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Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Manfred: US Soccer Team Coach Makes A Blunt Kobe Bryant Analogy That Explains Why He Cut Landon Donovan

OK, it’s not a baseball story but we should always applaud a coach/manager who understands his club’s need to focus on future, not past performance.

In what was the most controversial roster move in U.S. soccer history, coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the team ahead of the 2014 World Cup. ...

He said he doesn’t believe that past accolades should be taken into account when planning for the future.

He used a Kobe Bryant analogy to illustrate this point. He said the two-year $48.5-million extension that the Los Angeles Lakers gave Kobe last fall was insane. From The New York Times:

“‘This always happens in America,’ Klinsmann told me, waving his hands in the air. ‘Kobe Bryant, for example — why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?’”

JE (Jason) Posted: June 04, 2014 at 01:59 PM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bad contracts, basketball, sabermetrics, soccer

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   1. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: June 04, 2014 at 03:11 PM (#4718943)
I suppose, but if there are 23 Americans who are better players than Landon Donovan at this moment, we've got a shot to win the whole. damn. thing.

edit to add: ...but there aren't.
   2. madvillain Posted: June 04, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4718946)
Klinsy has lived in America for over two decades. He should have better grasp on the situation. Kobe got paid because without him the Laker brand is ####. You can't "sell" the UMSNT, it's not a corporate entity. It's a bad analogy.
   3. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: June 04, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4718951)
Or, to rephrase #1, Kobe got $50M because the other alternative was Chris Wondolowski.
   4. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: June 04, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4719004)
Klinsmann's point is right but as Dan Lee points out (and has been discussed in the soccer thread at length) Donovan is still good enough to deserve to be on the World Cup roster.

To put this in baseball terms this is like Torre batting A-Rod 8th in the playoffs. A-Rod was not the 8th best offensive player on that Yankee team and Donovan is not the 24th best soccer player in the US.
   5. Manny Coon Posted: June 04, 2014 at 03:57 PM (#4719022)
Kobe is past his prime but he's a still a good player and a marketable player, plenty of other teams would love to have him even now. Donovan is past his prime, but still easily better than half guys on the USMNT. Klinsmann was a great player, but a terrible coach, so perhaps an analogy he might understand is that Isiah Thomas was great player, but was a terrible coach with no real qualifications who somehow kept getting chances, not unlike Jurgen Klinsmann.
   6. AuntBea Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4719060)
I am afraid Klinsmann is going to completely botch the coaching job for this world cup. The great back Philip Lahm famously claimed that Klinsmann provided the players with no tactical preparation while manager of Bayern. Supposedly, nobody was too surprised:

"They and other critics don't actually disagree with Lahm's assessments. In fact, those things aren't mentioned at all, perhaps because Klinsmann's tactical ineptitude, Van Gaal's intransigence, Völler's lackadaisical approach and Magath's ruthlessness were widely known before the book."
   7. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:35 PM (#4719067)
Kobe got paid because without him the Laker brand is ####. You can't "sell" the UMSNT, it's not a corporate entity. It's a bad analogy.


Right. the MF Clippers just sold for $2 billion in a distressed sale. That makes the Lakers worth what, $3 Billion? At least? If losing Kobe to another team costs the value to drop by more than 1.5%, his contract pays for itself.
   8. andrewberg Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4719070)
The funny thing about the Donovan-Klinsmann issue is that Donovan supporters and detractors both think that they are using logic and the other group is using emotion. Donovan supporters think he is clearly one of the best 23 players and Klinsmann has a personal bias. Donovan detractors think he does not fit the team, is too hold to help much, and would only belong as a talisman. It is hard to have a real conversation because both sides are making different versions of the same argument.
   9. Manny Coon Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:48 PM (#4719085)
Donovan detractors think he does not fit the team, is too old to help much, and would only belong as a talisman.


There is no evidence this is true, especially when comparing him to guys like Brad Davis or Julian Green. Donovan won the Golden Ball at the Gold Cup just last year and was team's most effective attacker pretty much all of last year. He did well on the team fitness test at the recent camp. Players don't really age from that to completely cooked in just a few months, especially when his current form with the Galaxy is showing otherwise. It's clearly some personal or philosophical nonsense rather than his actual playing ability.
   10. jmurph Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:51 PM (#4719090)
I've genuinely not seen anyone make a serious case in support of leaving him off the roster. Granted, I haven't looked hard for one, but I imagine anyone writing that article is either A. just writing click-bait or B. completely deluded about the quality of the current crop of American soccer players.
   11. AuntBea Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4719093)
Donovan detractors think he does not fit the team, is too old to help much, and would only belong as a talisman.


I don't care that much for Donovan really, but almost nobody thinks the last two of these are true. Whether or not the first is true is kind of in the eye of the beholder.
   12. DA Baracus Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4719096)
OK, it’s not a baseball story but we should always applaud a coach/manager who understands his club’s need to focus on future, not past performance.


Sure, but he didn't leave Donovan off for that reason. He left Donovan, who is still good enough to be on the roster, off because he doesn't like him.
   13. DA Baracus Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4719098)
The great back Philip Lahm famously claimed that Klinsmann provided the players with no tactical preparation while manager of Bayern.


And his players on the USMNT have said the same thing.

One player said a typical pregame instruction will be something like, “Go express yourself,” while another source recalled that players returning from Honduras claimed, “He just threw guys out there and played.”

A different player said that at halftime of the qualifier in San Pedro Sula, with the U.S. fortunate to be level at 1-1, Klinsmann, “Didn’t really say that much. Just, ‘C’mon, we’ve got to win this game. They scored an unbelievable (tying) goal, and we can’t do anything about that. We’re going to win this game.’ It was never, ‘We need to do this. We need to change this.’ ”
   14. cmd600 Posted: June 04, 2014 at 04:58 PM (#4719100)
If losing Kobe to another team costs the value to drop by more than 1.5%


Losing Kobe will not cause the Lakers value to permanently drop by 1.5%.



The completely expected thing about the Donovan-Klinsmann issue is that some Donovan supporters and some detractors are using logic and some are using emotion.


Both logics are arguing just primarily arguing against the emotional group of their opponent.
   15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 04, 2014 at 05:25 PM (#4719130)
When I saw the headline, I thought for a minute that it was talking about Landon Powell, and I got confused by the idea that he was a soccer player now. Even before his knees went to ####, he didn't run all that well.
   16. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: June 04, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4719142)
I don't really follow soccer, so I can't to speak to whether or Donovan is or isn't one of the best 24 US players (MSM and fan consensus seems to be that he clear is, but for all I know he's to soccer what Jeter is to Baseball)

but having read a few articles and interviews (including interviews given by Klinsmann), my semi-educated guesses are:

1: He lost the team, by that I mean he lost the faith and respect of the players- despite the fact that the team was rather successful in 2012/13
2: He singled out and tried to isolate veteran players whom the younger guys were looking up to/for guidance etc in an extremely misguided effort to rectify #1, which backfired
3: He then tossed Donovan and apparently 1 or 2 others because he saw their physical presence as a threat to his authority over the team (in a de facto not de jure sense)
4: He comes off as disingenuous and petulant in interviews- my guess is that at some point he decided the team was at a dead end and had to be torn down and rebuilt, I don't think he's hid that from his players, they're playing each game to win, and he's not he's been randomly mixing things up like it's early preseason games and he wants t see how guys do playing along side other guys and in different roles etc. He's already written off the 2014 World Cup (which he has admitted- I mean everyone knows the US wasn't going to win, but cripes
   17. cmd600 Posted: June 04, 2014 at 05:43 PM (#4719160)
I'm not sure why the quote linked here is getting more run than this one:

"We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet"

As true as it is, you don't say that to the media.
   18. DA Baracus Posted: June 04, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4719201)
In fairness Bruce Arena also said that in 2002.
   19. andrewberg Posted: June 04, 2014 at 07:34 PM (#4719247)
I've genuinely not seen anyone make a serious case in support of leaving him off the roster. Granted, I haven't looked hard for one, but I imagine anyone writing that article is either A. just writing click-bait or B. completely deluded about the quality of the current crop of American soccer players.


I certainly don't have enough of a discerning eye to make this conclusion on my own, but several of my friends have at least made the case that Donovan's style at this point in his career is a poor fit for the team and that he therefore is not one of the 23 best players for the style they will play in Brazil. The argument is that he is no longer enough of a two-way player to be a midfielder and he would slot in behind the other attacking players already on the roster. I think it's fair to argue that if he is not going to start ahead of Dempsey or Jozy, then it would do more harm than good to bring him because he would draw undue attention on the bench.

Again, I am not sophisticated enough to say that the assumptions in that line of thinking are true, just that there is a sound argument that follows from it if it is.
   20. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: June 04, 2014 at 08:07 PM (#4719259)
One thing that is a characteristic of American professional sports that might be different than other countries is that there is little glory associated with doing well if you don't win it all. There are fans of teams who know that they will never seriously compete for a title but are happy enough with avoiding relegation.
   21. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: June 04, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4719279)
One thing that is a characteristic of American professional sports that might be different than other countries is that there is little glory associated with doing well if you don't win it all. There are fans of teams who know that they will never seriously compete for a title but are happy enough with avoiding relegation.


That's partly a result of the playoffs mentality that we have in every major American sport. Finishing second in an eight-team was a legitimate accomplishment, and one in which to take pride. However, nowadays, a second-place team is just a team who missed the playoffs by the slimmest margin (ignoring the wild card for the moment). Extensive playoffs with many participants are necessary to some degree in a variety of sports -- college basketball, the NFL, the NHL, the NBA (too many teams currently, but 8 would be fine) -- but I don't think extensive playoffs are necessary in baseball or soccer. Baseball was fine when you had the league championship series followed by the World Series. It would still be fine today if we had four divisions with eight teams each, and the winner of each making the postseason.
   22. DA Baracus Posted: June 04, 2014 at 09:27 PM (#4719298)
I think it's fair to argue that if he is not going to start ahead of Dempsey or Jozy


Donovan is a midfielder first, he wouldn't be competing for playing time with them. Donovan is better than Brad Davis and Julian Green. There really is no sound argument why he isn't on the team other than Klinsmann doesn't like him.
   23. Mefisto Posted: June 04, 2014 at 09:37 PM (#4719308)
Even as a forward, Donovan is better than Wondolowski (and in my view better than Dempsey), though Wondo would be used in different circumstances.
   24. Chris Fluit Posted: June 04, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4719339)
One thing that is a characteristic of American professional sports that might be different than other countries is that there is little glory associated with doing well if you don't win it all.
That's partly a result of the playoffs mentality that we have in every major American sport. Finishing second in an eight-team was a legitimate accomplishment, and one in which to take pride. However, nowadays, a second-place team is just a team who missed the playoffs by the slimmest margin


Uh, no. That mentality has nothing to do with expanded playoffs. Haven't you heard of the phrase "second place is the first loser"? How about "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing"? Those quotes come from non-playoff sports or from the era before expanded playoffs. The American mentality is about winning and winning it all. You can argue about whether or not that's a good thing but that's what it is and that's what it's been for a long time.

I had a conversation with an Irish-Australian friend during the last World Cup and he asked me if American fans would go crazy in celebration for a US Men's soccer team that made it to the semi-finals since that would be a significant accomplishment. I told him no, they would celebrate a championship and that's it. He told me that was crazy. I told him that Americans have enough championships in other sports (1980 men's hockey, 1992 basketball dream team) that they don't need to celebrate anything that isn't a championship.
   25. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:12 AM (#4719416)
Eh, if we made it to the quarterfinals this year you'd see a huge amount of excitement about the team and a lot of happiness. If we made the semis for only the second time in history (and first in 80+ years) you'd see 20-30m people tuning into the game and excited so long as the US didn't get blown out.

Klinsmann had a lot of sniping against him 18 months ago, but the team has been pretty great since then. It's hard to fault a guy who coached the team to a win over Germany (even Germany's B- team), who rallied the squad from a 2-0 deficit in Bosnia, and who won our first Gold Cup in ages. It's clear he's making his move to establish the team he wants for 2018, and I find the Donovan thing incredibly petty and unbecoming, but unless we #### the bed in Brazil I can't complain.

It's kind of like Ron Washington, the dude is clearly incapable of understanding baseball strategy but his teams play hard and win, so as an outsider how can I fault it?
   26. tshipman Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:26 AM (#4719419)

but having read a few articles and interviews (including interviews given by Klinsmann), my semi-educated guesses are:

1: He lost the team, by that I mean he lost the faith and respect of the players- despite the fact that the team was rather successful in 2012/13
2: He singled out and tried to isolate veteran players whom the younger guys were looking up to/for guidance etc in an extremely misguided effort to rectify #1, which backfired
3: He then tossed Donovan and apparently 1 or 2 others because he saw their physical presence as a threat to his authority over the team (in a de facto not de jure sense)
4: He comes off as disingenuous and petulant in interviews- my guess is that at some point he decided the team was at a dead end and had to be torn down and rebuilt, I don't think he's hid that from his players, they're playing each game to win, and he's not he's been randomly mixing things up like it's early preseason games and he wants t see how guys do playing along side other guys and in different roles etc. He's already written off the 2014 World Cup (which he has admitted- I mean everyone knows the US wasn't going to win, but cripes


I don't think this is really the right read on it. IMO, it's more like:
1. Landon Donovan is probably one of the top 11 guys on the US.
BUT
2. Klinsmann doesn't like him.
3. He's not super dependable.
4. He is not going to be part of the next WC team.
5. Klinsmann believes strongly that there's value to having a group of young guys play together and figure things out.

I don't think Klinsmann is off his rocker. It's quite likely that the US (due to the group) with or without Donovan doesn't win a single game. If you think that is at all likely, why give Donovan the spot?
   27. Manny Coon Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:31 AM (#4719421)
I think it's fair to argue that if he is not going to start ahead of Dempsey or Jozy, then it would do more harm than good to bring him because he would draw undue attention on the bench.


It's not like he's never come off the bench before. In the times he's been used off the bench he's never complained and he's been very successful, for example he came off the bench to assist on the game winning goal in one of the qualifiers against Panama. Bradley used him off the bench some in the 2011 Gold Cup, he came off the bench some at Everton.
   28. Manny Coon Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:36 AM (#4719422)
I don't think this is really the right read on it. IMO, it's more like:
1. Landon Donovan is probably one of the top 11 guys on the US.
BUT
2. Klinsmann doesn't like him.
3. He's not super dependable.
4. He is not going to be part of the next WC team.
5. Klinsmann believes strongly that there's value to having a group of young guys play together and figure things out.

I don't think Klinsmann is off his rocker. It's quite likely that the US (due to the group) with or without Donovan doesn't win a single game. If you think that is at all likely, why give Donovan the spot?


Why give Clint Dempsey a spot in that case or Jermaine Jones or DeMarcus Beasley or Tim Howard or the immortal Brad Davis who is older than Donovan.
   29. tshipman Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:51 AM (#4719426)
Why give Clint Dempsey a spot in that case or Jermaine Jones or DeMarcus Beasley or Tim Howard or the immortal Brad Davis who is older than Donovan.


Probably because they actually really want to cap for the team and Donovan doesn't seem to care either way?
   30. Walt Davis Posted: June 05, 2014 at 12:52 AM (#4719427)
The main problem with the Kobe analogy is that the "problem" with Kobe's contract is the money, not that he's starting on the team. Since Donovan is roughly free, pretty much the only consideration should be whether he's one of the top 23 (or the top X at midfield/forward).

So it's more like David Ortiz. Yes, it would have been silly for the Red Sox to extend Ortiz for 2/$50 but it would be moronic to throw him off the team.

The analogy Klinsmann is looking for then is Jeter.

I'll let the soccer nerds debate whether Donovan is Ortiz or Jeter.
   31. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 05, 2014 at 01:01 AM (#4719428)
I told him that Americans have enough championships in other sports (1980 men's hockey, 1992 basketball dream team) that they don't need to celebrate anything that isn't a championship.


And you wonder why a lot of people from overseas don't like you....

   32. cmd600 Posted: June 05, 2014 at 01:01 AM (#4719429)
Mrs. Donovan?
   33. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: June 05, 2014 at 07:00 AM (#4719454)
It's clear he's making his move to establish the team he wants for 2018
Yeah, well that's the thing: If they go three-and-out in Brazil and the roster descends into late Steve Sampson-era infighting and chaos, Klinsi won't be around to coach the team in 2018.

I know he already has the contract extension, but Klinsmann has put the team on the brink of internal civil war. If this thing goes full Harkes, the USSF will buy him out in about 28 seconds.
   34. Lassus Posted: June 05, 2014 at 07:40 AM (#4719462)
We have an OTP: Soccer thread for a reason.
   35. DA Baracus Posted: June 05, 2014 at 08:07 AM (#4719463)
Probably because they actually really want to cap for the team and Donovan doesn't seem to care either way?


Doesn't hold water. Timothy Chandler twice balked at playing for the US in competitive games and he's probably going to start.
   36. AuntBea Posted: June 05, 2014 at 08:24 AM (#4719466)
If they go three-and-out in Brazil and the roster descends into late Steve Sampson-era infighting and chaos, Klinsi won't be around to coach the team in 2018.


Players already seem to be privately questioning the Donovan omission. Three-and-out is by far the most likely scenario. When the non-soccer press, who doesn't know/care that the USA is unlikely to do as well this time around as in 2010 starts blaming the players for their poor showing, the private feelings the players have about the move will become public as they shift the blame away from themselves and towards the coach. If the US also looks particularly disorganized on defense (as they did in the last game for example), this could get very ugly very fast for Klinsmann.
   37. thok Posted: June 05, 2014 at 08:53 AM (#4719479)
I think it's fair to argue that if he is not going to start ahead of Dempsey or Jozy


I think one could make a legitimate argument that if Donovan is only being considered at forward, he still should be starting ahead of one of Dempsey or Jozy. To my not particularly well trained eye, as of even a year ago, Dempsey and Jozy were maybe slightly better at converting goal opportunities, but Donovan was definitely significantly better at creating goal opportunities. I will emphasize the not having a well trained eye and that I haven't watch many particularly recent results.
   38. I am going to be Frank Posted: June 05, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4719507)
If the Lakers are terrible over the next two years, how much value does the franchise lose? Kobe is a great, great player but he's old, coming off a major injury and is making tons of money in a league of salary caps and luxury taxes which makes it very difficult to get better players when someone is making that much money. Kobe made 30M last season, 8M more than the next highest player Dirk Nowitzki.

However, the NBA is a player's league and no matter how great a coach you have, scheme and tactics can only take you so far. Talent almost always wins out - especially in an 82 game season and playoffs with best-of-seven game series. Soccer is much different. Even if you have the best players on the field tactics can neutralize them and anything can happen a tournament with a short group stage followed by an elimination game .

That being said, the only reason I can think of that Klinsmann left Donovan off the roster is because he personally disliked him.
   39. DA Baracus Posted: June 05, 2014 at 10:10 AM (#4719539)
I think one could make a legitimate argument that if Donovan is only being considered at forward, he still should be starting ahead of one of Dempsey or Jozy.


Not Dempsey, who's got 8 goals in 9 games. Altidore, maybe, they have completely different skill sets so it would depend on the match up.

But even then there's a problem: looking at Donovan as only a forward. He's a midfielder who can play forward, and that kind of versatility is exactly what you want as a "super-sub." It made no sense to think of him only as a forward.
   40. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: June 05, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4719549)
Donovan is a midfielder first,


This is flatly untrue. Donovan, like many players in their 30s, does not have the form to play in the midfield against top-flight competition anymore -- and he'll admit it, too.
   41. DA Baracus Posted: June 05, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4719570)
Donovan, like many players in their 30s, does not have the form to play in the midfield against top-flight competition anymore -- and he'll admit it, too.


For 90 minutes, yes, though he passed Klinsmann's "beep test" fitness benchmarks with flying colors, but the argument isn't that he should be starting, it's that he should be on the roster, in which case his ability to 90 minutes isn't an issue.
   42. Scott Lange Posted: June 05, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4719572)
Donovan, like many players in their 30s, does not have the form to play in the midfield against top-flight competition anymore...


And Brad Davis does?

Unless by "form" you meant "fitness" or "conditioning," in which case see #41.

FWIW, I think Donovan's conditioning has generally been one of his best attributes, and its hard for me to imagine him being way behind our other options in that regard. But, again, it doesn't matter if we're talking about a "super-sub" role.
   43. HMS Moses Taylor Posted: June 05, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4719595)
The main problem with the Kobe analogy is that the "problem" with Kobe's contract is the money, not that he's starting on the team.

No, the problem isn't the money at all. The Lakers are swimming in money, and as others have pointed out, he's valuable to their brand, etc. Post 38 gets closer to the point:

If the Lakers are terrible over the next two years, how much value does the franchise lose? Kobe is a great, great player but he's old, coming off a major injury and is making tons of money in a league of salary caps and luxury taxes which makes it very difficult to get better players when someone is making that much money.

Paying Kobe that much means that's less to pay to other players that can also help improve the team, what with the salary cap and all. Of course, I personally doubt almost anything the Lakers could do in the next 2 years - be it pay Kobe or spend the money elsewhere - makes them contenders in that timeframe. So in that sense, I don't think it's that bad of a move for them.
   44. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: June 05, 2014 at 04:21 PM (#4719884)
Paying Kobe that much means that's less to pay to other players that can also help improve the team, what with the salary cap and all. Of course, I personally doubt almost anything the Lakers could do in the next 2 years - be it pay Kobe or spend the money elsewhere - makes them contenders in that timeframe. So in that sense, I don't think it's that bad of a move for them.


I honestly think the Lakers signed Kobe to the extension when it was apparent that they were going to be a terrible team for the next couple of years. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a good move (at least for the money) but the Lakers are going to stink with or without him. As a Lakers fan, I would rather watch a crappy team with Kobe on it than a crappy team without him even with realizing that a healthy Kobe will probably cost the Lakers some ping pong balls.
   45. robinred Posted: June 05, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4719926)
The problem with the Bryant deal from the Lakers' POV is the second year. He may not be physically able to play that much or that well, and the chessboard and the pieces may look different enough by summer 2015 that the Lakers could be in position by then to make some moves to get the team back on the path to relevance--and the money that they have guaranteed him will inhibit that. Giving him big money for this year, while not optimal, was not that bad a move. The draft pick and Bryant will give people reasons to be interested in the team, at least initially, and since James isn't going to sign here, at least not now and probably not ever, giving Bryant a one-year deal would have been reasonable.

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