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ASN Weekly Debate

Should Klinsmann Balance the Present and the Future?

Our two pundits debate if the United States national team coach is sacrificing the now for the sake of the later, wondering how matches against Belgium and Germany help or hurt the 2014 campaign.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
March 15, 2013
3:00 PM
Noah Davis: Okay. Here's my question today, Ryan: How does Jurgen Klinsmann balance the needs of the present with the needs of the future? I'm worried scheduling friendlies against Belgium and Germany days before three crucial qualifiers is good for the long-term health of the program but bad for the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.

Ryan O'Hanlon: I'm not sure you should be worried. What's the worry? That the players will be tired for the games that actually matter?

Davis: Yes. Just like they were tired for the game against Antigua and Barbuda last June, which was close until the late stages, and gave up a late goal against Guatemala. It was pretty clear to me that they were tired from the long camp/five-game tournament.

O'Hanlon: Doesn't this come down to what you think of—or whether or not you trust—Klinsmann? I don't think, just by having two games before three more games, that it necessarily means the players will automatically be tired. It's more from the approach they take in training and in those games, which, I guess, is just circling back to your original question.

Davis: Okay fair. Then I guess based on the available evidence, no, I don't.

O'Hanlon: I think I do, only because I'd rather assume, and ignore some possibly-minor past evidence that the man coaching the U.S. understands that three qualifying games are, right now, way more important than two friendlies against good European teams.

Davis: Uh... but this is nearly the exact same scenario as last year. Are you saying you think Klinsmann learned something or are you disagreeing with my premise?

O'Hanlon: I'm not totally disagreeing with your premise, but, I think, a third option could maybe be that Klinsmann thinks these qualifiers are more important (because they're more difficult and etc.) and won't want his players tired, while last year he might've been okay with it?

Davis: I don't know. I'm still skeptical but I hope you're right. Back to the initial query, how do you balance the present with the future?

O'Hanlon: That's the, um, infinity-dollar question of, well, like, pretty much every aspect of being a human, isn't it?

Davis: Just answer it.

O'Hanlon: Fine. With U.S. Soccer, more so than with Spanish Soccer or, yeah, Spanish Soccer, I think everything you do has to have some eye on the future doesn't it? The team's not yet good enough, I don't think, where some proper changes and a few of the right bounces could add up to them winning the World Cup, which would be the time where it'd be OK to take a totally-present focus.

Davis: That's barely an answer. But okay, I think I agree. I'm still wary of Belgium and Germany and possibly a team to-be-named later but it's good for the program from a revenue standpoint (never underestimate the money) and if (big if) the team can stay fresh—which is more about training than the games—I'm all for the challenge. That said, would it be the worst thing to play a team that mimicked what the Caribbean and Central American opponents will do? O'Hanlon: It's a good answer if you understand what I'm saying, although I'm pretty sure I'm (and maybe you, sort of, sometimes) the only person that applies to. And yeah, that question has me thinking: the team has done some great things against European teams since Klinsmann took over, which is great, but maybe that focus is why they've been underwhelming in CONCACAF so far? Also: maybe not.

Davis: The U.S. is a better team when it's the underdog. That happens in Europe/against European competition. It doesn't in CONCACAF. The U.S. is vulnerable to the quick counter, just like they can be deadly running it at superior opposition.

O'Hanlon: So, playing against more worse teams will actually make the U.S... better?

Davis: Well, not when you put it that way. But playing against Germany and Belgium is not going to help the U.S. figure out how to break down a bunkered in Costa Rica/Honduras/Jamaica/etc.

O'Hanlon: I have a solution that you will hate: play Canada.

Davis: Honestly, it's not the worst idea. So we're agreed: The future lies in beating Canada.

O'Hanlon: Noah Davis on February 1: "I'm sorry, but playing Canada is a waste of time." Noah Davis today: (see above).

Davis: I credit you for changing my mind.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. Frequently, opinions are malleable.

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