10 Things Jurgen Klinsmann and Co. Could Learn from Barcelona
In a February interview, US Soccer youth coach Claudio Reyna stated that he wanted the USMNT to play like the European dynasty and could learn a lot from their style, attitude, and training. Well, with the Klinsmann era recently thrust upon us, I couldn’t think of a better time to hit the classroom and learn a few things from Messi and his minions. Here are 10 things the USMNT could learn from the historic club.
Obviously this is an effective characteristic that is always associated with the Barcelona boys. When the Donovan/Dempsey wing tandem finally ends, Klinsmann will be left with a player pool lacking extremely talented wingers to fill their place. With that being the case, Klinsmann might want to look to develop an offense aimed more at quick passes through the middle (Barcelona Style), instead of significant crossing from the wings. But before he rearranges the USMNT attack he must…
Find a Creative Playmaker
For years the USMNT has been filled with talented footballers who are very solid when it comes to the basics. However, despite a few characters, the USMNT has really been missing a creative force in the midfield who is capable of spawning scoring opportunities artistically. Klinsmann must find or develop a player like Xavi whose flair and confidence with the ball would increase the team’s attacking options dramatically. Until then, the USMNT will be stuck with their bland offensive style.
A Target Forward Is Not Necessary
With the trend of physically imposing strikers getting hotter each year, it seems as though some believe that each team must have an "Aerial Threat" on offense. Barcelona is living proof that the “Big Boomers” are truly not necessary to success. With a plethora of physically gifted forwards Klinsmann has at his disposal, it would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking he must start a strong, tall striker in order to win. For the USMNT, it is quite the opposite, as Altidore, Buddle, and Johnson also continue to assert Barcelona’s statement that bigger is not always better.
Train Like a Champion
Barcelona’s training style is widely heralded as one that is destined to produce results. For a team that often seemed to go lost in games (often due to fitness) it might not be a bad idea for the USMNT to work a little bit more on the fitness side of the game. However, considering Phillip Lahm’s recent comments on Klinsmann’s workout schedule, maybe JK doesn’t need any advice when it comes to getting his men in shape.
Prioritize Matches Wisely
One of US Soccer’s big mistakes this summer was prioritizing some friendlies, (cough, Spain, cough) over the Gold Cup group stage. On the other hand, Barcelona used the World Football Challenge friendlies to observe young talent and prepare for the season. Klinsmann and US Soccer must do like Barcelona and use friendlies how they are supposed to be used, to observe new talent and prepare for the next step.
Build Strong Chemistry
Chemistry is the key to all of Barcelona’s success. Simply put, the players are so familiar with each other that they are not only a step ahead of their opponents, but 2-3 based on their knowledge of their teammates. How Klinsmann plans to build chemistry is beyond me, but if there was a team he could learn it from, it’s Barcelona.
Develop Young Players
Barcelona’s development program is world class and is what Klinsmann should try and emulate here in the states. The earlier the talented youths get involved in the system, the better chance Klinsmann has at being competitive with premier teams. Also, if Klinsmann can improve the development program, the more commits from dual-citizenship players he will likely receive.
Be Good to the Media
It is a simple connection: Be good to the media and the media will be good to you. Barcelona has always been friendly and appropriate to the press, which is why the team never seems to be in the wrong spotlight. There is no doubt the media helped shape Barcelona’s image, and there is no reason why the media can’t do the same for the USMNT also.
Build a Strong Brand
Of course Barcelona’s play has done wonders for their reputation in the US, but possibly the most important thing the club has done the last couple of years is used merchandise and the FCB brand to help promote the team’s popularity. I know plenty of non-soccer fans who will immediately recognize the Barcelona stripes when seen, and have Barca jerseys despite rarely ever watching the club. The red and blue jersey simply cannot be mistaken and is why the club is almost as popular 4,000 miles across the ocean as it is over there. If the US can work with Nike to develop a jersey that is 1. Worth Buying 2. Makes a Statement and 3. Is attractive to the youth, then they will certainly find a popularity increase as soon as it hits the market.
Be, Play Confident
Barcelona’s most deadly weapon might be the fact that they KNOW they are better than their opponent. Barcelona’s confidence leaks onto the pitch and intimidates opponents from minute one to minute ninety. Often, in the past few years, the USMNT has looked un-relaxed and frantic against inferior teams when there is no reason to panic. If Klinsmann can give the USMNT a sort of swagger that screams “We are better than you,” the team will instantly start seeing better results.