Klinsman revelations raise questions about U.S. Soccer

BY foxsports • September 20, 2010

Just when the dust settled and the re-hiring of Bob Bradley had gone from a lightning rod for debate to accepted appointment, Juergen Klinsmann emerged to offer some insight into his talks with U.S. Soccer about the national team's head coaching position — insight that raises new questions.

“We had conversations maybe for about a three or four weeks period of time, and very positive conversations, but we didn’t get it to a positive ending because we couldn’t put into writing what we agreed to verbally," Klinsmann said in an interview with a Kansas City Wizards television analyst.

“It’s obviously always about authority. When you have conversations with a club team or a national team, it’s who has the last word in what issues, and that’s why we couldn’t get into the written terms.

“Verbally, we agreed on that the technical side is my side, and I should have 100 percent control of it. In written terms, they couldn’t commit to it, and at that point, I said, 'Well, I can’t get the job done because I have to have the last say as a head coach for my entire staff, for all the players issues, for everything that happens with the team.'

“Unfortunately, they couldn’t commit to that and that was basically the end of our talks, and then they agreed to continue with Bob as the head coach and that’s totally fine.”

When asked about Klinsmann’s comments, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati refused to comment, leaving us to wonder just how far his talks with Klinsmann actually went and whether that was truly the only sticking point in their negotiations. We don’t know how close the sides came to reaching a deal, or if there were other issues, because Gulati won’t discuss it.

The reality is Gulati could have discussed his talks with Klinsmann at the same time he hired Bradley, but he chose not to.

Would it really have been disrespectful to address that the talks happened?

Not really, especially not when Bradley had let it be known he was interested in several coaching positions in Europe. Nothing was wrong with both sides considering other options before they finally agreed to a new deal, and nothing would have been wrong with Gulati saying that he spoke to Klinsmann or other potential candidates.

What was wrong was Gulati believing the subject of Klinsmann would go away. Yes, the outrage in some circles with hiring Bradley instead of Klinsmann had died down, and the focus had already begun to turn on the next World Cup cycle, but when Klinsmann spoke, it stirred the hornet’s nest yet again.

Now, we’re faced with some very real questions.

Was U.S. Soccer really unwilling to let Klinsmann have “complete control?” Was that what kept Klinsmann from being hired to replace Bradley? Did Gulati ever really consider offering Klinsmann the job? Did this disagreement come in the early stages of discussions, or did they come when a deal was near, as Klinsmann seems to suggest?

Whatever we do find out, it won’t come from Gulati, and at this point, we can only hope Klinsmann is interviewed again and offers more detail about what happened last month and what happened four years ago.

There are plenty of questions to ask: What was different this time around from his talks back in 2006? Was he ready to commit four years to the U.S. national team if U.S. Soccer gave him what he wanted in writing? Has he actually been offered the job before?

At this point, it isn’t even about whether Klinsmann should have gotten the job. What we’re left to ponder is whether the process that led to the re-hiring of Bradley was an effective one and if the requirements for being the U.S. men’s national team coach are reasonable. We’re left to wonder because Klinsmann’s statements suggest that the process was flawed and because nobody is refuting what he said.

You have to feel the most for Bradley, who will continue to be seen by some as Gulati’s second choice, whether he actually was or not. The fact is, Bradley did enough to merit keeping the job and will have the chance to build on his first four years in charge.

But Klinsmann’s shadow will continue to haunt the U.S. head coaching position, and the German will remain, at least for some, as the coach who got away.

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