Klinsmann broke off US talks partly over MLS

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Juergen Klinsmann broke off talks to become coach of the U.S. soccer team in 2006 because he wasn't guaranteed top players the following summer for two preparation tournaments ahead of World Cup qualifying.

The former German national team coach, who will be an ESPN analyst for this year's tournaments, visited the network's campus for the first time Tuesday and spoke in some detail about his decision to end talks with the U.S. Soccer Federation in December 2006.

Klinsmann and USSF president Sunil Gulati discussed player availability for the 2007 Copa America and CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"There were different opinions, you know, what players could get the permissions in MLS, what role it plays," he said. "And I thought here, it's not going the right directions in that specific moment. ... So I said, 'You know, it's OK, move on.'"

Gulati then hired Bob Bradley, who is preparing to coach the U.S. in the World Cup next month.

Klinsmann, who moved back to California with his family in December, wouldn't say whether he would be interested in coaching the U.S. one day.

"I don't know what happens, you know, over the next couple weeks, you know, or even in a year from now," he said. "But I think it's not correct if you discuss something that involves somebody that is actually in charge. And I hope he will stay in charge for a long, long time."

He went on to praise Bradley as "a great choice."

"He's a very knowledgeable and hardworking coach, you know, and I have the highest respect for him," Klinsmann said.

Klinsmann was a member of Germany's World Cup team in 1990, 1994 and 1998, and he coached Die Mannschaft to a third-place finish as host in 2006. He agreed in January 2008 to become coach of Bayern Munich the following summer, but was fired in April 2009 with the club in third place in the Bundesliga following its quarterfinal elimination from the Champions League.

As Bayern's coach, Klinsmann brought over Landon Donovan in early 2009 on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy. Donovan appeared in five Bundesliga games and one German Cup match, failing to score.

"It was absolutely not a disappointment, it was Landon taking a big risk coming in for three months, knowing ahead of him is Luca Toni, Miro Klose and Lukas Podolski," Klinsmann said. "He made a lot out of it. You know, I was not agreeing with the board that he was sent back home, and was not agreeing with a lot of things."

Klinsmann said the stars of Bayern Munich, a group that included Franck Ribery, Lucio, Martin Demichelis, Daniel Van Buyten and Mark van Bommel, didn't make it easy on Donovan.

"They don't tell you, you know, 'Good to have you here, you know. We give you the starting spot.' They tell you the opposite," Klinsmann said. "But he experienced that and he worked his way through."

Donovan had a far better experience this year on loan to Everton. He had 11 starts and scored two goals in 13 matches, helping the Toffees beat Chelsea and Manchester United, and tie against Arsenal. Donovan was voted the team's player of the month for January.

Klinsmann said he had told Bayern officials to "give him more time and he will break through."

"They didn't want to give him the time," he said. "And it made me sad in a certain way, but made him I think even stronger. Now it's his momentum this World Cup."

In 2002 at the World Cup, Klinsmann said Donovan "was a nobody."

"For 2006, for the entire group was a disappointment," he said. "But now it's time, it's time to step up, and he can do that."

Former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, also an ESPN World Cup analyst, predicted the U.S. could upset England in its opener on June 12.

"This is the easiest group the U.S. has ever been in. If they don't get out of this group, not only will it be a disappointment, but it will be a failure," he said. There are points to be had against England "and not just one point. There's a possibility that they can certainly get three points. While it will go around the world as this incredible moment and this incredible upset, I look at it not as such a big surprise. I think that England isn't as good as certainly they believe or that others believe. And I think the U.S. at times is a whole lot better than people give them credit for."