CHESTER, Pa. Philadelphia Union players were talking about how excited they were for the United States Mens Senior National Teams upcoming game against Mexico in Philly just before the shocking soccer news broke.
Bob Bradley, the head coach of the national team since 2006, would not be in Philly to lead the Americans against their archrival at Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 10. He had been fired Thursday, and replaced the very next day by German Jrgen Klinsmann, a highly successful international coach who led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup.
It seemed like their ears were burning because by the next day the news was out, Union defender Danny Califf said. It certainly took us by surprise.
It took everyone by surprise, even former national team players like Califf and Union teammate Brian Carroll.
I dont know anything other than what you guys know, said Carroll, who was called up to the national team for a game last November. Klinsmann is a tremendous international coach for the German national team and hes been living in southern California for a while. Thats all I know.
Indeed, there is a lot of uncertainty permeating through soccer circles across the country. There are questions about Klinsmanns philosophy, style and what reforms hell make to try to transform the U.S. into a worldwide power.
Those questions will not begin to be answered until, at the very earliest, the Americans exhibition against Mexico at the Linc although it will surely take even more time than that for the German to make his imprint.
Its going to be interesting to see what the philosophy of a foreign coach is going to bring, said Califf, whos earned 23 caps with the senior national team since 2002 but admitted that his relationship with Bradley had become strained. Its a different animal the way our American league works, the way youth soccer in American works, the American mentality compared to the European mentality.
Over the last 12, 13 years, weve had an American coach whos understood that dynamic very well. So its going to be interesting to see the kind of changes coming about on the national team.
From a purely local perspective, Philly fans and players will be curious to see Klinsmanns player selection process. More specifically, theyll want to know whether any Union players will get a shot to represent their country at the senior level in the near future.
Veterans Califf and Carroll both have relatively recent experience playing for the USMNT and said they would each love to be called up for the game against Mexico, especially since its in their new home city.
But Carroll said hes certainly not expecting anything, and Califf admitted that its a young mans game, and the 31-year-old knows hes not a young man, at least by professional soccer standards.
The Union, though, do have some talented young men on their roster rising stars like defender Sheanon Williams (21), midfielder Amobi Okugo (20) and goalie Zac MacMath (19) that Califf thinks Klinsmann would be wise to study.
I think they deserve at least a shot to be brought in and looked at, Califf said. A lot of positions could use some competition. Its only good for national team.
I think whoever the coach is you need to try to impress him and play your game and hope at some point they see your hard work and ability, added Union rookie Michael Farfan.
For now, though, which players get the call in the future seems almost secondary to the present-day coaching switch thats left everyone stunned. Bradley had been criticized, often sharply for his tactics and lineup decisions, but the coach enjoyed some good success, which included winning their group at 2010 World Cup and a win over reigning champ Spain in the last Confederations Cup.
Now, a new coach will be at the helm for the next World Cup, and all others to come.
It was unexpected that it happened right now, Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. Bradley has done a great job for our national team. He put his heart and soul into everything. I wish him well with everything he does going forward.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com and writes a weekly Union column for CSNPhilly.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.