Gulati's Silence Over Klinsmann Controversy Smartest Decision He's Ever Made
Now that Jurgen Klinsmann has gone public with his side of the failed negotiations over the U.S. Men's National team's head coaching position, there's been a media uproar and demand for a response from U.S. Soccer Federation's president, Sunil Gulati.
His vow of silence positioned under the oft-used phrase "no comment," may be the best choice he's ever made.
According to Klinsmann, contract negotiations broke down at the last minute as Gulati refused to put in writing a verbal agreement that the German would have full control over technical decisions.
Obviously, journalists and fans would like two questions answered by Gulati. One, "Is this true?", and two, if it is, "Why didn't you agree to the terms?"
How can Gulati answer either of these questions without making himself, Dan Flynn (general secretary), and the federation, look bad?
If Gulati claims the comments aren't true, then the ensuing controversy, the he-said/she-said reports, and the acrimony that always accompanies such situations becomes the focal point of U.S. soccer while the team and especially Bob Bradley, are pushed to the side.
It's a situation no one wants. Bob Bradley's already been labeled the United States' second choice, and if he's connected to what a number of fans and analysts have deemed a mistake by the powers that be, he becomes a villain.
A number of national team players have been awkwardly silent or non-committal over Bradley's extension, and a prolonged, melodramatic, sensationalists controversy could polarize players that hoped the team would move in a different direction.
There's little possibility of Gulati winning a tit-for-tat argument over what their falling out was over.
The same goes for trying to explain to the media and fans why U.S. Soccer wouldn't hire Klinsmann anyway.
Klinsmann is revered in most corners of American soccer.
As a player, he is a legend, being part of the German squad that helped to derail the U.S. advancement beyond the group stage (or win a game).
When he coached the German squad in 2006, the team's success and his demeanor was an extraordinary story. His problems with Bayern Munich had little effect on his status in the U.S. (partly because it wasn't a major story in American Sports Media, and partly because Klinsmann embraced Landon Donovan's potential before he had proven himself).
If all of that wasn't enough, his stint as a guest analyst during the 2010 World Cup endeared him to a large swathe of the American audience...including the casual soccer fan.
And most importantly, Klinsmann is a European that loves America. He validates those American fan's that have a passion for the world's game. In a world where few Americans are appreciated, Klinsmann gives value to their efforts.
In return, he's loved.
Meanwhile, Gulati is a Columbia Professor with a permanent politician's smile glued to his face. He's not well known outside of international soccer, and he's not a former player. His job is to make difficult decisions that no one else wants to make; the type of decisions that oftentimes go unrewarded and are constantly criticized.
Even if Gulati was right (and it's hard to argue his side), there's little possibility of winning the hearts of American fans.
It's probably for the best that Gulati keeps a vow of silence and waits for the small American soccer populace to move on to the next interesting storyline because right now, the media is the outlet for American frustration.
But this is the type of story that may never go away. It has the possibility of overshadowing everything that happens over the next four years, especially if Bob Bradley and company don't succeed coming out of the gates.
Overall, it's a sad story. There may never be a soccer giant like Klinsmann interested in American soccer (and let's be honest, America) ever again.
Gulati understands the value of silence. Too bad he didn't understand that lesson during the contract negotiations.
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