
How much experimenting needs to be done for a coach to find a consistent style, formation, or system of play? Apparently, for Jurgen Klinsmann, three-and-a-half years and 61 matches in charge haven’t given him enough time. Following the loss to Chile, Klinsmann has tried blaming his players’ fitness, the length of the MLS season, the media, and even the fans. But it’s not unreasonable to expect that, by now, Klinsmann would have begun to implement his long-term vision, or the proactive style he promised fans nearly four years ago. Perhaps that will start against Panama on Sunday—I won’t hold my breath.

Charles Boehm, soccer writer
It was a famous Californian sportsman who popularized the phrase, “Just win, baby.” And while Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. men’s national team could surely use one of those vs. Panama on Sunday, this observer isn’t even concerned with the result on the scoreboard at this experimental point in the cycle. No, for a team that has lately looked like they just met in the parking lot before kickoff, some quality and coherence both on and off the ball is the place to start. String together some spells of fluid possession, composed combinations, and maybe even some attacking ingenuity. Just play, fellas.

Brian Sciaretta, ASN contributing editor

With all that has been said by Jurgen Klinsmann over the past week and with the team playing poorly since the Portugal game in Brazil, this friendly is actually interesting. The fact that this is the weakest opponent since May only raises the stakes. If the U.S. puts in another poor performance, questions will persist that perhaps Klinsmann has lost the locker room and that the team isn’t heading in the right direction. The newcomers are always interesting, but the veterans will tell the story. If Dempsey, Bradley, and Altidore aren’t effective, the team’s problems might be serious.

Will Parchman, TopDrawerSoccer.com
Klinsmann’s rantings on MLS aside, he’s onto something with the 3-5-2. He just has the wrong defensive centerpiece in Jermaine Jones, who has the tactical discipline of the dog from Up. If you take two wingbacks made for this system in Yedlin and Fabian and simply replace Jones with Geoff Cameron, this setup has legs. I think fitness issues were compounded by lack of specific experience in the setup and Jones’ wanderings. But Cameron was made to sit in the middle, and it masks the lack of a true No. 10 in midfield. I’d keep going.

Josh Deaver, ASN contributor

As I type this, I’m not sure how many people have already suggested that Lee Nguyen get the start in the midfield as playmaker—but, that. Otherwise, with the personnel at Klinsmann’s disposal there isn’t much flexibility with the lineup and the 3-5-2 will likely make a return out of necessity. While Panama is certainly no pushover, I expect the second half (and maybe the whole match) will be dedicated to trying out some Olympic-eligible talent–including Liverpool youngster Marc Pelosi who did not travel with the team to Chile. Surprises? Miguel Ibarra will become the first active NASL player to start for the national team in [Googling]…a very long time.

OK, now it’s your turn: Tell us what you want to see on Sunday—in 100 words or less.