Saturday, March 26, 2016

Klinsmann, the BMW and the Bug

My first car, back in my college days, was a 1974 Volkswagon Bug. It had a funky black and gold paint job, a weird anti-theft system where it wouldn't start unless the fan button was pushed in, no radio, a balky clutch, no air conditioning and and a tendency to shake violently at speeds over 50 mph. 

I loved that car. It ran fine on the cheapest gas. I could push the side swivel windows to get a nice breeze on my face on a hot day. I never got a speeding ticket in that car. I would draft behind trucks on the freeway to minimize the shaking. The front space under the hood had plenty of storage. Parts were pretty inexpensive and some simple repairs and oil changes I learned how to do myself. 

My friends loved it because no one felt bad about getting beach sand in my car, a cooler would fit under the back seat, and they could hear/spot my vehicle coming from a considerable distance. They dubbed it MGD.

Mine looked like this, except with a black hood, and not quite as pristine.

Anyway, not all my friends at this time were broke artists. One had just finished medical school and celebrated by purchasing a beautiful BMW. Determined to keep it looking/running perfectly, he opted out of beach and camping trips, bought only the most expensive gas and got it washed and detailed regularly. 

He trusted me to drive it and I got my first speeding ticket in that car, partly because it traveled so smoothly I didn't feel I was going fast at all. 

On the other hand, he couldn't drive my car without getting incredibly frustrated. He'd forget how to start it, couldn't get a good feel for the clutch and would stall often, would panic when the shaking started, and broke the swivel mechanism on the driver's window trying to adjust it. 

But this was all the car's fault, always. "How can you drive such a piece of crap?" was his constant question. 

I'd just shrug. My car worked for me, I knew how to work with it, it got me places and it was mine. 

"Let's go in Andrea's car," my buddy Rachel said when we were planning a road trip up the coast with friends. "If we go in the doctor's BMW, he won't let us eat in the car or pull off the road for anything interesting." 

Anyway, that's my analogy for the USMNT. Clearly, the team is more like my Bug, and my argument has never been that the players are so good that they deserve a better coach than Klinsmann. It's more that because the team isn't that good, they need a better (more versatile, more inspirational, more creative, more tactical) coach. 

Me and the MGD, back in the day. 

Klinsmann is like the BMW-driving doctor, wondering why he can't coach the USA like he did Germany, refusing to adjust his approach and blaming the players every time things don't work, even when he makes a huge mistake (LD, the broken window swivel). 

I used to be pretty generous with my car. If someone needed to borrow the MGD for any reason, my only condition was that they know how to drive a stick shift. But after I fixed the window swivel, I barred the doctor from driving my car ever again. I realized I had to look out for what was mine, and if he wasn't going to be careful with it, I had to draw that line. 

He acted like it was no great loss, of course. Who would want to drive that piece of crap USMNT? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Benny Drops the Mic on Jurgen Klinsmann

Benny at MLS media day
Benny Feilhaber lobbed some truth bombs on the USMNT situation with Jurgen Klinsmann today. Reporters who still cover the squad will no doubt have more complete quotes and analysis and so on, but personally, I agree with Feilhaber a lot (more so than with Wambach or LD's comments, for example). Anyway, here's what I transcribed from the MLS media roundtable session.

(Benny was asked about being in the LA area at the same time as the USMNT team, and how did he feel about not getting a look under JK)

For me personally, I’ve accepted the fact that Jurgen’s not going to call me. If I played the year that I played this last year and didn’t get called, I’m not getting the opportunity under Jurgen. That’s something I just have to accept. It’s - I wouldn’t say frustrating,  I’m almost sad, because I feel like I’m playing the best soccer of my career, but I don’t get the opportunity to play for my country. So yeah, it’s something that I’ve just kind of accepted. It just is what it is. It’s not going to happen with Jurgen as the coach.

Does that drive you at all? Do you use that as motivation?

Not really. A lot of people get driven by things that they don’t get.  I’m more driven by being able to do things, like more in a positive way, I guess. I loved winning MLS Cup with Kansas City, I loved winning Open Cup, I love performing at a high level every week last year, getting goals and getting assists. All that stuff drives me. The accolades that come with it are not the thing that I’m thinking of, but that’s nice, too. All those good things drive me to continue playing well and I’m hoping that I continue that way this next year and for however long I can keep playing.

Jurgen seems to have an issue with MLS – does that surprise you for the coach of the US national team?

I don’t know. I’m sure there are some other coaches that said some negative things about MLS as well, but – is it surprising? Not really. From what I see, I think that Jurgen takes some players in MLS and uses the fact that they’re in MLS to maybe not call them up or whatever. You look at some of the top players that played this year – you take a Sacha Kljestan, you take a Dax McCarty, you take a Matt Hedges, I’m sure you could go on and on, these guys aren’t getting an opportunity. So it’s not just me, there’s people like that. There’s people in Europe, too. I can’t name a lot of guys, because I don’t know some of the younger guys, but like an Eric Lichaj, he’s been playing well in Europe for countless years and he hasn’t really been given any opportunity either, so, you know, there’s guys in MLS and guys in Europe who don’t get opportunities with Jurgen for whatever reason. I think that a lot of these issues  - and maybe I’m going off topic a little bit, but a lot of these issues that some people have with foreign players getting called in – I have zero problem with that. I think FIFA allows national teams to get players that weren’t necessarily born in certain countries, and I think that’s an advantage that any national team coach of any team should take advantage of, but I don’t think that that Jurgen calls in the best players that are available to him. That for me is a problem.
Benny back in his USMNT days
There’s players that are better than other players that he doesn’t get – that don’t get an opportunity with the national team. That for me is a bigger deal than anything else. Everybody points fingers at certain things, but for me, that’s the most important thing. I think the – I’m just talking now, because I know this wasn’t the question, but in regards to how a coach should approach a team, not just a national team, but just any team, there’s obviously two duties: One, that’s making the best team that you can possibly make with the players that are available to you and Two, try to continuously improve that team so that it doesn’t stall in any way and continues to improve. And for me, Jurgen seems to try to do the second one without doing the first one. He’d rather put young guys on the team who could potentially become important on the team and leave out players who can make the team  better right now. And for me, that’s the number one job of the national team coach – of any coach – is not to make the team as good as he can make it in five years, but to make it as good as he can make it right now and to continuously improve it for five years.  That he doesn’t do -  his job. Because there are players in the pool that do not get called in that have performed well enough on the field to get an opportunity. That is my biggest problem with how Jurgen selects his players.