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Professional Jul 29, 2011

Boehm: Fans, Gulati finally get their wish as Jürgen Klinsmann named U.S. coach

By Charles Boehm

He’s been the elusive target of U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati for the better part of five years, and on Friday afternoon Jürgen Klinsmann was finally unveiled as the new coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

After he and Gulati were unable to agree to terms on multiple occasions in the past, the California resident – who most recently served as a consultant to MLS club Toronto FC – has inked a deal with U.S. Soccer, which prompted the federation to suddenly dump Bob Bradley this week after some five years at the helm.

Klinsmann was widely regarded as one of the hottest young managers in world soccer after he led a young Germany side to a surprising third-place finish at World Cup 2006 on home soil. Although his outsider’s approach to the job had originally been controversial – he kept his home base in Southern California and made an intercontinental commute halfway around the world – he disappointed many in his homeland by stepping down from the post after the tournament.

He then engaged in prolonged negotiations with Gulati and his colleagues over taking over the U.S. program, only to walk away from the opportunity after the federation declined to give him wider authority over multiple aspects of the national team system.

But two years later his reputation took a battering in his next job, at the helm of German powerhouse Bayern Munich. Despite having starred for the club during part of his distinguished playing career, Klinsmann struggled to maneuver among Bayern’s murky internal politics, antagonizing powerful cabals on the board of directors. His progressive,  some would say bizarre, training and preparation methods, many of them gleaned from his time in the United States, were often questioned and even mocked by many in and around the club.

He lasted less than a year, as the perennially ambitious Bavarian side and its fans lost patience with a string of poor league results and fired him in April 2009.

Yet his allure lingered for Gulati, who reportedly approached Klinsmann again after the United States were knocked out of the 2010 World Cup with a round-of-16 loss to Ghana. Again, the two sides could not broker a deal and Bradley, who was left twisting in the wind during the process, was awarded a new four-year contract.

A year later, the U.S. Men’s program seems to have stagnated and this summer’s 4-2 Gold Cup final loss to Mexico in Pasadena, Calif. may have been the last straw for the federation’s leadership, who will almost surely have to pay out a “golden handshake” to Bradley in order to bring on their new choice.

Many fans have been clamoring for Bradley’s head for months, even years. Now they’ll at last begin to find out if what they want is actually what the U.S. National Team needs.

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