Some thoughts about this interview with Jürgen Klinsmann:
- He’s remarkably explicit about the players who have disappointed him and why they have disappointed him. E.g.: “The Czech game, we gave the first cap to Emerson Hyndman, he disappeared.”
- I don’t know whether I should call that explicitness “commendable honesty” or “throwing his players under the bus.”
- He agrees with the interviewer — and most other observers — that American soccer players don’t get an early enough start, don’t commit to the game at an early enough age: in Europe and Latin America “they select the kids very early and you have to swim in the cold water very, very early.”
- But in this particular interview his emphasis seems to be on the players’ lack of progress between their late teens and their mid-twenties. His message is that they look great when they’re first being folded into the USMNT but then they fail to live up to their promise. “We drive an amazing amount of young talent in all different ways and then once they turn toward the professional level, from 17 or 18 until 22 or 23, that is where we kind of lose a lot of quality kids, because they don’t find their right footing.”
- He sends mixed messages about the dominant cause of this disappointment. At one point he says “That talent is not there yet when it comes to the national team,” but he places a great deal more emphasis on a lack of will: “They don’t fight their way through into the club teams. Whatever they choose, wherever they go, whatever their direction is, they find ways to accept it instead of saying I’m not accepting it.”
- At no point does he suggest that coaches — at the club or the national level — bear any responsibility for players’ failing to live up to their potential. Players who disappoint either are not talented enough or not committed enough. Period.