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Coach Jurgen Klinsmann ruffling a few feathers as he reshapes U.S. soccer (w/video)

  • U.S.head coach Jurgen Klinsmann talks with his assistant coaches before the practice begins, Wednesday, June 4, 2014 in Jacksonville, Fla.. The team was practicing in advance of Saturday's friendly match against Nigeria, the last before the World Cup matches in Brazil. (AP Photo/The Florida Times-Union, Bob Mack)

"The fact that he hasn't chosen Landon Donovan is not a big story to me," McManaman said. "If a player's not in form, he doesn't get chosen, and that's the way it's always been for me, whether it's the greatest player in the world or whether it's an average player. ... You need to be playing well for your club, you need to be playing well week in and week out to warrant the chance to play for your country."

Darke saw it differently.

"I slightly agree with Bruce Arena that if the USA have 23 better players than Landon Donovan, they better go pretty close to winning this World Cup. He isn't the player he was, there's no question about that. ... I still think he could have done a job, even if it was only for 20 minutes from the bench."

If McManaman and Darke can't agree on Klinsmann's maneuvers, how can the rest of us? The short answer: We can't.

Almost from the time he was entrusted with the future of American soccer three years ago, Klinsmann had emerged as a polarizing figure.

A brilliant player in his prime, both for the German national team and for a series of elite soccer clubs, he sometimes acts as though he has little regard for history.

This is not a new reputation. Most Germans were thrilled when Klinsmann was hired to coach their national program in 2004, but they soon grew suspicious of his ways. His unflinching personnel moves, for example, included benching goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, beloved hero of the 2002 World Cup. He brought in a sports psychologist and a nutritionist, and he hired new assistants, including an American personal trainer to oversee the players' conditioning.

By the time the 2006 World Cup began in Germany, there were rumors that Klinsmann would be fired mid-tournament if the home team struggled early. It didn't. The Germans played with flair and cohesion, and wound up taking third place.

The German public hailed Klinsmann as a savior. Four days later, he resigned the position, citing burnout.

Two years after that, FC Bayern Munich, the club for which he had played two seasons in the mid-1990s, hired Klinsmann as coach. That, too, was soon followed by head-scratching and muttered criticism. People questioned the need for a team movie theater and "quiet room." The tipping point seemed to come when Klinsmann ordered statues of Buddha arranged around the team's training facility. Bavaria is a heavily Catholic region, and the Buddhas were not embraced.


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