When former German World Cup champion Jürgen Klinsmann took over the reins of the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2011, American soccer fans were excited about the future of the team. Since then, the results have been decidedly mixed, with historic highs followed by inexplicable losses to inferior opponents—not to mention the controversial decision to leave Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster.
In Soccer Without Borders, Germany-based foreign correspondent Erik Kirschbaum comes down firmly in the pro-Klinsmann camp; the author clearly appreciates the coach’s desire to apply his considerable experience in Europe to the still-developing American soccer landscape. As our reviewer noted, the author offers a “welcome sketch of…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.” Kirschbaum’s sympathetic portrayal will ruffle feathers in certain circles, but it’s a useful portrait of a work in progress, a coach who is squarely in the middle of writing his legacy on the American stage.
As one of my friends, a die-hard soccer fan, recently wrote to me, “At times, [Klinsmann] seems like a soccer genius moving U.S. soccer toward the next level and other times just another coach mired in the slow-to-adapt thinking and excessively defensive style of American soccer.”
So the jury is still out, and while I’m hopeful that Klinsmann can lift U.S. soccer to new heights, he still has plenty of work to do. Stay tuned for the 2018 World Cup. Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.