Friday, December 15, 2006

US Soccer in land of confusion

USA.
Jurgen Klinsmann will not be the next coach of the US men's national team.

Having kept American fans' breath baited for six months following the World Cup Finals, the German legend, who lives with his American wife and family only half an hour from the USA's training centre in California, announced he will not be taking up the job that seemed his on a plate.

Precious few details have emerged beyond the fact there appeared to have been a monetary agreement but that the two parties diverged when it came to the structure of the job. Klinsmann is known for getting his own way or moving on. Just remember his bust-ups with Alan Sugar and Christian Gross at Tottenham, with Cesar Luis Menotti and Vujadin Boskov at Sampdoria and Lothar Matthaus at Bayern and the German national team.

He emerged a hero from the 2006 World Cup when his apparently mediocre and lowly-rated team came within one game of the final, papering over his uneasy relationship with the German media, who had constantly criticized his monthly commuting from Los Angeles, and the Deutscher Fussball Bund, who were forced to adopt Klinsmann's American-style set-up of sports psychologists and special team coaches.

US Soccer's chief executive Sunil Gulati is understandably receiving a ton of flak from fans disgruntled at the lack of international games for the States since the summer, only to find the saviour they had been waiting on jilted them at the altar.

Interim US manager until the Spring is Bob Bradley, the most experienced American available. The former coach of the Chicago Fire, Metrostars and Chivas USA has the top job at least until the start of the new MLS season. Other candidates interviewed and thus in theory still in the running were former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman and Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz.

To add to the silly season in America, Freddy Adu has transferred to Real Salt Lake from DC United, but is still widely expected to cross the pond when he turns 18 in a year's time, following another MLS season, which concludes in November.

Toronto FC will join MLS in 2007 - that's right, a Canadian team and also one that makes a total of 13 clubs, unbalancing the two conferences.

Finally, the US soccer community is mourning the death at 74 of Lamar Hunt, a long-time investor in the sport. Hunt owned the Dallas Burn and Columbus Crew teams at his death, having sold the Kansas City Wizards, has America's 'FA Cup' named after him and financed America's first professional soccer-only stadium, Crew Stadium, in 1996.

Hunt's early life was notable for an alleged involvement in the killing of JFK along with his father, Texan oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, but these unproven theories were later forgotten as Hunt took an active interest in professional sports, owning the Kansas City Chiefs NFL team among others.

A perfect illustration of how an American's love for football is compatible with a love for basketball and other sports, Lamar Hunt also went down in history for coining the term 'Superbowl' for American football's premier event, allegedly after he asked his daughter what she was playing with and she answered her father, 'that's my super-ball!'

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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