Lesle Gallimore, the Huskies’ 20-year-veteran coach, works on the U.S. Soccer development staff with Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the U.S. national men’s team that is perhaps a day away from advancing to the World Cup’s round of 16. That’s not the only link UW has to the world’s largest, most-watched single-event sports spectacle.
By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
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SEATTLE – Leslie Gallimore is watching this World Cup with a smile as wide as a soccer field is long.
The Huskies’ 20-year coach of women’s soccer is familiar with U.S. star Clint Dempsey and teammate wunderkind DeAndre Yedlin through her affiliation with the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer – and in the case of the Seattle-native Yedlin, through her deeper-than-Puget-Sound roots in Seattle's soccer scene.
Gallimore is also a veteran trainer within U.S. Soccer’s national program. In that role she has gotten to know Jurgen Klinsmann. She knows him as an advocate for youth development and for U.S. college soccer. And she knows him well enough to have realized after the Americans hired the former German World Cup-champion player and Germany’s coach in 2011 that Klinsmann would accelerate the U.S.’ rise at the globe’s largest and most-watched single-event sporting spectacle immediately.
“One of the things for me that’s been exciting, amid all the naysaying, (has been) to watch Jurgen stick with what Jurgen wants to do – and to see some success at it,” Gallimore said Monday from her office behind Alaska Airlines Arena.
For Gallimore, this World Cup is already an affirmation that the sport continues to flourish in this country.
Sunday Gallimore was with family and friends wearing her U.S. Soccer game jersey at the Elliott Bay Public House on Lake City Way a few miles north of the UW campus. She was inside on a gloriously sunny summer day in the Northwest to love and agonize with 25 million other Americans watching on television as Klinsmann’s surprising U.S. team tied Portugal 2-2. Dempsey scored the go-ahead goal late. That was after Klinsmann had inserted Yedlin, then the 20-year old sped past the Portuguese to set up Dempsey’s play.
“And we’ll be there again Thursday,” Gallimore said.
Thursday the U.S. lost 1-0 to mighty Germany. But when Portgual also won, 2-1 over Ghana, the nervy, driven Americans – who have turned most of Klinsmann’s widely debated moves into success -- unexpectedly advanced to the World Cup round of 16.
This is the first time the Americans have advanced this far in consecutive World Cups.
For Gallimore, this 2014 Cup is already an affirmation that the sport to which she dedicated her life since before she was a four-time All-American at California and Cal’s Athlete of the Decade for 1976-86 continues to flourish in this country.
It is also an affirmation that her instincts about Klinsmann from working with him, plus Klinsmann’s approach to grow soccer in the U.S. through youth development first, are spot on.
Gallimore is on U.S. Soccer’s national instructional staff that KIinsmann heads. Gallimore and UW associate head coach Amy Griffin, her top assistant with the Huskies since 1996, have met with Klinsmann to discuss their roles in molding young players as part of U.S. Soccer’s initiatives. Those initiatives include the Development Academy that Klinsmann has helped grow in the three years since he became America’s coach. Klinsmann won a World Cup while playing for his native West Germany and Germany from 1987-1998. He was Germany’s coach in 2004-06 and then for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, the top level of German professional soccer.
Gallimore, the longest-tenured women’s soccer coach in the Pac-12, has extensive experience in U.S. soccer and the international game. In 2012 she led a U.S. State Department-sponsored trip to Morocco to teach soccer to youth in that North African nation. This spring she and Griffin were on the coaching staff for the U.S. under-23 national training.
Gallimore loves that Klinsmann, 49, has included Tab Ramos and several other former national-team players on his U.S. player-development staff.
“He’s very, very invested in wanting this country to improve from the bottom up,” Gallimore said. “He’s not just the coach of the national team. He’s extremely open and transparent when you talk to him. He’s open and honest about his thoughts on the game and how it’s played here and where we lack and what he thinks is great. But he works really hard, he spends time, with coaching education, with the people who are coaching the coaches, and with the people who are in charge of players.
“You haven’t really seen that on that side in the past, someone who is vested in the bottom up. And that’s why I think U.S. Soccer upped his contract again so quickly, was because he’s got a plan that is going to take longer than just a four-year cycle.
“I think our country is in a great place for soccer.”
How into the World Cup is Gallimore? As we talked for about 45 minutes Monday morning in her office on the top floor of UW’s Graves Annex building, Gallimore often looked up at her muted television screen at the Netherlands-Chile World Cup game airing live.
“Oh, Arjen Robben, he scores on his left; he wants it on his left!” she exclaimed as the 30-year-old Dutch forward made a run through the Chilean defense and the penalty area.
“Oy!” she exclaimed as Robben’s shot went just wide of the goal.
“That guy’s so fit,” she said, then adding as an aside of Brazil’s World Cup, “The fields there look great.”
COLLEGE SOCCER’S PLACE IN ALL THIS
For years now Gallimore has refuted the criticism that Klinsmann isn’t quite the ideal leader for America’s national team and program, given he is, after all, not American.
“We’ve met with Jurgen before about the development of soccer in this country and our part in it, as fast as coaching education. He knows the game in this country,” Gallimore said, referring also to Griffin.
Gallimore noted Klinsmann’s son Jonathan is American and has been raised in this country’s select youth soccer and Development Academy programs. Jonathan Klinsmann is on his way to play college soccer at Gallimore’s alma mater, Cal.
“It’s been interesting to watch Jurgen’s take from a seasoned, European veteran to becoming Americanized himself a little bit and watching a son grow up here and learning the challenges of having a soccer program in a country as big as ours," Gallimore said. "As diverse as it is and as spread out as it is, it’s a task to try to develop a national style. It’s a task to try to develop a system of scouting and you can find the best players and develop the best players.”
College soccer, particularly on the men’s side, has been scrutinized recently over its place in the national development program for World Cup-caliber players. Historically, the best players go from top select club teams into national development programs as teens, and then on to U.S. national teams and/or professional clubs in Europe. NCAA rules limit the number of games a collegian can play, and thus, critics say, limit players’ development.
But that, like many aspects of soccer in America, continues to change rapidly. Yedlin and now even the son of the national program’s top man will each have played college soccer. Yedlin, who turns 21 next month, played two seasons for the University of Akron after graduating from Seattle’s O’Dea High School. He signed last year with the Sounders.
Darwin Jones, UW’s star forward who has played and trained inside the Sounders Academy, had three goals and an assist for the Huskies in March when Washington beat the Sounders 4-3 in an MLS reserve game at Husky Soccer Stadium. The Sounders tried to sign Jones this past winter, but he turned them down to become one of the many veterans returning to defend the Huskies’ first Pac-12 title this fall.
“His own son’s going to play college soccer, and Jurgen will be the first one to tell you there is a place for it,” Gallimore said of the Klinsmanns. “It just depends on who the player is. There are a lot of players for whom college soccer isn’t their best avenue if they can play (professionally right away).
“But it’s great, to me, that that’s even in the conversation. That college soccer’s become that in this country.”
MORE HUSKY LINKS TO THIS WORLD CUP
On the women’s side, Gallimore said the hiring in May of 47-year-old Jill Ellis from interim to full-time women’s national coach mirrors the men’s program. Ellis is also committed to building from the bottom up. The native of Britain was the head coach for 12 years at UCLA and then was the development director for the U.S. women’s national teams. Ellis is also on the U.S. Soccer education staff, giving youth and club coaches direction on how to identify and develop elite talent.
“There’s never been a better time to be a female soccer player in this country,” Gallimore said, “when you have opportunities from age 13 up to play on a national team and represent your country. You can be from a small town in Montana and be in a group among the best in your age group if you are identified and put into a system.”
Gallimore and Husky soccer’s links to the American team and this World Cup go past Klinsmann. Gallimore and Griffin have as a boss on the U.S. instructional staff Dave Chesler, U.S. Soccer’s director of coaching and education.
Chesler (UW Class of 1977) was an all-league midfielder with the Huskies almost 40 years ago. In 1996 Chesler was an assistant to coach Dean Wurzberger on a Huskies’ men’s team that was seeded No. 1 in the NCAA tournament, was ranked eighth in the country and finished 15-3-1. It was one of the most successful seasons in UW men’s soccer history – until this past one, when coach Jamie Clark led the Huskies to a 16-2-4 record, their first conference championship and to within a goal of the program’s first Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
Clark’s Huskies are in Sweden this week to begin its summer exhibition tour of Scandinavia; NCAA teams are allowed one foreign summer exhibition trip every four years. Gallimore’s team took its most recent one last summer, to Italy.
Klinsmann is Chesler’s boss. For the last six months, Chesler has been one of Klinsmann’s advance scouts on opponents for the World Cup. He’s with the American team in Brazil now, and has been scouting the Americans’ group of foes. The former Husky’s report on Germany is what Klinsmann used to help prepare his players for the Germans on Thursday in Recife, Brazil.
"I love that people get turned onto it and watch it when the World Cup’s on. It’s the world’s game. And if you don’t know much about it you can learn about it."Gallimore, by the way, doesn’t mind all the millions that discover soccer only every four years during the World Cup. The phenomenon made U.S.-Portugal Sunday more watched in this country than either the most recent World Series or NBA finals.
“I laugh when people make fun of the band-wagoners that like soccer when the World Cup comes around. That’s just silly,” she said. “I love that people get turned onto it and watch it when the World Cup’s on. It’s the world’s game. And if you don’t know much about it you can learn about it.
“You can gripe about the stalling and the diving and the time-wasting and all the other things that people can’t stand about the game. But there are more people that become fans when the World Cup comes around than don’t become fans. The passion along, the multi-cultural dimension alone – there are just so many things about the world’s game of soccer and the World Cup that are unique, in my opinion.
“It really is the world’s game. You think about the Seahawks and their ‘world’ championship and the Sonics and their ‘world’ championship,” she said, chuckling. “In our country when we are saying that world championships are won in our professional league, I think it’s a little arrogant.
“This is a true world championship.”
SHE STILL HAS HOPE
Gallimore had one final opinion, one she offered unsolicited.
As I thought I was ending the on-the-record part of our breezy conversation, Gallimore looked at me an said, “You haven’t asked about Hope yet.”
Hope Solo is the most accomplished and famous player in UW soccer history. Griffin and Gallimore converted Solo from a prep All-American forward and scorer as a teen into the Huskies’ goalkeeper at UW from 1999-2002 – the best goal keeper in Pac-10 history. That was before Solo became the U.S. national team’s keeper. She’s won two Olympic gold medals and the award for best goalkeeper at the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Solo and Gallimore remain close; Solo has been back to UW numerous times to appear at Gallimore’s summer soccer camps, for events surrounding the release of her biography and just for talking with her former coaches.
Monday afternoon, the 32-year-old Solo was in Kirkland Municipal Court in the Seattle suburbs pleading not guilty on charges of domestic violence. That was after an incident last weekend at the home of her half-sister and nephew.
This is another, tougher side of coaching.
“There are a lot people are afraid to say anything to me about it, which I think is very respectful,” Gallimore said. “People know me well enough know that I am going to have that kid’s back no matter what.
“But Hope’s a grown woman who also has to account for herself. My only hope for her is – like we are telling our team right now – is that she takes ownership of herself and is accountable for herself. Not her husband. Not her family. Not her situation or being a victim of people and what they say about her. She has to be responsible for herself and her choices and her actions. That’s the one thing with her that hurts my heart the most, that she hasn’t done that yet – not just with this instance but with her life in general. And she needs to, because she’s got a lot at stake. And she could lose it if she’s not careful.”
Gallimore said she will talk about Solo’s latest situation with her team, and she will talk to Solo “if she will listen.”
“For me, when I say Husky for life, I mean it,” Gallimore said. “If a player or someone as an adult is in trouble, I’m going to help that.
“But that doesn’t mean it won’t be tough love.”
Gregg Bell is an award-winning sports writer who joined the University of Washington's staff in September 2010 as the Director of Writing. Previously, Bell served as the senior national sports writer in Seattle for the Associated Press. The native of Steubenville, Ohio, is a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He received a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000.
Gregg Bell Unleashed can be found on GoHuskies.com each Wednesday.
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