NEW YORK — Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to transform American football.
Not just the national team, but the nation's entire coaching structure.
With a sunny disposition and an open, chatty manner, Klinsmann had been viewed as a future United States coach when he retired as a player in 1998 and moved to California with his American wife. After coaching Germany to the World Cup semifinals in 2006, flirting with the U.S. job later that year and lasting less than a season with Bayern Munich, he finally replaced Bob Bradley when the Americans struggled in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"It also is vital I am involved in all the discussions with a lot of coaches out there, how we improve the grass-roots level," Klinsmann said. "I'm fascinated by that approach."
The 49-year-old Klinsmann scored 47 goals in 108 appearances for West Germany and Germany, winning the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship. His club career included stretches at Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Monaco, Tottenham and Bayern Munich.
He speaks to players with the experience of playing at the highest level in Europe, and he embraces the types of statistical analysis, fitness techniques and advanced diet first employed by American coaches in other sports. He also made the controversial decision to drop career scoring leader Landon Donovan.
"He's different, but good different," United States defender DaMarcus Beasley said. "He's always full of life. He's always laughing. He's always smiling. He's very energetic, even in meetings. You can tell that he's happy to be here, happy to be the coach of the national team. I just think his persona will kind of rub off on us and give us that fight and that passion, the same how he played when he was a player."
Klinsmann's temperament may be more suited to the United States than it is his native Germany. Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness criticized Klinsmann for buying computers to prepare PowerPoint presentations of game plans for the club during the 2008-09 season.
Klinsmann already has committed to coach the United States through the 2018 World Cup. His message to his players often is simple. Despite all the high tech, the most important factor is effort.
"They dream about Champions League and they dream about playing for a big-name club and making a lot of money. It's all fine. But I'm telling them every time, you're not doing that by dreaming. You can only do it by working," Klinsmann said. "So if you think that five, six sessions a week is enough to get there, it's not. So if you add two sessions a week on your own, it will show a certain improvement."
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