Three days before the US plays a key World Cup 2014 qualifying home match, a Sporting News online report on Tuesday said several US soccer players have problems with coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
The report says 11 players in the US national team pool and 11 others connected to the program, none of them identified by name, say there are major rifts within the team and confidence and faith is dimming in Klinsmann.
“Things are boiling over,” one source told the Sporting News. “The feeling now is that this is [Klinsmann’s] last chance against Costa Rica.”
Much of the criticism is aimed at the former German national team coach, who was hired to take over the US program in July of 2011 and will field his 24th different lineup in as many games when the Americans face Costa Rica in Denver.
“We do all this stuff. OK, it’s good for us and it’s scientifically proven,” a US player told the Sporting News. “But in the end it’s a round ball. The Peles and the Maradonas in the world weren’t doing all these things.”
“We spend more time worrying about gyms and nutrition, and we don’t do enough of what we need to do on the field,” he said.
A 2-1 loss last month in Honduras in the North American final round 2014 World Cup qualifying opener brought issues to a boiling point, the story said, because captain Carlos Bocanegra was benched, and Klinsmann slighted Bocanegra in telling players the veteran was being relegated to a reserve role.
“He already broke Carlos’ heart. Why drive the knife in and twist it?” a source said in the report.
Bocanegra, not on the roster for the US matches tomorrow and on Tuesday at arch-rivals Mexico, expressed his feelings in a diplomatic posting on his Facebook page on Tuesday night.
“During the last 18 months Jurgen has introduced a lot of new ideas to the team and has a vision of how he wants to grow the program,” Bocanegra wrote.
“Every coach around the world has his own style and methods. He has always been up front with players about where they stand and where he sees them going. Not every player is going to be happy with all of the decisions and methods, but he will tell you to your face where you stand,” he wrote.
“From a coach, that is the best thing you could ask for. One of the greatest strengths of this team has always been our unity and spirit, and we all remain committed to the cause of qualifying for the World Cup,” Bocanegra wrote.
Klinsmann spoke to the Sporting News about the criticism uncovered for the story and defended taking players out of a comfort zone and keeping them uncertain if they will start or who they might be partnered with, saying it makes players better.
“All those elements we throw at them now, because if we don’t do it, it’s too late in the World Cup,” Klinsmann said.
“I take this conversation as a positive also with the players, talking more about this process to them ... The only way we get them to that next level is to run them through this uncomfortable period, and they have to learn and they have to swim in the cold water. And we’re going to convince the world later,” he said.
Players told the Sporting News they found the last-minute ouster of Bocanegra “a bit disturbing” and “to not have him in a game like that was really peculiar.”
A player said that, “sometimes a coach’s biggest mistake is trying to get in who he sees as the best 11 players on the field, but they don’t have to be. You have to have 11 players on the field who are going to work well with each other and be good for each other.”
A player called Klinsmann “scatterbrained” while another said “certain players aren’t in the same situation and on the same page on the field. It’s frustrating.”
Some players were critical of the role played by German-born sons of US soldiers within the team and one player said Klinsmann was trying to turn a scrappy US side into a technical side like Germany, Brazil or Spain.
“We work hard, we fight and we compete,” the player said. “We have great athletes, and we’re a good counterattacking team. Maybe we need to go back to what we’re good at.”