Juergen Klinsmann admitted he was both embarrassed and furious when the U.S. men failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic soccer tournament. And he vowed not to let that happen again.
On Friday, he showed just how serious he was taking that pledge by naming longtime confidant and national team assistant Andreas Herzog as coach of the U-23 team, which will enter the final phase of Olympic qualifying next spring.
Former U.S. national team midfielder Tab Ramos had been running the team since former coach Caleb Porter left for Major League Soccer and the Portland Timbers in 2012. But by naming Herzog to lead the final preparations, Klinsmann has underscored his commitment to infusing U.S. youth teams with the same structure and strategy used by the senior national team.
"We have to feel we’re pulling in the right direction," said Klinsmann, who is coach of the senior national team as well as technical director for all of U.S. Soccer. "It doesn’t mean that we can guarantee results all the time. But we have the feeling that we get the people on the same page."
For the senior team's winter training camp Klinsmann summoned a team deep in U-23 players, which has given both him and Herzog a chance to get more familiar with the players.
"I'm honored to have the opportunity to coach the U.S. Under-23 national team," said Herzog, who played in two World Cups for Austria before retiring as a player to coach the country U-21 team. "We look forward to putting together a team that will make all Americans proud.
"We also know it's a part of our responsibility to develop players who will be able to contribute to the senior national team and that process has already begun."
By FIFA rules, only players age 23 or younger are allowed to play in Olympic qualifying tournaments. Teams that advance to the Games are then allowed to supplement their rosters with as many as three over-23 players.
"Andi has plenty of experience and knowledge in order to prepare this group for the international level," Klinsmann said of Herzog, a former teammate at German club Bayern Munich. "He has a lot of experience connecting to the younger generation of players. Having been with the national team these past years, he understands the challenges of putting together a team with players coming from all over.
"Andi is absolutely ready to step into this role and he deserves this opportunity."