The Real Meaning of Jurgen Klinsmann’s “Nasty”

Following the 4-1 defeat to Brazil, we saw for the first time same a very different Jürgen Klinsmann.  Gone was the always positive and optimistic demeanor.  There sat before us a national team manager that was, by his own words, “pissed”.  Klinsmann then went on to say the need for his team to have “more of an edge-more nastier.”  These comments sent reverberations through the US soccer media.  Many voicing their disapproval, stating that the US shouldn’t have to resort to gamesmanship to win, that Klinsmann is ignorant of American culture, that that isn’t in the American players DNA, and that if the US turned to the European tactics of diving to win penalties or arguing with the ref, that it would somehow turn future fans of the game away.  But what did Klinsmann mean when he uttered those words?

For beginners, Klinsmann wasn’t asking for antics akin to Maradona’s Hand of God or Luis Suarez’ hand ball in South Africa. Klinsmann wants his players from the opening whistle to let the other team know that they are playing in their house.  He wants his players to let the referee know that he is calling a game in their house.  Hard tackles, like what Jermaine Jones did to Neymar, should happen in the first half, not in the second half with the game already decided.  Brazil was allowed to ease into the game, they should have been uncomfortable from the get go.  Perhaps the US showed too much respect for Brazil, but if you go through the US roster and list their accomplishments, for club and country, they deserve to be respected too.  Brazil made the US look like pushovers. How could you let Marcelo, a player who can’t get regular time with his club, disrespect one of your veterans like Steve Cherundolo?  There is a need to play nasty, not by cheating, but you do the same thing Marcelo was doing, as a matter of fact, you do the same thing that Jürgen Klinsmann did as a player.  You become a nuisance, a pest, a difficult player to play against.  Every interaction you have with the other team should make them uncomfortable.  Think of players like Ben Olsen and Pablo Mastroeni, they are evidence that you can be nasty without cheating.  Many find it unfavorable to surround the referee to protest bad calls, like Barcelona, but the bottom line is that referees are human and they will second guess themselves.  Perhaps with more protests from the US, the referee may have given more thought to the two possible penalties that the US had in the game against Dempsey and Gomez.  There is a fine line between playing nasty and cheating.  It’s a line that players like Roy Keane, Claude Makelele, and Gennaro Gattuso have struggled to walk all their careers, but they have done so with success.  And naturally, with this type of play there is some risk, but also reward.  A question to all soccer media and fans, if a US player crossed that line like Luis Suarez, would you enjoy the results any less, for Suarez advancing his team to the World Cup semi-finals?  How about Roy Keane, or more recently Ramires and Raul Meireles of Chelsea?  Players whose yellow cards got them suspended but propelled their teams to Champions League finals and ultimately victory.

The US does have and enforcers like the in Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, but given that the current squad is technically further back than teams like Brazil, Holland and Spain, it may call for the whole team to have such an attitude.   The outrage by the media is baffling to me, because the nastiness that Klinsmann asked for is the same type that we have seen the US display in victories against Italy this year and Spain in the Confederations Cup.  Klinsmann’s contention may have been that this capitulation happened at home.  At times, I feel that the US players put too much stock into the fact that because the US is such a melting pot, that there may be equal numbers of supporters in the stands. Perhaps they feel every match is an away match and play accordingly.  As most things in life, it boils down to balance, the US has the players and the correct mental makeup to play nasty, they just have to learn to display it for 90 minutes, against every opponent ,at home and away, and apparently for them to be accepted by the soccer media and fans, never cross the line.

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6 Responses to The Real Meaning of Jurgen Klinsmann’s “Nasty”

  1. Efrain says:

    Great article. I agree with writer and with Klinsmann. Lets hope
    the team understands his point and ignores the “outraged media”. I
    think we have the technical aptitude, we just need the attitude.
    Lets make some headlines, but with WINS!

  2. TT says:

    I think there’s actually more of concern here and it’s simply
    starting to rub people the wrong way… It’s one thing for
    Klinsmann to tell his team before/during a match to be aggressive
    and get stuck in. It’s another for him to stand before media and
    fans post match blaming refs and offering up his players as “naive”
    for a poor or mediocre result. No, we DON’T do that here. It’s been
    interesting how Klinsi and Gulati has him uniquely positioned to
    take credit for the positive, yet deflect blame for the negative.
    With Klinsmann’s VAST coaching experience (4 yrs) it couldn’t
    possibly be that he perhaps lacks the organizational and tactical
    know-how to produce the results he has promised.

  3. IL says:

    —A question to all soccer media and fans, if a US player crossed
    that line like Luis Suarez, would you enjoy the results any less,
    for Suarez advancing his team to the World Cup semi-finals? How
    about Roy Keane, or more recently Ramires and Raul Meireles of
    Chelsea? — Yes, I would enjoy the results less, actually not at
    all. I understand the frustration, but cheating is not the answer
    which seems the point you are making in most of the article.

  4. Efrain says:

    I don’t think its a matter of cheating. Its about their attitude.
    The team needs to push the boundaries not cross them. A good
    example of that is the Spain v Italy match today. Both teams pushed
    the envelope when it came to tackling. They were hungry. As I
    watched players on both sides tackle/attack another player to gain
    possession of the ball, I thought of USA playing the same way. Many
    tackles were borderline fouls, but were not called because the ball
    was touched first. Players on both teams were made afraid to handle
    the ball too long. I cringed when as I witnessed players like
    Iniesta and Fabregras get tackled so nasty at times. Players took
    numerous chances when trying to take possession away, where if they
    did not get a touch of the ball, they would surely give up a free
    kick or even a yellow card. This is the nastiness the US is
    missing. They have to take more chances and be more aggressive.
    Make their opponent afraid to hold on to the ball too long. Least
    that’s the way I interpret the nastiness coach is talking about.

  5. BA14 says:

    Greg Popovich head coach of the San Antonio Spurs used the word
    “nasty” in one of the timeouts during the NBA playoffs and nobody
    thought anything of it. It’s no big deal to me.

  6. danilo says:

    The USNT were completely out of their depth in terms of quality.
    Jermaine Jones’ tackle was only a yellow because it was a friendly,
    on any official tournament/match it would be a red, even in
    England, because it was a reckless lunge. And on Marcelo, he is
    widely considered one of, if not the best left back in the world
    (by Paolo Maldini, Robert Carlos, and many others) , and has made
    over 150 starts for RM by the way. Coentrão playing two games
    against Bayern doesn’t really speak for Marcelo’s quality, as much
    as it does speak for an option by Jose Mourinho to make up for
    CR7’s lack of defensive work on the left side (one of Bayern’s
    strong points).

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