In case you haven’t known, tonight is Abby Wambach’s final game as a soccer player. By now, I’m sure you have heard Wambach’s comments on how firing Jurgen Klinsmann would help the U.S. Men’s National Team. In case you haven’t heard, this is her full quote from The Bill Simmons Podcast on the one thing she would change with the USMNT.
“Oh man, I would definitely fire Jurgen. Sorry Sunil, sorry U.S. Soccer, but I don’t think that Jurgen and the litmus test on him has worked. He’s tried to change, well first of all, he hasn’t really focused I feel like, enough attention on the youth programs. Although he says he has, I don’t think that he has. I also believe that the way he has changed and brought in a bunch of these foreign guys is just not something that I believe in. Wholeheartedly. [You mean like hired guns from other countries basically?] Exactly, I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe it in my heart. And I love Jermaine Jones, I love watching him play. And I love Fabian Johnson and he plays in Germany and is actually killing it right now after being sent home for “faking an injury.” But I just think that this experiment that U.S. Soccer has given Jurgen isn’t one that personally I’m into. It’s gotta be interesting for those guys to see their coach take off in a helicopter and fly home, to his home, and then back to training. [Couple minutes later] It seems to me there are too many egos in our men’s program right now and the bigger ego of all of them is the one who is leading the charge.”
Now there is definitely some talk in terms of what she meant by “foreign guys.” Does this mean “foreign” as in players playing for club teams in other countries and not in the United States? Or does she mean as in Americans born in other countries? I am trying not to put words in Wambach’s mouth but I’m going to assume, based on listening to the interview, she meant Americans born in other countries (although they are obviously still American citizens).
Anyway, the important thing to notice is how Abby Wambach’s statements have been the most damning criticism we have seen in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. There have been others who have criticized him but no soccer player, retired or active has been this direct as Wambach has. Landon Donovan has criticized Klinsmann in the past but has mostly been passive aggressive jabs.
But apart from being direct, Wambach is in a unique situation that allows her to criticize Klinsmann and there isn’t a reason to justify discrediting her. As far as we know, Wambach doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Klinsmann unlike Donovan could have (given Donovan was left off of the World Cup team). Wambach doesn’t play on the men’s team or is affiliated with the team except that she is on the women’s team from the same country. So this isn’t a personal issue between player and manager since Klinsmann never coached her.
Wambach is also someone who plays the game and obviously knows a thing or two about soccer, so Klinsmann cannot say that she needs an education about the game as he sometimes says about fans and the media who criticize him. Wambach doesn’t have nearly the coaching experience as Klinsmann does but I’m sure it’s enough to have a valid opinion about a manager’s job performance and one that Klinsmann would have to at least take, instead of an opinion from you or me.
I’m not saying that Abby Wambach is right or wrong in her comments about Jurgen Klinsmann. Apart from the foreigner inaccuracy, she has a valid point and can speak from a fan and player perspective and not be close enough to the team to have an inherent bias. Is Klinsmann the only problem with the USMNT right now? Probably not. But many do think that he is a big problem with the team and that list is growing. The best player in U.S. women’s soccer has added her name to that list.