A sympathetic look at the man who is trying to transform American soccer and the methods he is using.
Go to any article about U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann and read the comment section. A fight inevitably breaks out between those who are fully on board with the former German captain and manager’s efforts to transform American soccer and those who look askance at what they see as arrogant demands to Europeanize the American system. Germany-based foreign correspondent Kirschbaum (Burning Beethoven: the Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I, 2015) is firmly in the former camp. The hiring of Klinsmann in 2011 was widely seen in soccer circles as a coup for the sport in the U.S. He had been a World Cup winner as the star striker for the German team and served as his country’s head coach from 2004 to 2006, leading them out of a dark period by engaging in reforms similar to those he would bring to the American coaching job. Kirschbaum clearly admires Klinsmann and supports the changes he is attempting to bring to American soccer. Indeed, at times this book reads like a hagiography, with nary a criticism to be found. The author blends a biographical sketch of Klinsmann with an investigation—relatively brief, given the book’s subtitle and putative goal—of the ways he has tried to transform coaching and program development wherever he has been in charge. Kirschbaum writes well, though it can be difficult to discern his intended audience. He clearly wants to engage the growing legion of American soccer fans, yet he also explains basic concepts about the sport that virtually anyone with an interest in this book will already know.
Kirschbaum provides a welcome sketch of Klinsmann, a thoughtful man of the world who has for years lived in California and who cannot be pigeonholed as merely a European trying to remake American soccer in the Old World image.