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Klinsmann takes name out of the hat

German coach withdraws from consideration for U.S. soccer spot, leaving opening for Bradley.

December 08, 2006|Jim Barrero | Times Staff Writer

Juergen Klinsmann, once the strong favorite to become the next men's national soccer team coach for the United States, withdrew from consideration Thursday after talks broke down with the U.S. Soccer Federation, opening the door for Chivas USA Coach Bob Bradley.

Bradley was expected to be appointed interim coach today, which could lead to his taking over the job permanently, a soccer official with knowledge of the decision told the Associated Press.

Chivas USA officials declined to comment, saying that Bradley was not reachable Thursday.

U.S. Soccer officials have scheduled a conference call for 9 a.m. PST today with federation President Sunil Gulati "to make an important announcement on the search for the next head coach."

Klinsmann had been the top choice for several months to succeed Bruce Arena, whose contract was not renewed after 7 1/2 years after the U.S. team's first-round exit in last summer's World Cup in Germany. Several media outlets already had reported that a deal with Klinsmann was done and an announcement was forthcoming.

But Thursday, Klinsmann, who in his first head coaching job led his native Germany to a surprising third-place finish at the World Cup, released a statement saying that his discussions with Gulati had concluded and that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.

"I'm not going to go into details about our conversations," Klinsmann said. "But I certainly want to wish the next coach of the U.S. men's national team much success, and I want to, also, thank Sunil for the opportunity to exchange ideas."

With Klinsmann's withdrawal, the focus immediately shifted to Bradley, who has been Gulati's top choice from Major League Soccer and is the league's all-time winningest coach. Last season, Bradley took over Chivas USA and led the club to a third-place finish and a playoff spot in the Western Conference in the team's second season after it had finished last in 2005.

Before coming to Chivas, Bradley coached 12 years at Princeton and later became an assistant to Arena at D.C. United in 1996, when he also served as an assistant to the U.S. Olympic team. He moved to the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998, winning the MLS Cup title in his first season.

Bradley returned to his native New Jersey to take over the MetroStars for the 2003 season and remained for nearly three full seasons before he was fired. He quickly returned to MLS, assuming control of Chivas USA before the start of the 2006 season. Bradley's 124 MLS victories are the most of any coach.

Other candidates mentioned for the U.S. job have included former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman, Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz, and Columbus Crew Coach Sigi Schmid, a former coach for the Galaxy and UCLA.

Power and authority over player and coaching staff decisions were thought to be the major sticking point in discussions between Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer officials, with the German coach reportedly wanting the latitude to make his own choices without interference.

Klinsmann, who has an American wife and lives in Huntington Beach, has been a frequent visitor to the Home Depot Center, home base for the U.S. team, which is scheduled to conduct a training camp in early January. The team has an exhibition game against Denmark on Jan. 20 in Carson and one in Phoenix against Mexico on Feb. 7.

It will be the start of a busy year for the U.S. team as two major tournaments highlight the 2007 schedule.

The defending champion Americans will compete in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean, to be played in six cities from June 6-24. The U.S. also accepted an invitation to compete in Copa America, South America's championship, which will take place in Venezuela from June 26-July 15.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

jim.barrero@latimes.com

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