Featured, September 2011, USMNT

How Will German Homeland Affect Klinsmann’s Search for an American Style of Soccer ??

Flock of Shea-gulls might be the most exciting player coming from MLS. But it is certainly possible that Germany, where Shea may be headed, will have a larger say on Klinsmann's success.

By Garrett Mcinnis

It’s hard not to notice Brek Shea.  The newly minted US national winger is an unusually tall 6 foot three inches and his golden blonde ‘Flo-Hawk’ of sorts threatened to steal the show from Marouane Fellaini’s famous Euro-Fro last Tuesday.  Lately Brek hasn’t needy a fancy hairstyle to get attention, as his play has garnered plenty of attention. There’s no doubt he’s one of, if not the most exciting new addition to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad.

            But last Tuesday there was more proof of Brek’s rising star.  During the broadcast of the Belgium match, ESPN’s sideline reporter mentioned a conversation with Spencer Wadsworth, Shea’s agent.  Wadsworth was quoted as saying that during the most recent transfer window, a major German club had done some inquiry in to the availability of Shea.  While it isn’t too surprising that Shea is garnering substantial interest from Europe ( he’s young, getting a lot of matches under his belt at FC Dallas, and clearly talented), it’s surely a bit of an attention grabber that the recent interest came from the top of the Bundesliga.  Perhaps it is purely coincidental that such interest came as Jurgen Klinsmann took over the US men’s team.  It surely wouldn’t be the first time a German squad has looked into a young and talented US player.  Hell, it wouldn’t be the first time that the words “major German club”, “young and talented US player”, and “Jurgen Klinsmann” were all put in the same sentence….for those of you who remember Landon Donovan’s club history.  It does however raise a couple of large questions about the future of US Soccer under Klinsmann and its relationship with Germany.

            Will the relationship between the USMNT player pool and German club soccer change under Jurgen, and if so, what will that change be?   

            As it stands, we have a very small amount of circumstantial evidence with which to attempt an answer at the question. We have played only three friendlies and have gone through less than half of a transfer window under Jurgen.

            First, let’s take a look at the friendlies.  Just by looking at the three friendly rosters(and maybe more importantly the starting lineups) it’s easy to assume that German based players (GBPs) will be an extremely large part of the future US team core.  In the match versus Mexico, Klinsmann called up 6 GBPs and ended up playing 5 of them ( the sixth, Timmy Chandler,  who, as I’ve written earlier today, may not stick around–ended up not coming into camp to fulfill some club obligations).  In the starting lineup, GBPs accounted for 4/10 field players on the US squad. 

If Chandler does flip to the Homeland, Fabian Johnson may keep the German theme rolling at left back.

For this most recent camp, Klinsmann called up 4 GBPs, two of which were new faces(Chandlerand Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson). Many of the others were left to settle club situations (Michael Bradley has now moved to Italian club, Chievo, while Jermaine Jones has stayed put at Schalke).  As we move forward, both fullback positions seem to have a very German flair to them, as Steve Cherundolo continues to play very well and Timmy Chandler seems like a revelation for either of the fullback positions going forward, should he stay with the Yanks. If he doesn’t– well,  then there’s Fabian “Who!?” Johnson, who also has some history playing left fullback, though he seems a more likely candidate for a wide midfielder.

            The other potential evidence of a German flavor to our squad would be seen in the transfer window, though there was no significant indication with the most recent window.  As mentioned above, US mainstay Michael Bradley left the Bundesliga and no other moves were made dealing players in the US pool.  It will be interesting to see the future transfer windows and monitor whether our team’s up and comers start to drift towards clubs that Jurgen is particularly familiar with as a result of his relationships.  It’s also entirely possible that we see the opposite effect, as Klinsmann didn’t exactly leave Bayern Munich on the best of terms, leaving many Germans with a sour taste in their mouths.  Jurgen has already mentioned his desire to get more US players to go abroad, but who knows whether his presence and encouragement as the leader of US soccer will change the current pace or direction of transfers.  

Klinsmann said a primary goal when he took over was to find a "distinctly American style of soccer." Doing that, given his German background, may be tough.

Will Jurgen’s German heritage and experience hinder his search for developing an American Style of soccer?

From the opening of his introductory press conference, Klinsmann has emphasized the importance of developing an American style of play that adequately reflects the nation’s culture.  This is a very similar approach and just the sort of language Jurgen used when he took over the German National team and managed to reinvent the national side.  This is all fine and dandy if Jurgen understands American culture and our players the way he suggests.  There is no doubt that such a reinvention was likely much easier for him in a country that he was born in and had played in much of his life.  Here, Jurgen will be relying on others’ experiences as much as his own 13 years living in California.  Will his new emphases, such as using more players with a Latin American influence (Jose Francisco Torres says thank you very much) come into conflict at any point with his instincts as a coach, which were likely formed early in his development in Germany.

If Klinsmann can't find a "unique American style"-- his fall-back style-- that of German soccer, might be better than Bob Bradley's anglophilia.

I don’t see this as being an immediate cause for concern, as Jurgen understands the game of soccer very well and will be enlisting the help of others at every level to support the program’s new direction.  In fact, I don’t think this is something that will even be possibly measured until after Jurgen’s time has come and gone.  Still, we all know that every coach has his ‘safety hatch’.  Every coach has certain ‘go-to’ formations, players, and substitution patterns whenever all hell breaks loose and everyone freezes up.  It’s those exact ‘safety hatches’ that made the US fan base want to fire Bob Bradley and his 1990’s English top division tactical style (hereinafter, Anglophile style) so often, even when he didn’t deserve it.  It’s exactly why, even with a new coach and a new approach to game, you’ll see a twitter-splosion every time we line up in a 4-4-2 or or if Jurgen ever decides he wants to bring Jonathan Bornstein into camp. We don’t know who those players will be for Jurgen, but the main point to consider: what works for German soccer is most definitely NOT guaranteed to work for American soccer.  A fallback to a German style may be more popular. And it might work better. But it might not too. Let’s just hope that Jurgen manages to figure out both. 

Just as the US is making an exciting transition to a new coach, so am I making an exciting transition as a new contributor to The Yanks Are Coming.  I’ve been asked to cover the country of Germany as it pertains to our Yanks, and to be Frankfurt (I know. That is a truly awful joke.), I couldn’t be more thrilled.  The above questions are just a few that will be asked over the coming years and I look forward to trying to answer them. With athletic and skilled young players such as Chandler and Johnson, one of the rocks of our national team in “The Mayor of Hannover” Cherundolo, and a former fellow Mississippian in Jermaine Jones (he spent several years of his childhood just hours from me in Greenwood, MS), I can’t wait to keep y’all in the loop over the next few months.  Hopefully by the time January rolls around, I’ll have written another article about the ‘Flo-Hawk’.

Garrett Mcinnis is a contributing writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He writes about the USMNT, Major League Soccer and the Bundesliga (Germany, ya’ll) for this here website. You can follow him on twitter athttp://twitter.com/#!/captainmcinnis

Daniel Seco

  • Alex Yang

    Don’t forget dual citizenship German/American youths and Amercians in German youth clubs.