Jürgen Klinsmann's appointment Friday to succeed Bob Bradley as U.S. national team head coach is the only “sexy” move that makes sense, and it signals that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati finally has agreed to concede control of the squad to his coach, who had twice declined offers to take charge because he wouldn't be, ultimately, in charge.
The German legend, among the finest strikers of his generation, was announced on the heels' of Bradley's dismissal Thursday, and his hiring keeps the job in Southern California, for what that's worth. (Home Depot Center, on which Klinsmann consulted on stadium design when he was working as a Galaxy adviser, likely remains the primary training base for the Yanks.)
Klinsmann, 47 on Saturday, lives in Huntington Beach with his wife, Debbie, who is from Northern California, and their two children. He understands American culture and our soccer better than any other foreign coach, and that's important. American players are wired differently than Europeans, largely because of culture and how players are developed here.
Southern California has been the headquarters, so to speak, of American soccer in the way St. Louis and New Jersey had been previously, providing a foundation of playing and coaching talent for the national teams. Last year's World Cup side included Landon Donovan (Redlands), Carlos Bocanegra (Alta Loma), Steve Cherundolo (San Diego), Benny Feilhaber (Irvine) and Jonathan Bornstein (Los Alamitos).
They followed in a long line, a thick line over the past two decades or so, that featured Hall of Famers Eric Wynalda (Westlake Village), Marcelo Balboa (Cerritos) and Cobi Jones (Westlake Village).
Every U.S. head coach since 1991 except Bruce Arena, who now lives in the South Bay as Galaxy head coach, was based in Southern California:
Bora Milutinovic: The Serbian maestro with Mexican roots still maintains a home in Laguna Niguel, dating from the year-and-a-half national team residency in Mission Viejo leading to the 1994 World Cup. Milutinovic provided the foundation for the modern U.S. team.
Steve Sampson: Milutinovic's successor, who rose within the program as one of Bora's Boys on the 1994 coaching staff, had a tumultuous tenure marked by captain John Harkes' dismissal (because of an alleged affair with Wynalda's wife, which was made public only last year) and a last-place finish at the 1998 World Cup in France. Sampson lives in Calabasas.
Bob Bradley: Arena's successor took the job first on an interim basis after Klinsmann turned down Gulati, leaving his post as Chivas USA's head coach for the assignment. He brought advanced professionalism, greater team unity and growing international respect to the program. Bradley has been based in Manhattan Beach since taking the Chivas job in 2006.
It will be interesting to see whom Klinsmann selects as his assistant coaches -- and which current assistants are retained. Two of Bradley's assistants (goalkeeper coach Zak Abdel and former Chivas USA captain Jesse Marsch) are So Cal residents.
When Klinsmann was in charge at Bayern Munich, he took with him as assistants Martin Vasquez, who moved from Mexico to Alhambra as a child, and former UCLA star Nick Theslof. Vasquez's next job was Chivas USA head coach (he was just appointed director of soccer at Real Salt Lake AZ's academy program)%