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SOCCER GRAHAME L. JONES

Klinsmann Still Makes Everything Look Easy

May 03, 2005|GRAHAME L. JONES

It's not every day that the Galaxy is able to put a World Cup winner onto the field, but that's exactly what it did Saturday night.

Fans who turned up early enough at the Home Depot Center to catch the first half of a doubleheader would have noticed the player with the distinctive blond hair, the elegant, almost effortless stride and the still-deadly finishing ability.

Jurgen Klinsmann scored two goals in as many minutes to help his team defeat one led by Mauricio Cienfuegos, 4-2, in a Galaxy alumni event marking the club's 10th season.

The fact that Klinsmann, 40, had flown in earlier in the day from Frankfurt, underlines the class that the 1990 World Cup winner and 1996 European champion has always exhibited.

Jet lag? No way. It was simply another day at the office.

These days Klinsmann holds one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports. He is coach of Germany's national team, and German fans and media are demanding that he put together a squad capable of winning the World Cup when Germany plays host to the 32-nation tournament next year.

To escape that pressure, Klinsmann does quite a bit of his work at home -- which is not in Stuttgart or Frankfurt or Munich or Berlin, as might be expected, but in Newport Beach.

As for Saturday night's outing, Klinsmann said it was all in fun.

Former Austrian international and Galaxy midfielder Andreas Herzog had flown in from Europe for the game and was staying with the Klinsmanns while in town. He told Klinsmann that the players had invited the striker to play too.

"I said, 'Well, we're going to the game anyway, so I'd better bring my shoes along,' " Klinsmann said.

His two goals, each from a pass by Herzog, did not surprise the Austrian.

"I think in 10 years he will be older and he will make the goals still," Herzog said.

Klinsmann was not exactly a ringer in the match. Far from it. He has taken part in or attended Galaxy training sessions since moving his family to Southern California in 1998, is a close friend of former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid, and last season even served as technical advisor to the team.

There are those who view him as a natural choice to one day become the Galaxy's coach.

"Since '98, I've always been somehow part of the Galaxy organization," he said.

After Saturday's match, Klinsmann took time to talk about the 2006 World Cup, Germany's progress since he took over as coach last July, its upcoming game against the United States and even about Landon Donovan.

"It's a big honor," he said. "It's a once-in-lifetime opportunity. Those kinds of things are not coming along often in your life ... I don't want to ask myself 10 years from now, 'Why didn't you do it?'

With Germany having qualified automatically as 2006 host, Klinsmann and his assistants are free to experiment with the lineup and to fine-tune the team without fear of failure.

"It gives us the opportunity to test a lot of things," he said. "We can bring in younger players to see how good they are, how much they can improve over the next 14 months. So we are still in that testing stage.

"We have the Confederations Cup coming up in June, which is a great opportunity for us to see the strengths and weaknesses. The team has done extremely well since we took over, in terms of commitment, in terms of playing style.

"We introduced a very aggressive and attacking style to the squad and they took to that very well. We were able to implement all our ideas on the field as well.

"We played two games with Brazil and Argentina, two ties, and in those games were able to see there is a lot of potential in that young team."

The U.S. will get a first-hand look at that potential next spring when it travels to Germany for a March 22 rematch with the team that defeated it, 1-0, in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals.

"I'm always in touch with [U.S. Coach] Bruce Arena," Klinsmann said. "We speak often to each other.

"We had to cancel our tour in December. It was planned that we play a game in the U.S. and a game in Mexico, but because of the extremely busy schedule of our players in Germany ... we changed our minds because they wouldn't have gotten any vacation before the World Cup at all."

As for Donovan, Klinsmann expressed mixed feelings about Donovan's return to Major League Soccer from Germany's Bayer Leverkusen.

"It's a pity," he said. "I'm totally convinced that he could play in Europe, that he has all the qualities to play in the Bundesliga or even in England or Spain or Italy.

"But obviously you need also to have the opportunity, to play, let's say, for two or three months nonstop, to [be allowed] a couple of weaker games. It's just normal that [players need] time to adapt and stuff like that.

"But this [time] is not given any more in Europe because they need results right away. So it's a pity.

"On the other hand, it's an excitement for the Galaxy, obviously, to have him. He's proven that he can keep up with the best and I wish him the best of luck here.

"Who knows, two or three years down the road ... "

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