WASHINGTON, D.C. (Friday, July 29, 2011) -- On the third attempt, United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati finally got his man, hiring German Jürgen Klinsmann to replace Bob Bradley as head coach of the men's national team. Now possibly, we'll find out if Klinsmann can actually coach. For many in Europe, especially in Germany, the jury is still out on that question.
Gulati tried to hire Klinsmann after both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but could not reach an agreement with him presumably over the issue of control. Reportedly, Klinsmann demanded absolute control over all aspects of the men's national-team program, including the Olympic and youth teams, as well as against whom and when the national team played friendlies. Gulati was not willing to cede that degree of control and now it's not clear how much control he had to give up in order to sign Klinsmann this time around.
Klinsmann certainly had an illustrious 17-year career playing for some of Europe's top clubs and ending up the third all-time leading scorer in German national-team history. He was a key player on both Germany's World Cup champion in 1990 and European titlist in 1996 but, as a coach, his record is open to question, to say the least.
Klinsmann, who moved to Southern California after his playing days were over, was named coach of Germany's World Cup team for the 2006 tournament. On paper, he seemed to have been a success with Germany finishing third. But his job was made much easier because Germany was the host nation and did not have to go through qualifying, and it was generally understood by the German soccer media that his assistant, Joachim Löw, actually coached the team on a day-to-day basis while Klinsmann commuted in from California.
Löw took over the top job and led Germany to the 2008 European Championship final and another bronze medal at the 2010 World Cup.
After two years off, Klinsmann took over as coach of German Bundesliga power Bayern Munich, which was the odds-on favorite to win the league title and perhaps the European Champions League as well, but he had a rocky tenure. He lasted less than a year with his team having compiled a decent 25-9-9 record, but not as good as mark as had been expected. Klinsmann had a falling out with the Bayern board and, at the end, was feuding with a number of his players.
Since his days at Bayern, Klinsmann has run a soccer consultancy from California. He was hired as a consultant by Major League Soccer's Toronto FC where he recommended Dutchman Aron Winter as coach. Toronto has a poor 3-11-9 record in MLS.
Simply put, Klinsmann has never been a clear success on the bench, despite having been surrounded by world-class players. It will be interesting how he will fare in charge of a U.S. team that needs rebuilding and which is decidedly not world class.