So in case you missed the news, today Juergen Klinsmann followed through on a shake up of the USMNT, bringing in Azerbaijan national team coach and German national Berti Vogts as a special advisor to the team and dropping assistant coach Martin Vasquez with U-20 coach Tab Ramos stepping in as the replacement.
So what gives? Why these important personnel changes so close to the World Cup?
For one, some context is needed. Though the USMNT coaching staff has stayed static since Klinsmann first took the head coach job in 2011, a change this close to the World Cup may not be as material as some critics think. For one, the national set up is very different than club football—it’s not likely the case Vasquez had an enormous influence on the playing style and make up of the USMNT. He was the guy, and now there’s another guy. Klinsmann is still boss and that’s largely what matters as the World Cup approaches.
Second, we should read a little into Klinsmann’s remarks on appointing Vogts to get a sense of what he’s up to:
We are absolutely thrilled to have Berti join us as an advisor. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, both as a player and a coach, and he knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level. He was my coach for Germany in the 1990s and we have a great relationship.
Through his time as the head coach of Scotland, Nigeria and Azerbaijan, he is obviously very familiar with our opponents in the group stage of the World Cup, and for us this is a huge bonus.
As has been pointed out on Twitter, Vogts has faced US group stage opponents Germany and Portugal with Azerbaijan in recent years. He’ll likely just offer Klinsmann some advice which he can either take or leave.
As for appointing Tab Ramos, who knows? Maybe he felt Ramos’ playing experience in Europe with Real Betis in the mid nineties would offer better insight to the USMNT than Vasquez (though that’s a huge stretch). Maybe Klinsmann had been grooming Ramos for a while at the U20 level, though their World Cup tournament, in which the US picked up a solitary point before crashing out of the group stage, doesn’t exactly stand out.
Still, it’s important to remember that lower level changes at the national team level have exponentially less impact than they do at the club level. Klinsmann is clearly trying to switch his team’s mindset from CONCACAF to the World Cup. Everything and anything that can help win these single ninety minute matches should be pursued. These changes shouldn’t rock the boat too much.