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Mar 142014

This is the first year that the SXSW Festival expanded to include sports as part of the fun.  It’s been a festival that includes music, film, video games, computer software, and social media.  So I was really excited to learn that SXSW was going to be bringing our esteemed coach down here to Austin, Texas last Sunday.  Now, I am a volunteer for SXSW.  That’s how I get my Platinum Badge perk that got me into the gathering where Coach Jurgen did his talk.  The place we saw him sat about 500 people and the place was full!  He was interviewed by Roger Bennett, who is also part of the ESPN crew who are following the USMNT as they progress toward the World Cup.

What I found interesting and funny was when Coach Jurgen was introduced, the audience broke out in “USA, USA, USA” chants.  Mr. Bennett, who is from London, had requested that we not do that.  But, we threw the tea in the harbor so that we didn’t have to do anything any Englishman told us to do!!  Once the interview got started, I was fascinated by the approach that Coach Jurgen is taking to developing not only our team for this world cup, but the approach to creating an “American Style” to playing the game.  Now Mr. Bennett couldn’t help poking at Mr. Klinsmann by using the 1966 “Wembley Goal” scored by Sir Geoff Hurst to beat Germany.  Now, I expected Coach to poke back by bringing up Frank Lampard’s “Not” goal in the last World Cup when Germany beat England.  But, he just smiled and we all could tell that both Coach and Mr. Bennett knew and that was good enough.

Something else I found fascinating was that Coach Klinsmann, in researching the best approach to take on how best to relate to the American Soccer Athlete, interviewed icons like Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke Men’s Basketball, Coach Pete Carroll of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, and other US coaches.  What I loved about this was the fact that, although he was not born here, he has really taken the job of moving us forward very seriously.  Y’all remember the last icon the USMNT had was Bora Miluntinovic back in 1994.  He never took that close an interest in the players themselves and most of his directions were through his eventual successor Steve Sampson.  That’s why I think that we might be able to capture the same mystic energy that we had in 1950 when we beat England (and we weren’t given a chance to even score that year).  Now, do I think that we have developed that magic that Herb Brooks developed in 1980 when the US Men’s Hockey team won gold?  Maybe not, but now that I’ve seen Coach in person and heard him talk, we have a really good chance of getting out of our “Group of Death” this summer.  It’s because you can hear it in his voice.  He believes in the boys.  He expects them to play their best as part of “Team America” and make sure that Ghana, Portugal, and Germany know they faced a hard working bunch of fighters when the final whistle blows.  It the same kind of kindred spirit that makes us Yanks a formidable force on the basketball court, on the track, and on other sporting battle fields.  It’s that same spirit that Mia, Julie, Abby, Heather, Michelle and the rest of the USWNT go to war with and has helped them bring home two World Cup trophies.

Now when the interview was completed, there was a question and answer session.  I did manage to get into line and up towards the front.  I was going to ask Coach more about the “American Style” that he is trying to develop for the USMNT in particular and for all of us Yanks who play this game of ours.  We always hear about the Spanish “Tiki-taka” style, the English “get the ball to the goal line and head in the cross” style, the Dutch “Total Football” style, the German “dominate and humiliate your opponent” style, and the Brazilian “Samba” style.  I wanted to know what he thought would be the “American Style”.   But standing behind me was a youngster who was about 11 years old, so I let him stand in front of me.  One of the questions asked was to talk more about how so many US players get overlooked by the big clubs in Europe.  Mr. Bennett made an off-hand remark of Kyle Beckermann going to Barcelona.  Now when you listen to the session recording, you’ll hear someone shout “He’ll replace Messi!!”  That was me.  Now the kid in front of me asked the best question of the session: “How do you train your opposite foot to get it to do what you want it to do?”  Coach’s answer: “We could start right away if you have a ball.”  Of course, since that was the best question (it got a standing ovation), it was the last.  I talked to the kid’s father afterward as he thanked me for letting him go ahead and ask his question.  I told his dad, that when he gets famous and ESPN does the documentary on him, I wanted a mention as the guy who let him ask that key question that got him the breakthrough that he needed!!  It was a great time and I think we’re going to do great this summer.  TEAM AMERICA!!!!!

Lanny Short

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