“If there’s a national team player, he has to do extra work,” Klinsmann said. “He has to do extra weeks, and he can’t go on vacation even if he says, `Well, but I’m supposed now to have six weeks off.’ If he comes and says that, then I give him a hug and say, `Have fun the six weeks, but don’t come back here.’”
Klinsmann spent 17 years in major European leagues and won world and European titles with Germany. That’s made it easier for American players to respond when he has them go through two-a-day workouts when they arrive from their clubs.
“I think the guys are coming into it with an open mind, saying, look, he’s done it,” American captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. He’s done it, and he’s talking about it.”
Klinsmann wears a top to training with his initials “JK” in the European coaching style. He has gotten rid of specific numbers on each players’ uniform, preferring the old system where the starters were assigned Nos. 1-11 based on position, so as to encourage competition.
“It’s a pretty good system. It’s the way it works in Europe, like nothing is yours forever,” Howard said. “I don’t think some of the younger guys quite get it. That’s OK. It’s more my family, trying to explain to them what the numbers are.”
Klinsmann also seems to place more of an emphasis than Bradley on players winding up in productive club situations. On his latest roster, he bypassed Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan, who had been Howard’s heir apparent. Guzan has played just once for the Villans this season.
“I sent a message in my first get-together, for the Mexico game, I said, for me the most important thing is that you guys play,” Klinsmann remembered telling them. “If you are on the bench somewhere, it doesn’t matter in Europe, in the MLS or in Mexico, you have a problem coming in here.”
He’s also getting involved in the U.S. team’s schedule. He was unhappy the Honduras game was Saturday instead of Friday, leaving just two days between matches. And he didn’t like last month’s fixtures, when the Americans played Costa Rica in California on a Friday, then traveled to Belgium for a Tuesday match.
“I won’t sign off games played Saturday-Tuesday because of any television reasons or whatever the reason is for it,” he said.
By Elaine Donnelly
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