February 6, 2013

Direct Kick: Klinsmann hit the nail right on the head

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the United States men’s national soccer team, raised quite a few eyebrows (at least among those who care about soccer) with some comments he made regarding Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, two players considered by many to be among the best American soccer players, and the team in general.

“Just because you won a game in the World Cup in the knockout stage, you haven’t won anything,” Klinsmann said, referring to the team advancing to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. He was just as hard on Dempsey, who scored 23 goals last year for Fulham in the English Premier League.

“[Dempsey] hasn’t made (expletive). You play for Fulham? Yeah, so? Show me you can play for a Champions League team, and then you start on a Champions League team,” Klinsmann says. “There is always another level. If you one day reach the highest level then you’ve got to confirm it, every year.” Dempsey is playing for Tottenham this season, which is a step up, and has scored five goals.

Donovan is pretty much an afterthought right now. Considered by many as this countries greatest player, he is currently taking a lengthy vacation following the Major League Soccer season, something that Klinsmann doesn’t understand. He recently told Donovan he didn’t want him at the U.S. team’s camp or at the match against Honduras Wednesday night in a World Cup qualifier.

“It will be defined over the next year what his role with the national team is,” Klinsmann said. “But the ultimate call is mine on whether he fits into my plans or doesn’t’ fit into my plans.”

And you know what? He’s right.

Yes, Dempsey has made strides in the past few years, and Donovan has been the golden boy of American soccer, but on the world stage, they have yet to make their mark. Jozy Altidore is a scoring machine for AZ Alkmaar in Holland this season, but has only found the net six times for his country. That’s been American’s biggest problem over the years. Scoring goals. Or more to the point, having a player you can depend on to get those goals.

Every team that has a legitimate shot at winning the World Cup has one of those, sometimes two or more. Argentina has Lionel Messi, who just set a new record for goals in a calendar year. He has scored 31 times for his country. Brazil has Luis Fabiano and Neymar with 28 and 17 goals respectively. Germany has Mario Gomez with 25, Miroslav Klose with 67, and Lukas Podolski with 44 goals; the Netherlands has Robin van Persie with 31 goals and Klass-Jan Huntelaar’s 24. Cristiano Ronaldo leads Portugal with 37 goals. Wayne Rooney has 24 for England. Spain has David Villa, who has scored 53 goals for his nation.

I’m glad that Klinsmann it taking this stance. It’s been long overdue. For too long Americans have been satisfied with making it out of the knockout stage at the World Cup. That’s been cause for celebrations. If a Germany or France or Brazil didn’t make it out of the knockout stage, you can bet heads would roll. They have in the past. And Klinsmann can get away with making these statements because he has the pedigree to back things up.

Klinsmann has put Dempsey on the roster for Wednesday night’s qualifier. In fact, he has a pretty full squad, so it will be interesting to see what they can do in that hostile environment. The match will be broadcast live on beinsport at 3:55 p.m. today. Funny thing is ESPN isn’t carrying this match, but they will broadcast Mexico take on Jamaica on the same night because they made a deal to televise all of Mexico’s qualifier’s and World Cup matches, but they aren’t doing the same for their own country. What’s up with that? Support your home country first.

It’s not wonder the sport is still struggling in the United States. And if you can’t watch the match at 3:55 p.m., it will be rebroadcast at 11 p.m.

• My thoughts on the Super Bowl. A tale of two halves. Baltimore dominated the first half, but once the lights went out, it was all San Francisco until late in the game when the Ravens scored and held on for a 33-31 win.

Joe Flacco was named the MVP. Flacco gets no respect from the media, but I’m here to tell you that the guy is among the best in the NFL. Maybe it’s because he came from Delaware and not some huge football factory from the SEC or Big 10. But he wins. That’s the bottom line.

Had I been a San Francisco fan who had a seat where the teams came out, I would have dressed in an all-white suit with deer antlers on my head and made sure Ray Lewis saw me when he came out of the tunnel.

The way the TV announcers were reporting the power outage you would have thought there was a conspiracy behind it.

It’s electricity. It goes out from time to time. I didn’t need a statement from the NFL about it. When all is said and done, it was probably a squirrel that caused it. They usually do. Nasty little buggers they are.

The commericals, for the most part, were terrible. The one with the Joe Montana stain was pretty good. I got a kick out of that one.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

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