News from the world of US Soccer is exciting: the team has fired coach Bob Bradley and replaced him with former German superstar Juergen Klinsmann. It seems that Bradley’s initial precipitous rise was followed by a decline of equal speed, and while it’s tempting to acknowledge the grousing cries emitting from the dimly lit corners of our collective nationalist psyche clamoring for an American to coach Team America, the reality is that on the pitch we still owe plenty to foreigners and I feel nothing but excitement at our being headed by one. Not only did Klinsmann play in three World Cups, he lead the charge as Germany netted the title back in 1990. More importantly to my mind, Klinsmann, as a European, will surely rectify the greatest misdeed of Bradley’s tenure: the shameful inability to wear a proper gentleman’s suit. This may seem trivial to some, but to me it’s a central feature of why the US was at best an undulating presence under Bradley’s rule.
The casual observer may be asking a question that seems reasonable, something along the lines of, What does the coach’s clothing have to do with the team’s success? There are many levels of response; for simplicity’s sake I’ll tack towards the analogous: Would the Catholic Church ever allow its pope not to wear that funny hat-crown-thing when issuing a papal edict? Exactly.
Bradley has been a good coach, and while I’ve mostly been able to forgive his dismal helmsmanship during our recent meltdown against Mexico in the Copa de Oro I’ve never been able to overlook his wardrobe, which over the years has sadly consisted of dull variations on the nylon tracksuit. International soccer matches are The Big Dance, and where nearly every other national team arrives headed by a snappily outfitted and smartly tailored leader* we’ve been showing up with our chief looking like he’s ready to lead some shuttle runs in the local high-school gymnasium.
Rigging-out our coach in Armani won’t guarantee a victory over Mexico or help us qualify for the 2014 World Cup, but at least by having a well-dressed leader at the helm we’ll know, regardless the outcome on the field, that we looked our best, and say what you will but any fan of American soccer will tell you that’s something. So here’s hoping that Klinsmann not only whips Team USA into the team that you can’t help but hope they’ll someday be, but that he also has the sense to coordinate his pocket square with his tie.
[*The other recent example of coaching sartorial follies I can think of is Diego Maradona, who was an undebateable ass-clown for decades before he frolicked the sidelines in his pseudo-Elvis fat-man’s jump suits, and whose misguiding of the exceptionally talented Argentinian team in last year’s World Cup was even more sludgily handled than Bradley’s recent snafus.]