Klins­mann im­pa­tient with prospects lack­ing play­ing time

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Ron­ald Blum

Jur­gen Klins­mann has grown im­pa­tient with the whin­ing Amer­i­can prospects who fail to earn play­ing time on their clubs.

For ev­ery player like teen sen­sa­tion Chris­tian Pulisic, who broke into Borus­sia Dort­mund’s lineup at just 17, there are mul­ti­ple ex­am­ples of oth­ers who flopped in Europe.

The U.S. coach iden­ti­fied mem­bers of the un­der-23 team that failed to qual­ify for the 2012 Lon­don Olympics, cit­ing winger Brek Shea, who made just three Premier League ap­pear­ances for Stoke dur­ing two years in Eng­land, and for­ward Juan Agudelo, who failed to get a work per­mit and never got into a game for the Pot­ters.

Ev­ery­one, he knows, must be far bet­ter. They must want it more — like he did when he was a star for­ward in the 1980s and ‘90s.

“We hoped. And we hoped,” Klins­mann said. “And then they called: The coach doesn’t play me. Well, you have to make the coach play you.”

Sit­ting on the pa­tio of a ho­tel restaurant the day be­fore a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in a World Cup qual­i­fier this past week — which hugely in­creased his own job pres­sure — Klins­mann ad­dressed the topic of player de­vel­op­ment dur­ing a 50-minute sit-down with Amer­i­can re­porters.

He looked to the fu­ture of for­wards Bobby Wood and Jor­dan Morris, call­ing them po­ten­tial “dif­fer­ence mak­ers.”

“You see a lot of tal­ent not hav­ing that in­ner drive. You see a lot of tal­ents not go­ing to the high­est level pos­si­ble, and you feel for them,” Klins­mann said. “You feel for them be­cause, well, you put in years of talk­ing, guid­ing, ex­plain­ing, video­ing, and it hasn’t clicked. It hasn’t made that dif­fer­ence.

“And you can go through a pal­ette of play­ers that we’ve had com­ing through the last five years that un­for­tu­nately were not able to in­tel­lec­tu­ally take that mes­sage or mes­sages and make it into a huge ca­reer.”

A World Cup cham­pion with West Ger­many in 1990, a Euro­pean cham­pion with Ger­many six years later and coach of the 2006 Ger­man team that reached the World Cup semi­fi­nals, Klins­mann was hired five years ago to help im­part to Amer­i­cans the rou­tines of high-level soc­cer — what it takes to suc­ceed at the high­est level, the daily de­mands of be­ing the best.

He has an Amer­i­can wife and has lived in Cal­i­for­nia since re­tir­ing as a player in 1998, giv­ing him per­spec­tive on how U.S. soc­cer is unique.

Klins­mann said aca­demics and the de­sire of par­ents to have Amer­i­can prospects at­tend col­lege has hurt player de­vel­op­ment, frus­trat­ing both him and U.S. un­der-20 coach Tab Ramos.

Klins­mann un­der­stands the mo­ti­va­tion — his son Jonathan is a goal­keeper at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley. He is im­pa­tient with those who are dis­tracted by their non-soc­cer lives.

“They’re not go­ing to the next level be­cause they want to go par­ty­ing,” he said. “And Tab and I, we go crazy, and said ‘Why are you set­tling now?’ Well, be­cause the par­ents are happy.”

When he asks some­thing of a player, and gets the re­sponse, “Oh, let me call my agent,” Klins­mann said his reaction is then: “You know what? Con­ver­sa­tion over.”

And with that, Klins­mann clapped his hands twice.

But some play­ers do break through.

Pulisic, from Hershey, Penn­syl­va­nia, and al­ready among the Amer­i­cans’ most tech­ni­cally skilled play­ers, was no­ticed by Dort­mund scouts three years ago in Florida. He signed as a 16-year-old, made his de­but in Jan­uary and scored twice in nine league games last sea­son. He has two more Bun­desliga goals this sea­son, and he made his Cham­pi­ons League de­but.

Lyn­den Gooch, a 20-yearold mid­fielder from Santa Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia, got no­ticed by Sun­der­land when he was with the Santa Cruz Break­ers Academy team, trav­eled to Eng­land dur­ing time off from school and joined Sun­der­land’s youth sys­tem at age 16. He made his first-team de­but for the Black Cats in this year’s Premier League opener and has eight league ap­pear­ances.

“I called David Moyes: What is it about the kid?” Klins­mann said of his phone call to the Sun­der­land man­ager. He re­mem­bered how Moyes told him: “‘Oh my gosh, Jur­gen, this kid is hun­gry. I don’t even know how to keep him on the bench.”’

Cameron Carter-Vick­ers, the 18-year-old son of for­mer NBA guard Howard Carter, grew up in Southend, Eng­land, and joined Tot­ten­ham’s academy sys­tem when he was 11. He made his first-team de­but this sea­son in the League Cup.

“He’s push­ing. He’s get­ting there. He’s the fu­ture. He’s with the A team there all the time now,” Klins­mann said.

The best group of Amer­i­can youth play­ers ar­guably was the team that fin­ished fourth at the 1999 FIFA Un­der-17 World Cham­pi­onship, a group that in­cluded Lan­don Dono­van, Da­Mar­cus Beasley, Kyle Beck­er­man, Oguchi Onyewu and Bobby Con­vey.

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