U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati sees innovation first, not losses, for the national team so far under new Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, seen at right Tuesday night directing things from the bench in New Jersey. Associated Press Sports Writer Ronald Blum has the full story in the wake of last night’s loss to Ecuador:
HARRISON, New Jersey (AP) — Jurgen Klinsmann has been backed by his boss at the U.S. Soccer Federation as he focuses on long-term changes rather than short-term results.
“It’s a growing process,” USSF president Sunil Gulati said before Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Ecuador.
After the former German star and coach replaced Bob Bradley in late July, the Americans drew 1-1 with Mexico and lost to Costa Rica and Belgium 1-0 before last weekend’s 1-0 win over Honduras. When Bradley took over from Bruce Arena after the 2006 World Cup — when talks between Gulati and Klinsmann failed to reach an agreement — Bradley won 10 of his first 11 matches.
“He certainly felt more pressure about results than Jurgen feels,” Gulati said before the
match, clearly comfortable with stumbles in Klinsmann’s first few friendlies.
“Part of the attraction, obviously, is he’s an innovative guy and wants to try things, not
necessarily only things that have a 50-year track record of success, but some new things. So that always takes a little time for everyone — staff, coaching staff, players, leadership — and everyone’s adjusting.”
Ecuador won as second-half substitute Jaime Ayovi beat defender Tim Ream to a cross and scored in the 79th minute. Ream, a young but relatively inexperienced center back, received his first minutes with the national team since the 2-1 loss to Panama during the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June.
The Americans have gone 23 games without scoring more than two goals, since beating Australia 3-1 in their last warmup before the 2010 World Cup.
“It’s a growing process and, obviously, also a couple of knocks that you have to accept,”
He is trying new formations, new assistants and a new fitness staff. He’s also working with
Gulati, USSF chief executive officer Dan Flynn and youth technical director Claudio Reyna on planning for next year’s Olympics, where players are mostly limited to 23 and under.
Klinsmann estimates about one-third of his 2014 World Cup squad will come from the Olympic team. He expects forwards Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury; midfielder Danny Williams; defender Timmy Chandler; and goalkeeper Bill Hamid to make the London squad.
“Hopefully they get a great experience if everything goes OK with the qualifiers in March,”
Gulati said the USSF might announce an Olympic coach within a month and left open the
possibility that Tab Ramos could move up. Ramos, a former national team standout, has been interim coach of the under-20 team since Thomas Rongen was fired in May. In turn, under-17 coach Wilmer Cabrera could move up to the U-20s.
“A big part of what Jurgen’s challenge will be is how do we influence all of those other
things, like Claudio is working on, so that four, six, eight years from now — player
development issues,” Gulati said. “He’s not going to invent new players under a short period of time.”
Still, Klinsmann has made a few changes to the U.S. lineup.
He gave Oguchi Onyewu his first start since June, and the 6-foot-4 central defender played a strong match. Following knee surgery in October 2009, Onyewu had struggled to regain his form until becoming a regular with Sporting Lisbon this season.
Williams made his second straight start since gaining an American passport last month and Chandler, a fellow German-American, has become the starter at left back. Fabian Johnson, who switched allegiance to the U.S. after starting for Germany in the 2009 European Under-21 final, is expected to make his debut after recovering from a neck injury.
When Landon Donovan (quadriceps) and Jose Torres (foot surgery) return from injuries, there will be heightened competition for midfield spots. And that doesn’t even include Stuart Holden, out until spring following his second knee surgery this year.
Already, Michael Bradley has been dropped to the bench in favor of Williams, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea and Kyle Beckerman. Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark weren’t invited to the latest camp.
“That fight, midfield, will really heat up,” Klinsmann said. “So we get some interesting
situations, and for me as a coach, very good options.”
The U.S. will play two games in Europe from Nov. 11-15. One is likely to be against France, which qualified for the European Championship on Tuesday and no longer needs the dates next month for a playoff. The other could be in Eastern Europe.
“Everyone still wants to see wins,” Gulati said. But for now, scores aren’t the priority.
“The first few results haven’t been great,” captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “It’s just
frustrating, but we’re moving in the right direction.”