Klinsmann ready for coaching debut with US Soccer

By Dan Gelston

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 9 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

United States men's national team soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann points at the start of practice, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011 in Philadelphia. The U.S. plays Mexico in an international friendly soccer match on Wednesday.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — After the disappointment from a Gold Cup final loss that led to a coaching shakeup, Jurgen Klinsmann is set to lead a new era of U.S. Soccer.

He's getting a crash course on his new team, coaching his first game Wednesday night against Mexico less than two weeks after he was hired to jolt a program plagued by a series of lackluster results.

Welcome aboard, Coach.

Now get out there and win.

"Jumping into a game this right away is not an easy task, but it's an exciting one," he said Tuesday.

Klinsmann, one of the greatest players Germany has ever produced, was put in charge of making the U.S. competitive again in the World Cup. After reaching the round of 16 at last year's World Cup, the Americans took a step backward this year. They were routed by Spain in early June, upset by Panama in Gold Cup group play and then blew a two-goal lead against Mexico in the Gold Cup final, costing Bob Bradley his job.

The early — real early — returns are promising.

Klinsmann says he's encouraged by the positive attitudes and talent after only a few days of camp. He jumped into training camp with an open mind about who could become impact players, and where the pipeline needs more prospects.

Klinsmann sounded like an NFL draft guru in his desire for the Americans to get younger, get deeper.

Some of the best US players — Landon Donovan, captain Carlos Bocanegra, defender Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey — are aging, and the U.S. didn't have the best track record of developing promising young talent under Bradley. At least, not enough of it. Klinsmann wants to find the next Donovan; the new generation of goalies.

If Mexico is the focus this week, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil never seemed too far out of his thoughts.

"I need to make sure the right people are in place," he said.

The Gold Cup loss to Mexico was a sign that the U.S. team's progress had stalled under Bradley. The U.S. almost hired Klinsmann twice — first after the 2006 World Cup and again last year before giving Bradley what turned out to be a short-lived contract extension.

Bradley's son Michael, a midfielder, called his fired father a "strong guy" who handled the news like a pro.

"It's part of the game," Michael Bradley said. "Nobody would have expected he was going to be here 20 years. You know that going in. My dad, more than anybody, realized that. He was always committed to work as hard as he could and doing whatever he could to help the national team while he was here."

Now it's Klinsmann's turn.

Klinsmann led his native Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup, and had opportunities to coach big European clubs or national teams. But he spurned them for the chance to stay in the United States — his wife is American and they've lived in California for the last 13 years — and take on the challenge of turning U.S. soccer into World Cup contenders.

"After a couple of days, I'm highly impressed with these guys," he said.

His familiarization process with his team has been sped up. Klinsmann had about 13 players for the first training session Sunday night, and the first full squad training session was Monday morning. The team practiced Tuesday across the street from the site of the game, Lincoln Financial Field. About 25,000 tickets had been sold at the home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles

Donovan, the face of American soccer, was encouraged by the message and spirit of his new coach.

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