CARSON, Calif. — US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have the tools to find success in his new position, but LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said there is one more thing he needs to achieve it.
Klinsmann cannot change the squad and move it forward from one day to the next, Arena said, and the more willing US supporters, media and other onlookers are to wait, the better off Klinsmann will be.
“I hope people will have some patience,” Arena said. “He will be inexperienced in that position. He has an inexperienced staff. They’re going to need a little bit of time to make some mistakes and get acclimated to the situation. I would think that if they can get over the hump there, they’re going to be fine.”
Klinsmann will make his debut as US coach in a highly-anticipated friendly against Mexico in Philadelphia on Wednesday night (9 pm ET, ESPN2/Univisión), an exhilarating culmination to a two-week stretch that saw Bob Bradley’s surprise sacking only to be replaced quickly by the former German national team star and manager.
US Soccer made a similarly drastic change in 1998 when Arena was plucked from MLS to take over the national team. Arena was the first MLS coach to take the helm of the squad and began to rely heavily on MLS-based players from the start.
Like Klinsmann, Arena had some early duels with Mexico. While the team took their share of lumps early on — losses to Mexico in the 1999 US Cup and the 1999 Confederations Cup were somewhat disappointing — Arena eventually righted the ship, and not only against El Tri. T
he US beat Mexico 2-0 in Oct. 2000 — Landon Donovan’s debut, which saw the now-Galaxy captain earn his first cap and goal for his country — and beat them again in World Cup qualifying in Feb. 2001, and completed the hat trick by knocking their archrivals out of the 2002 World Cup to gain a spot in the quarterfinals.
Things did not go the United States’ way early on in Arena’s tenure, but a quarterfinal run in Japan/Korea was probably far more than many expected.
A similar road could lie ahead for Klinsmann.
“It takes time, it takes experience,” Arena said. “Jurgen has a good head on his shoulders and I think if he puts in the time and the effort — which we fully expect him to — he’s going to be fine.”
What could potentially set Klinsmann up for some early failures are the expectations placed on him. Klinsmann was reportedly the federation’s first choice to replace Arena following the 2006 World Cup, but a deal was never reached between the two sides.
Now that US Soccer has their man, perhaps onlookers will be a bit too demanding, particularly because Klinsmann is a big-name foreign coach with World Cup experience.
“For our environment, people think that’s the way to go because they have all these magic wands, and I hear that if you’ve won a World Cup, that’s the answer,” Arena said. “Diego Maradona won a World Cup and I’m not sure that he’s necessarily demonstrated that he has the skills as a coach.”
Patience is critical though, Arena said. While the first match in the Klinsmann era will be against the United States’ main rivals, the match is just the beginning of the German’s stint as coach and focusing too much on the result in Philadelphia is perhaps a mistake.
“Mexico is a friendly,” Arena said. “If people want to make that result more than it is, that’s their business. They could be playing Iceland. They could be playing Brazil. It really doesn’t matter in the big picture. People can look at it that way and [if they can] allow him an opportunity to look at these players and move forward, he’ll be fine.”