- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

So Juergen Klinsmann won’t be the new coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Klinsmann withdrew his name for consideration Thursday, and yesterday U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati named Chivas USA’s Bob Bradley as the team’s interim coach and the coach of the Olympic team.

Klinsmann, who coached Germany in the 2006 World Cup, would have raised the profile of the American team. One of the world’s best strikers in his playing days, the charismatic Klinsmann is widely respected worldwide.

Gulati would give no details yesterday why Klinsmann withdrew his name, saying only that he and the German “agreed on just about everything, but we ran out of time.” The coaching decision had to be made now because the U.S. team will regroup next month after being inactive for half a year for exhibition games against Denmark (Jan. 20) and Mexico (Feb. 7).

During the five-month search for a coach, Gulati talked to 13 candidates before narrowing the list down to five, including Klinsmann and Bradley. Other names on the short list were coaches of teams competing overseas. Two of them are still candidates for the permanent position, which could be announced in May. There have been reports that Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz and Frenchmen Gerard Houllier are in the running for the job.

Bradley, a former D.C. United assistant, is the best American for the job. But he won’t get his calls returned as fast as Klinsmann would have.

The door still may be open for Klinsmann.

“We might work together in the future,” Gulati said. “What that means, I’m not able to tell you and I don’t want anyone to expect that he’ll take the team in 2008 or in May, that’s not what I’m saying at all.”

Klinsmann speaks fluent English and has lived in Southern California with his American wife for years. He has an understanding of America’s unique soccer infrastructure and the potential to change the culture of the game here. He often trained with the Los Angeles Galaxy and got on well with former American team coach Bruce Arena.

“We focused virtually all of our energy on one candidate, and that was Juergen Klinsmann,” Gulati said. “I don’t think I want to shy away from that. He was our first choice.”

As a player Klinsmann starred for clubs such as Stuttgart, Inter Milan, AS Monaco, Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur. He scored 47 goals in 108 games for Germany, helping the team win the 1990 World Cup.

When he took on the German coaching job in 2004 with no previous coaching experience, Klinsmann came under intense criticism. The German media attacked him for refusing to leave California and for hiring American experts in the field of nutrition and training. However, in the end, he won over his critics and became a national hero as he led a young blue-collar German team to third place at this summer’s World Cup. The son of a baker and a trained baker himself, Klinsmann may have had the recipe to revitalize the American team. For the time being Bradley, who won the MLS Cup with Chicago in 1998, will get his chance to prove his mettle.

Bradley, who did a pretty good job with Chivas this year, getting the mediocre team into the playoffs, will have his work cut out for him. The U.S. team has not played since its loss to Ghana in the opening round of the World Cup in July, and a number of veteran stars, such as Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride, have retired. The team’s first big test comes next summer, where in the space of six weeks the Americans will compete in the regional Gold Cup and the Copa America, South America’s biggest soccer event. Bradley, a devout disciple of Arena, has a good eye for talent and proved it when he recruited Peter Nowak — now D.C. United’s coach — to the Chicago Fire.

Roundup — The Washington Freedom Soccer Club has acquired a W-League franchise and will begin play in May 2007 at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown. …

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter is proposing that European leagues follow the American way and play from February to November instead of August to May. …

ESPN and ABC will televise all 31 games of the 2008 European Championship played in Austria and Switzerland from June 7 to 29.

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