Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It is a Thing

The eyebrow shave by Chicharito that I noted before wasn't accidental or random fashion choice. It's a thing among the El Tri players.

Also, here's my piece on why Chepo should go.

Style and Substance

Grant Wahl has a nice piece here about Jozy Altidore living up to his potential (finally!). Now, of course, Jozy has been a prodigy for a long time, but he's been up and down, too, and it has taken him a while to get used to Klinsmann's style.

Frankly, Jurgen Klinsmann is different. He can seem easygoing, with a veneer of California casual (I'll bet he wears flip-flops a lot of the time), but he's also got German grit and toughness to him. It's too bad Frankie Hejduk's days with the team are done, because he would have gotten Klinsy. Frankie was all surfer-boy style, but deadly serious about playing and getting results, even while having fun and building team spirit.  Klinsy believes the US team can be great (that's the sunny optimist in him), but he knows how far they have to go (because he's seen the top of the mountain with Germany) and he won't mince words in telling Altidore or anyone what they have to do to get there.

In contrast, Bruce Arena is, and was, while coach of the national team, more New York understated cool, with a bonus chip on his shoulder about how the USA was often disrespected by the soccer world at large. Truth is, a former lacrosse player-turned-one-national-team-game goalkeeper wasn't ever going to get the respect Klinsmann receives by virtue of having been one of the world's top strikers, so Arena's bitterness is understandable, if tiresome. While in charge of the USMNT, Arena cultivated among the players an us-against-them mentality that gave the US resolve and temerity. But that influence wore off somewhat when more American players evolved to be soccer citizens at large - meaning, they worked and played internationally, and had other priorities than just the USA team. Remember Claudio Reyna refusing to participate in US qualifiers? 2006 was a disappointment partly because it was clear that Arena wasn't getting through to his players as he once had.

Princetonian Bob Bradley was less sardonic than Arena, yet more serious about soccer. His emblem was about work, work, and well, more work.  He reminded me of Animal Farm's Boxer, whose mantra was: "I will work harder." That's an inspiring form of leadership - for a while. It can get exhausting, though, because frankly, while work rate is very important, so is working smarter and better. Plus, the inherent awkwardness in the family connection of having father manage son on the national team level took a toll on all three elements involved - Michael, Bob, and the USMNT. Some long-time readers might think I dislike Bob, or Michael, but that's not true. I do think they are better off on different teams (Go Egypt!).

Back to coach Klinsy. I think of when Jerry Brown, in his first stint as in charge of California, was nicknamed Governor Moonbeam for ideas that were perceived as too progressive and weird. Klinsy could be Coach Sunbeam for similarly shaking up the status quo of the national team with his willingness to experiment and tweak. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but I think the results are beginning to prove positive.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


So on my latest blog post for the Futbol Mexico site, ESPN helpfully uploaded an interview with Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez to the Italy-Mexico preview I wrote. As I watched the interview I realized Chicharito appears to have shaved off part of his right eyebrow.

Is that still a thing?

Or perhaps he's shaving a mark into his eyebrow for each El Tri win?