A quick secret: LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann didn’t tell family or friends that he was starting Saturday’s match at Minnesota United FC. He’d been backing up Jonathan Bond for the Western Conference side’s first 18 games this season and opted to keep them none the wiser.
Even his father Jurgen Klinsmann, the former US men’s national team head coach, didn't know.
“I didn't want any congratulations texts before the game,” the goalkeeper said. “I still haven't talked to anyone, so my dad's probably pissed. I just kind of took it and had tunnel vision like, 'I got to play well, I got to play well.'”
That headspace panned out, as Klinsmann logged a seven-save shutout that preserved a 1-0 win at Allianz Field. It was just his fifth appearance total for LA since signing in August 2020, having spent most of last year behind David Bingham.
"It means everything," Klinsmann said postgame. " ... For me, it was just waiting for this chance and taking it."
Klinsmann re-upped with LA in January, though Bond joined over the winner from then-Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. The English goalkeeper started LA’s first 18 matches as the Greg Vanney era settled in, and was promptly named MLS Player of the Week for Week 7. Vanney, previously the leader of Toronto FC's rise up the MLS hierarchy, kept riding the hot hand.
Now amid a stretch of three games in seven days before the 2021 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Vanney decided to reward the 24-year-old’s patience. Vanney said they’d normally have U.S. Open Cup games to give him a runout, but the 2021 edition of that historic tournament was canceled.
“He proved today that he’s ready for whatever role we give him,” Vanney said. “He was outstanding, made some incredibly athletic saves over the course of the game and I thought he did a good job. We don’t come away with the three points without the performance that he had.
“We’ve said that about both Jonathans over the course of the season, so tonight it was his turn to step in and show us that. Incredibly proud of him because as I said before, he’s remained focused and working hard. He’s a confident young man and he’s sure of himself and he got in there and showed he has reason to be.”
Before coming to MLS, the former US youth international started his professional career in Europe. He was at German side Hertha BSC as followed by Swiss side St. Gallen, though a breakthrough never arrived.
But his time at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup showed promise, backstopping the Americans' quarterfinal run and eventual exit at the hands of Venezuela, emerging as now-Houston Dynamo FC coach Tab Ramos' first-choice option. Nobody’s clamoring for a USMNT opportunity after one match, though the one-time promising USYNT prospect could get back on track. It also helps that he’s returned home, having spent much of his childhood in southern California and then playing college soccer for the University of California, Berkeley.
“Since I got back, it's been pretty nice, just being able to not have to focus on anything off the field,” Klinsmann said. “You kind of have all those things – you're at home, you have your family, you have your friends, which I didn't have for three years in Europe, which was always tough for me. I felt like this was the best situation for me to advance as an athlete.”
And thus arrives a selection headache for Vanney – or rather a good problem to have. Klinsmann craves the starting role, while Bond has been one of 2021's better imports. They push each other in training sessions, and as Klinsmann remarked, "goalkeeper's a difficult position. You can't get subbed out randomly in the 72nd minute and then get a little bit of time."
His intentions are crystal clear.
“My goal is to not be on the bench anymore,” Klinsmann said. “So I hope I did as much as I could today to keep going forward and hopefully take that starting spot.”