HARRISON, N.J. – With his first win finally under his belt, US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t about to stop rocking the boat as he tries to introduce new philosophies and new ideas into his tenure.
And in applying a new style of play into the US set-up, the former Germany manager didn’t hold back as to what he wants from his players: even more playing time at the club level, which he believes may necessitate a longer season in Major League Soccer.
“The big challenge is for MLS overall, how can we stretch this season into a format that is competitive with the rest of the world?” Klinsmann asked in his press conference on Monday at Red Bull Arena, the site of Tuesday night’s friendly against Ecuador (7 pm ET, ESPN2/Univisión, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“Right now, it’s not competitive if you have a seven-, eight-month season; that’s not competitive with the rest of the world. We need an 11-month season for those guys. They can have three, four weeks off a year, that’s the maximum," Klinsmann said. "Otherwise you’re not at the same level physically.”
After leading Germany to a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann now faces pressure to build on the effort of the United States in 2010 where they won their group and made it to the round of 16.
If the national team is going to do that, Klinsmann expects his players to be fit and regulars with their clubs, making it imperative for MLS-based players in the national team pool to put in extra effort to be fit and sharp – or else don’t bother applying.
“If there is a national team player [in MLS], he has to do extra work, he has to do extra weeks and he can’t go on vacation even if he says, ‘I’m supposed to have six weeks off,’” Klinsmann continued. “I will give him a hug and say, ‘Have fun in six weeks and don’t come back here.’ It’s not working.”
Klinsmann didn’t stop there, going on to say that from this point forward, he’ll have input in scheduling. He’s not a fan of the quick turnaround for Tuesday’s match, which comes three days after the US’ last game 1,200 miles down the coast in Miami. And he repeated that his stylistic approach to the game, which has the US playing in a new tactical set-up and with shuffled personnel, will take more time.
While the expectations and talking points from Klinsmann remain high and very forward thinking, there is a bit of caution to his vision – he doesn’t expect the United States to emulate the success of his swashbuckling Germany team in 2006.
“You can’t compare the US program with the German program,” he said. “It’s completely different – different ways of doing things, different structures. The American soccer system is unique in the world. I’ve learned all that obviously over the last 13 years living in this country. I think I can bring a lot to the table because I also know the European ways of doing it.”