He has brought 30 U.S. hopefuls to Stanford for training camp to ensure he gets his selections just right before the team’s June 8 departure to Sao Paulo. This is a change from 2006, when Klinsmann coached his native Germany and announced his roster 3½ weeks ahead of its opener.
Nobody is arguing with his methods, given Klinsmann’s pedigree. He played for West Germany’s winning team at the 1990 World Cup and Germany’s winner at the 1996 European Championship, then coached his country to a third-place finish at home in the 2006 World Cup.
“Unfortunately he’s not going to be able to kick a ball for us,” American goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “His experience is in big moments, he’s not fazed by that, so that will help us. Hopefully we’ll be able to kind of read off his demeanor in those big moments — 2 minutes before you leave the dressing room and the music starts playing. Those are the moments that kind of define a team going into a game.”
Klinsmann, tied for sixth with 11 career World Cup goals, is among the first on the field each day as his team warms up at Stanford’s Cagan Stadium, watching intently with a whistle in his mouth. He has added emphasis on diet and nutrition, bringing a chef and dietitian along in the World Cup lead-up.
Klinsmann is constantly challenging everyone around him to be better, pushing others out of their comfort zone.
“It’s clearly worked, so it’s been good,” Howard said.
So has choosing to hold camp at Stanford, where there are world-class athletes at every turn training in their various sports. The Americans mostly blend in when they travel around the tree-lined campus.
“They don’t even know who you are, so it’s fun, it’s cool,” forward Terrence Boyd said Wednesday.
For now, each man playing for Klinsmann knows he must perform each day — while Klinsmann still has flexibility and competition during training to bring out the best in his players. He says he hasn’t decided whether he will make all seven cuts at once before the 23-man roster is due to FIFA by June 2.
And that overachieving German squad was a surprising semifinalist before losing 2-0 to eventual champion Italy in an overtime thriller that saw Fabio Grosso score the go-ahead goal in the 119th minute. Germany then beat Portugal for third place.
The Americans are preparing for what appears to be the most difficult group, in which they play Ghana, Portugal and Germany. The Black Stars have eliminated the Americans from the last two World Cups.
“We have Ghana to play on June 16, and that’s all that matters,” Klinsmann said. “Every day now that we have at our disposal here at Stanford is really, really important to us. A lot of our guys do not have the same foundation as our opponents have, we have to be clear about that. They’re coming from 10-, 11-month seasons and some of them play a Champions League final, they play until the very end. They have ‘X’ amount of games in their legs. Their foundation is different to ours, so we have to catch up.”
The 49-year-old Klinsmann rarely gives players false hope. When national team camps end, he instructs players to return to their clubs and keep playing at a high level.