Exclusive Bundesliga Fanatic Interview with Thomas Dooley – Part 1

Thomas Dooley was recently selected by Jurgen Klinsmann as USMNT Assistant Trainer. In 1990, Dooley helped Die Roten Teufel, 1.FC Kaiserslautern, to the Deutscher Pokalsieger (German Cup Winners), and Deutscher Meister (Bundesliga Champions) in 1991. He also won a UEFA Cup during his time with Schalke04 in 1997. That same year, he moved to the MLS and the Columbus Crew, followed by a move to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

Dooley, the 1993 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year, solidified the heart of the USMNT defense during the 1994 World Cup, and captained the 1998 USMNT.  He is a member of the US Soccer Hall of Fame, and in my opinion one of the Starting XI on the All-Time USMNT.   We caught up with  Thomas to chat about the  the USA-Mexico friendly, the future of U.S. Soccer, Yanks growing through the Bundesliga system, his Pokalsieger and Deutschermeister seasons with 1.FCK, and his EUFA Cup Championship season with Schalke 04.

Bundesliga Fanatic: Mr. Dooley, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today.

Dooley Talks about the Future of USMNT Soccer, and Breaks Down the USA-Mexico Friendly

Bundesliga Fanatic: The USA-Mexico game started off slow, and seemed more defensive-oriented than we expected.  However, when Juan Agudelo and  Brek Shea were brought in, followed by Robbie Rogers, the momentum seemed to shift to more of a free-flowing, attack-minded game.  Should U.S. fans expect to see the USMNT play an attacking style game in the future? Are you happy with what you saw, and what are the focus areas you need to address going into September vs. Costa Rica and Belgium?

Mr. Dooley: On Future Style

First of all, we all know that Jurgen changed the style of German National Team play  when he was the head trainer of the German Federation, and all the fans in Germany were very impressed and very happy with the way the German National Team was playing.  So, I was very happy to hear when Jurgen got a chance to coach our U.S. National team.  Of course, I was also very, very happy that he selected me to assist him as part of his staff.  We all know that soccer in the United States has a big chance to grow in the future, and with a person like Jurgen as the coach, this is the perfect situation.  We have a lot of positive things ahead of us.  You could even see during the game from the first to the last minute, that we steadily improved and played a better game, and in the end, yes, this is the style we would like to bring into the system of the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF).

A Slow Start for the USA

We tried to establish an organization of the game and we started with the defense, we need to be comfortable with moving the ball around, and we knew the Mexican team would put high pressure on us.  We knew it would be difficult, but we wanted to build the confidence of the young players, mixed with the experienced players, so that they can play under pressure. And in my role, I was very impressed with the way they defensively played the game in the back four.   We didn’t allow a lot of chances. They had the one goal that was not really a chance, there was a little mistake on the outside when Mexico crossed the ball in, but these things happen.  Overall, the team had maybe 70% possession, but we didn’t create any big chances in the first half, and that’s definitely not the way we wanted to play, but we wanted to give the players on the defense the confidence that they can move the ball around.  The reason why it didn’t work out overall was because we couldn’t find the penetration pass through the midfield, or we couldn’t show in the midfield to receive the ball, we stayed a little too deep.

Dooley during his days for the USMNT.

Second Half – A Paradigm Shift

We talked about this in the locker room at half time. We said, now the next step is that we have to go forward, we have to play in their half, we have to put more pressure on them, and we have to find the midfield players more often. You could see in the beginning of the game when you play a game with a new coach, the players were nervous, we lost to Mexico 4-2 in the Gold Cup final. Mexico is technically very good, there was a lot of pressure coming, but this is something that we addressed at half time and the players moved on and believed in themselves. We stepped forward more in the second half than we did in the first half.  Some players ran out of gas and when we brought the younger players in (Agudelo, Shea and Rogers) we had better touches in the midfield and the technical aspect improved in the game. Landon Donovan, who worked his butt off on the right side, was able to get into positions where he felt more comfortable to carry on the game up front.  Instead of working defensively, he was able to work offensively and got a boost when we introduced the younger players who are just offensive minded players with a lot of power. So, the whole game changed exactly when they came in and we played the way we want to play the in the future.

Bundesliga Fanatic: You coached 1.FC Saarbruken back in 2002-2003, and when Herr Klinsmann called you to be one of his Assistant Trainers, what was the first thing that went through your mind, and how does it feel to be on the coaching end of the Stars & Stripes?

Mr. Dooley:  I have tried to become involved in coaching for many years.  The last two years, I have been more focused on coaching side.  So, I started with scouting for the National Team, scouting for the Academy team, U-17 and U-18 National Team.  I really would like to get involved with the MLS or with the US Youth National Team – that is my goal.  And I have talked with Jurgen in the past few weeks more about what happening in the U.S. and the MLS, and yes I was surprised, but on the other hand I was very happy because that was a dream that I have to work for the Federation.

Bundesliga Fanatic: What are your thoughts on the advantages of Yanks growing up in the Bundesliga, for example Alfredo Morales, John Anthony Brooks, Jerome Kiesewetter at Hertha BSC; Bobby Wood at 1860 Munich; Luis Robles at Karlsruher SC; Joseph Gyau at Hoffenheim, Matt Dunn at FC Cologne, to name a few,  can add to the future of the USMNT?

Mr. Dooley:  The Theory that Binds

Very positive, but in the U.S., we are lacking the quantity of training exercises. When our youth grow up in Germany playing in the U-15, 17, 19, 23 Bundesliga teams, at the highest level; they train eight times a week.  Our kids playing at the highest level here in the U.S. at the academies only train three times a week.  So, now you can imagine that our kids here are missing several hours of training time on the soccer field compared to

those abroad in Germany. So, when you have so many more hours to train on the soccer field, and they train on a whole field all the time, not half a field, the entire time, that means that you can work on tactics a lot.

During the World Cup in South Africa, we watched Eric Wynalda, Ruud Gullit, Jurgen Klinsmann, and Paul Caligiari before the game, at half-time, after the game.  They were talking about the game, what the players should do to improve to play against Ghana, what changes they should make, what did and didn’t work out.   This is unbelievable tactical information about the game for young players.  But this level of information only happens

during the World Cup here on T.V., whereas in Germany this happens on T.V. every day [before, during and after Bundesliga, German Cup, Champions League, European League, European Championships, and the World Cup matches]– all year – where analysts, coaches, players are talking about the game on T.V.  So, this means that our young players are missing thousands of hours on the soccer fields and theory lessons on T.V. So, it’s a big difference when you play against those teams.

Mr. Dooley: “Soccer is a Job”

When we talk about the Bundesliga, which national team is the best tactical team in the world?  It’s Germany. Germany is almost always in the finals or semi-finals of the World Cup. Brazil is similar, but what is the difference between Germany and Brazil?  Brazil has the best players in the world.  Germany does not have the best players, but tactically with discipline they manage to compete with the best players in the world. So, this is the

mindset and system we must bring to the U.S. So they know how to play, when to step up, this is an understanding of the game. It’s not throwing the ball into the middle of the field and say let’s play.  It’s not like American football where you run downfield for 40 yards and turn left and come back to a huddle and waiting on instructions.

In soccer, it’s constant thinking about the whole game as a team and you must think on your feet, and how it (the game) can change in the next two or three seconds. This is something you need to learn on a daily basis.  I always say the biggest difference (between U.S. system and the German system) is when you play eight times a week, and see games almost every day on T.V., it is almost an apprenticeship. You have to study on a daily basis, and when you’re done, that’s quality. Soccer is a job, and if you want to play it well, you have to spend time with it starting at 14 through 18 years old where you play it, you think about it, and you have to have somebody teaching you over a period of three to four years, and when you are done, you are a soccer player.  You know the job, the profession of the soccer player.   That is where we are behind with the Bundesliga teams.

Bundesliga Fanatic: You had a wonderful career in the Bundesliga. While playing with Die Roten Teufel of Kaiserslautern you were the DFB-Pokalsieger in 1990, and following that, the Deutschermeister in 1991?  Please describe those seasons and the fight against Bayern Munich who had won the championship the previous season.

Mr. Dooley: Memories of the Betze: Winning the 1990 Deutscher Pokalsieger (German Cup)

This is a big, big story. Despite having a solid year during the 1988/89 season, the club brought in a new trainer Gerd Roggensack for the 1989/90 season, and in January/February we were in last place on the verge of being relegated to the second division.  Then, we got a new coach, Karl Heinz Feldkamp.  With him, we only lost only two games, one of them against Bayern Munich, and he inspired the team to win the German Cup in Berlin where we defeated Werder Bremen, 3-2. It was an unbelievable experience for me!  Our fans were incredible, and run that we had in the last three or four months is an amazing story.

On the Winning the 1991 Deutscher Meister (Bundesliga Champions)

The next season was actually funny.  As the new season was about to begin, I was the second captain, and told my buddies that we should have a negation with the club to ask for a bonus for winning the championship this season.  They were like, “are you crazy, Thomas, we barely made it last year?”  I said, “Yes why not, look we got a new coach who formed a great team. We lost only two games during the final stretch, one in Munich to Bayern, 2-1, and the other, our last game at home because we didn’t need to win.”  I said, “If we stay on the same pattern where we left off from last season, who knows what could happen.”  The new season began, and from the second or third game we stayed in first place, and continued winning and tying and stayed in first place until the last day.  There was a chance on the last day that if we lost to Cologne, then Bayern could be in first place and us in second place.

Zweikampf (Duel) with Bayern – “You either hate them or love them.”

Bayern Munich won the championship so many times, so almost everybody in Germany was behind us.  You either you hate Bayern, or you love Bayern.  The German fans didn’t care – they wanted us to win the championship – they hated Bayern. There are so many stories about the fans supporting us.  During our second to last game against Bremen, no one was yelling and no one was screaming, the 40,000 fans in the stadium were quiet, and even when Bremen scored, the Bremen fans were sad.  It was unbelievable!  We won that game, 2-1, and everybody was happy.

The battle we had with Bayern.  We were thinking, “what happens if we lose one game, and Bayern wins the championship again?”  That’s why it was so important to win the last game at Cologne.  We needed only one point to win the championship, and had two games to go after the Bremen game.   We played at home against Borussia Moenchengladbach, and they hadn’t won an away game all season, and we hadn’t lost a home game.  So, it was a clear game for us that we would win the championship at home, but after 20 minutes we were down 3-0, and couldn’t come back and lost 3-2.  That’s why it was even more important for us to win that last game in Cologne.  And we won that game in Cologne, 6-2 and we made 80% of the people in Germany very happy.

The Bundesliga Fanatic thanks Thomas Dooley for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts with our readers. Moreover, we thank Thomas’s brother, Dr. Steven Dooley, a professor at the University of Heidelberg, for helping us get in touch with Thomas. Stephen is a founding member of Dooley Soccer University  http://www.dooleysoccer.us/ in Germany and the U.S.A. 


  1. Great interview. I very much enjoyed hearing one of my all time favorite US National Team players talk about his outlook on Klinsmann and the future of US Soccer.

    Just a minor point here, there does seem to be some weird formatting issues with paragraphs broken oddly that you may want to fix, Tim.

  2. Cris – Thanks. There is no denying that, after hearing Klinsmann and now Dooley talk about the “way ahead.” As a strategist, I like the way they think “critically and creatively.” Unfortunately, it will come down to breaking a culture and mind set resistent to “change.” Hopefully, your generation will be part of that solution and assist them moving the ball into the final third.

  3. Very interesting read. Curious to see what direction Dooley and Klinsmann take the US. Klinsmann certainly has an experienced hand at his side.

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