MANHATTAN BEACH -- No surprise that Martin Vasquez was included in Jurgen Klinsmann's staff for his first two camps as U.S. national team coach. No surprise, either, that his role will be more prominent than has been let on.
The former Chivas USA head coach will serve as Klinsmann's top assistant, the German legend acknowledged Monday, the same role he held during Klinsmann's 2008-09 tenure as Bayern Munich's manager.
“It was something in my mind already decided once I took the job that he will be my right hand ...,” Klinsmann said during a sitdown with L.A.-area soccer media. “It is definitely Martin Vasquez will play that role.”
Vasquez (Alhambra/Alhambra HS and Cal State L.A.), 47, a former midfielder who played for the U.S. and Mexican national teams, was dismissed last October after one season as Chivas' head coach after refusing to demote one of his assistants. He had been an assistant coach for the Goats from 2005 through 2008 and previously was on the Galaxy staff.
Chivas last year went 8-18-4 and finished last in Major League Soccer's Western Conference, not unexpected after the departure of the team's three foremost leaders and other key players.
Klinsmann, who has lived in Orange County since 1998, has an enduring friendship with the Mexico-born Vasquez, who played for four Mexican clubs and two in MLS during a 15-year professional playing career.
“Martin has an exceptional amount of talent, of qualities that I think isn just absolutely perfectly suited for his role here,” said Klinsmann, a superstar striker in Europe who played in three World Cups and guided Germany to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. “He's obviously half-Mexican, half-American, speaks both languages perfectly, knows the American landscape inside out. Connected well with the Mexican market, with all the coaches [in Mexico]. Has tremendous knowledge about coaching teams on the field, work on the field. I mean, I had him on my side with Bayern Munich, and he did a tremendous good job. ...
“He's a 24/7 worker, and all he wants really is to help in all aspects of it.”
Vasquez has not signed a contract with U.S. Soccer, but a federation spokesman said “discussions about an official position will take place in the near future.”
Klinsmann has used Vasquez and former U.S. stars Thomas Dooley (Laguna Niguel) and Tab Ramos as assistants for his Aug. 10 debut against Mexico in Philadelphia and in this week's camp leading to matches Friday against Costa Rica at Home Depot Center and next Tuesday against Belgium in Brussels. Klinsmann has said he'll rotate assistants before making decisions on full-time positions, likely later this year.
Vasquez last month became director of soccer for Real Salt Lake AZ, the Major League Soccer club's academy in Casa Grande, Ariz., and at related institutions Grande Sports World and Grande Sports Academy, taking the posts left by Greg Vanney when he was hired as top assistant to Robin Fraser, who succeeded Vasquez as Chivas head coach.