Monday, March 31, 2014

Loyalty finally taking a back seat in U.S. soccer?

U.S. fans have long debated credentials of Martin Vasquez

Martin Vasquez was let go as manager of Chivas USA following a disastrous campaign in 2010 for allegedly refusing to demote an assistant. Obviously, the Goats' record was enough to justify his firing and should have been enough to warrant that change but local reports that claimed his loyalty cost him his job raised a few eyebrows.

That sense of allegiance has gripped U.S. soccer for years. As supporters of the game here have grown more sophisticated, so too have their demanding voices, particularly in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.

When Vasquez was plucked from a healthy number of candidates to be Klinsy's assistant manager, debates ensued, most notably at his experience. But by all accounts, it appears that Klinsmann was moved by Vasquez's reading of the game, of his connections to Mexican soccer and his overall demeanor. But was that enough to warrant a position with the German as he made the move to Bayern Munich for 2008-2009?

Vasquez himself admitted he was surprised by the move, according to an interview he provided to ESPN last year, initially believing Klinsmann would take on an MLS role, given the German's residency in southern California. He even said he asked Klinsmann if he was sure about hiring him.

The charismatic German would have none of it. He wanted Vasquez as part of his staff because he didn't want anyone there that's "done it already" and mostly was attracted to Vasquez's hunger and ambitious need for learning the game at a new level.

That's what has bothered some U.S. fans for years. Vasquez, for all his quiet but hard-working personality has shown, wasn't the tactical wingman that was needed in this new era of American soccer. Klinsmann was courted for years by U.S. soccer but some noted that it was his name and experience that was more in line with their desire than his actual resume on the field. Sure, he previously managed the German side on home soil to what any other country would deem a success--a semifinal appearance at the 2006 World Cup--as well as his stint with Bayern Munich.

But Klinsy has been seen more as a charmer, a go-getter and motivator. Philipp Lahm ripped him and Vasquez in his biography, astonishingly claiming players were left scrambling to address tactical moves prior to some matches while Klinsmann's staff only focused on fitness and nutrition.

The same accusations were regurgitated in a Sporting News article a year ago that quoted some U.S. national team players anonymously, and all of whom worried about Klinsmann's training methods. But the articulate and smiling Klinsmann brushed those claims off, indicating that it was part of the changes the program was undergoing. The U.S. went on to qualify for Brazil at the top of the table.

Supporters now have to digest a major move with only a few months to go before the tournament in Brazil. Whether or not these moves were made in advance of Brazil or for the longer-term (Klinsmann inked an extension with U.S. soccer) is up for debate at the moment. Loyalty has taken a back seat and the fans are watching and waiting to pounce, if need be.

-Tio Pelotas