By Mark Vincent Lincir
Former United States National Team defender Marcelo Balboa might know a thing or two about international competition. The two-time US Soccer Athlete of the Year earned 128 caps while playing for the USMNT and appearing in three World Cups and has been inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
After a playing career that saw him play in Mexico for Leon and in Major League Soccer for the Colorado Rapids and the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, the former college All-American at San Diego State now spends his days as an analyst for the Rapids and as a radio talk show host (From the Pitch with Marcelo Balboa at Mile High Sports). Marcelo took time with me Friday to discuss the firing of USMNT coach Bob Bradley and the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann.
Did the firing of Bob Bradley come as a shock to you?
I think a little bit…it was a surprise to me. I thought they would wait until after the Mexico game. I thought it would give them more time to look for a coach…I didn’t think this would happen so fast. I thought he (Bradley) would definitely last until after the Mexico game.
Do you agree with the timing of the change?
It gives Jurgen plenty of time. It gives him time to see his players against Mexico and to give him time to get ready for qualifying. You look at it and you never want to see anybody lose their job but the problem with national team jobs is that they are all about results. And you look at it and they didn’t do well against Panama and lost to Mexico after being up 2-0 and you look at it and the timing is right. The U23 job and the U20 job are open so it gives him time to bring somebody in for those positions. It sets up everything for what jurgen was looking for to be able to bring people in and change things…change isn’t bad…I think it’s great timing.
What do you think cost Bob Bradley his job?
I don’t think there’s one specific thing that cost him his job. Here’s the deal, I think most national team coaches have a run of 2- 4 years. They go one cycle on a World Cup and then after that you don’t see a lot of successful coaches that have a team for more than one cycle. I think his cycle ran out and it was time to move on and find his successor. That’s just the way soccer is. The loss to panama didn’t get him fired. Did it help? I’m sure it didn’t help, but I don’t think it cost him his job. It’s rare you see a coach stay around eight years and be successful.
What will Jurgen do differently than Bob?
I think it’s the first time in history (and correct me if I’m wrong) that we’ll have a coach who has done much more than his players. He’s won a World Cup, he’s coached at the World Cup, he’s been in the Champions League, he’s played in the biggest leagues in the world and won league championships. So it’s the first time in history that we have a guy who has played at the highest levels and won at the highest levels and now he’s coming in to coach the USMNT.
Does it make a difference when you have a former player of the quality of Klinsmann coming in?
It makes a difference no matter what people say…you can’t question the resume that Jurgen brings. Bob Bradley did a nice job. He got to the Confederations Cup…they won quite a few big games under Bob. But when it comes down to Jurgen holding up the World Cup trophy, and the credibility that brings with it, who is going to question Jurgen Klinsmann? I’d like to see somebody try.
What does this do to Michael Bradley’s (Bob’s son) role in the national team? Is he going to have to fight harder to stay in the picture?
I think when you’re on the national team you should have to fight anyway. Yeah, he’s going to have to fight…he’s a good player, but he’s not going to have to fight harder than anybody else. He’s going to have to fight just like everybody else.
Do you think Jurgen will be able to find a way to integrate Freddy Adu into the team?
Freddy is not a Messi, the team does not have to integrate Freddy…he needs to integrate himself into the team. You don’t build your team to find a player a spot…you pick the players that fit what you want to do with your team and if Freddy fits into what Jurgen wants to do, he’ll be a part of it.
Do we need to have Americans coaching the USMNT?
You have Argentines coaching Argentines and Brazilians coaching Brazilians…but do you need Americans coaching Americans? Not necessarily, we’re still a new country in soccer and I think you have to get the best coach you can that can get the best out of our players. Jurgen has been here a long time, he knows the American player, he knows how things work in this country, so I think he is a great fit to coach our team.
What should be his main priority…player development, results?
I think the most important thing for him is to make sure he gets his team and to get the right players together to qualify for the World Cup. He has an opportunity to hire a U20 coach and a U23 coach, so he has the opportunity to bring his own guys in and to try and be successful. It’s the perfect time for him because he has an opportunity to start fresh.
What will we see new from the team come August 10 against Mexico?
Everybody will be on trail…everybody is going to be trying to show Jurgen what they’ve got. I think you’ll see a new fire. You’ll see a different mentality and you’ll see a different attitude when you see them on the field against Mexico.
Mark Vincent Lincir is the author of A SOCCER LIFE IN SHORTS available at www.amazon.com in paperback and digital format.