ESPN analyst and former US international Alexi Lalas shared his thoughts on Jurgen Klinsmann, the Olympics, the new MLS designated player rule, Brek Shea, and much more with US Futblog. Here are some audio clips (9) from our conversation....

On what Klinsmann will ultimately be judge on: 

Alexi really put it all in perspective there with his three points. For me, the most important is the cultivation of a soccer culture and creating a youth structure because most likely Jurgen will not be the coach when the ultimate goal of a World Cup is achieved. Jurgen will be remembered as the coach that turned the corner for the U.S. and helped them reach the next level that enables the Yanks to compete with teams of the highest caliber.

On Klinsmann's philosophy/system: 


Clearly Klinsmann is still in his experimental period, but I agree that eventually the formation will be one that is more attacking in nature. The U.S. clearly has the talent to play the 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 but like Alexi made clear, “Jurgen needs to find a couple guys (forwards) that he has confidence in” before anything can happen. In order for either of these two formations to work it is imperative that Klinsmann finds a striker who is comfortable playing the lone front man position. As we all know, this has been a difficult task, but Altidore and Agudelo are very young and there is still time for them to grow into this system. Those two will certainly not be the only ones considered for the spot, but for me, they are the two forwards that have the best opportunity to claim that spot as their own.

On Klismann's assistant coaches: 


I’ll cut straight to the point with this one and give my “short-list” of coaches that I would like to see. I would definitely like Sigi Schmid and Martin Vasquez to be on the squad, Sigi due to his great knowledge of the game in general, but his obvious familiarity with the MLS player makes him an asset to any American staff. Vasquez also contains a great knowledge of the current crop of MLS players but he also brings that Mexican-American perspective, which I believe is key going forward due to the recent influx of Mexican-Americans to the national team pool.

My next two selections may be a little bit “out there” per say but they each bring a little something extra to the table. Jurgen has talked about having someone across the pond to overlook the players who ply their trade in Europe. The first name that comes to mind for me is current AZ Alkmaar Technical Director, Earnie Stewart. One thing Earnie has going for him is that he is a former U.S. International, who has played on the biggest of stages. Most importantly is the fact that Earnie currently oversees one of the Yanks most promising players in Jozy Altidore. The relationship that he builds with Jozy over the next few years could be crucial to the success of the national team. 

My last selection may be a bit of head scratcher, especially at this point in his career but......
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I believe Carlos Bocanegra would make an excellent addition to the staff if he is not chosen as one of the players that goes to Brazil. By the time the next World Cup comes around Boca will be at the point in his career where he may not be physically able to compete on the World Cup level. Although he may not be physically able, his mental capacity is the key factor here. Boca has represented the U.S. on the highest stage and knows what it takes to organize a backline. His experience and leadership will be something the U.S. backline will most definitely need whether it's on the field or from the bench.



On Timothy Chandler and the veteran core group:


Timothy Chandler's speed and dynamic ability to play both ends of the pitch is unheard of when it comes to the U.S. player pool (not counting the aging Cherundolo). However, the hype machine might be getting a little out of control here. He's played in 2 games for the senior team and has only participated in half of a season with Nurnberg. So much can happen from now until 2014 in terms of his development or his health, that it would be pre-mature to call him our defensive savior. With that being said, he has the potential to be a special player, but everyone needs to step on the breaks for a little bit. 

On Olympics: 


Completely agree with Alexi on the fact that the Olympics should be used as a “learning experience” where the Olympic team is an example of how the full national team is going to play. With that being said, the U.S. should still play to win and I believe that is what they will do. As for the “aged out” players, I don’t think I am the only one who would like to see Charlie Davies get one of those spots. If he continues to progress in his rehab process there is no reason why he should not be given this opportunity. Hopefully, it can be a springboard to his return to the full national team.

On US internationals coming back to the MLS and the challenges of playing abroad:


I agree with Alexi here, there are so many different factors that make playing abroad difficult. When you just look at the variability in Europe from league to league as far as culture, style of play, caliber of player, it is very difficult to find that perfect situation. Thus, when U.S. players look at the job market, the MLS is becoming a legitimate option. The league has grown to where the quality of football is good enough and salaries are high enough that it makes sense. These things coupled with increased comfort of playing in your home country in an American atmosphere has made the MLS an enticing option for players such as Freddy Adu and Benny Feilhaber to re-establish/re-launch their careers. The MLS will only get stronger as time goes on with more prominent U.S. players playing in the league. 

On MLS competing in international market under new young DP rule: 

Like I have preached over and over again the key to MLS success is developing, retaining, and acquiring young talent. Any sports league can only survive if the players in that league are talented. The MLS can't make it in the crowded U.S. sports market by continuing to bring over aging European stars to excite the fan base. Yes, that's part of the plan but it's only the first step. The second step is filling the league with future stars and having some of them pan out to be real-deal athletes that are marketable and world-class soccer players. Once this happens, there will be no stopping the MLS and the new DP rule is a great step in encouraging teams to invest in this young player market. 

On Brek Shea leaving the MLS:

Alexi made a great point here. The MLS is still significantly behind the major European leagues in the transfer market. When the MLS loses a player like Brek Shea they most likely are not getting enough money to replace him with an equally young and talented player. That's why it is so important to have a plethora of youngsters in the league to balance out this market weakness the MLS currently suffers from. At this point in time as much as the MLS wants to retain their star players it is important that they let them go in most situations. This will increase the league's credibility and at the same time bring needed funds that can be used for re-investment into developing the youth system. The recent George John transfer being a perfect example.

On NBC-MLS Deal:  

The NBC deal is MAJOR. The ability to promote the sport on a cable network that carries the prestige of NBC is tremendous. Every sports enthusiast has noticed what ESPN has done to soccer over the last year or so. ESPN has made the sport credible and relevant in the US and thus I expect NBC to augment these efforts. The only thing that can be tricky here is how NBC decides to cover these games. They MUST only hire soccer player in order present an authentic experience to its viewers like ESPN has done or else this could be an utter failure.