The United States Soccer Federation ("USSF") may be getting serious about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as well as the Olympic Tournament in London next summer, seemingly having gone "all in" for the dream coach they have sought after for the last five years. They came close to getting their man a couple of times during that time span, but there was a certain sticking point each time, mainly the degree of authority they would cede to the new coach, that kept their dream man just out of reach.
They thought they had him in 2006 right after Bruce Arena's World Cup debacle and subsequent firing, then again in 2009 before they settled for making interim head coach Bob Bradley, the head coach. Bradley's job seemed secure as recently as June of this year after a respectable run at South Africa 2010 where the U.S. won its group before a couple of boneheaded defensive collapses in the first knockout match against Ghana booked its ticket home by a count of 2-1 in extra time. Bradley's team then looked dismal in this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, despite reaching the final. A loss in the group stage against Panama was inexplicable. A 4-2 loss to archrival Mexico in the final despite going up 2-0 at the half was devastating. It was Bradley's last stand. The termination of his contract was announced by USSF honcho Sunil Gulati earlier this week.
The names of candidates were not forthcoming, though some cautiously whispered the dream man's name. Former U.S. National Player and Serie A journeyman Alexi Lalas said on ESPN that the team "needed a rock star," and dared mention the dream man in the same breath. His tone suggested what every other sentient U.S. soccer fan was thinking, "another four years with a mediocre coach and another dog of a World Cup appearance." U.S. soccer seemed to be heading onward on its predetermined path of maddening underachievement.
But on Friday evening, everything changed. U.S. soccer fans were both shocked and overjoyed to hear that former German captain and national team coach Jurgen Klinnsman had accepted the position as coach of the U.S. Soccer team, bringing oceans of soccer wisdom to a national organization that has shown much promise but little results since making its mark by hosting the sport's biggest showcase in 1994, and having the guts to make it to the knockout round before going down to eventual champions Brazil. Klinsmann, as a player, participated in three World Cups ('86, '90, '94), winning Italy '90 with the last West German team. He captained Germany's 1996 European Cup Champions at the tournament in England, scoring three goals in the competition and contributing to the Golden Goal scored by Oliver Bierhoff in the final against the Czech Republic. Klinsmann coached the German team at the 2006 World Cup hosted by that nation where a youthful, yet enthusiastic team finished a surprising 3rd place, losing in the semifinal to eventual winners Italy.
Expectations are high for Klinsmann on these shores as he will not only be in charge of the main senior team, but, as he wanted, the youth level teams and the entire national soccer organization as well. This means he will not only be picking the current teams that will represent the United States at international tournaments, but future tournaments as well. The work Klinsmann does in the next few years could impact U.S. Soccer for decades to come. It is make or break time for the USSF. I am 47 years old. It looks like Klinsmann will determine whether or not the U.S. Soccer fans in my age group will ever see the U.S. hoist the ever-hallowed World Cup. I wish him nothing but the best.
More about the Klinsmann hiring and his career: