SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Berti Vogts is literally working both sides.
As soon as he’s done coaching Azerbaijan against the Americans in an international friendly Tuesday night, Vogts will start his temporary job as a special adviser to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
It’s a rare scenario.
“I’ve never seen or heard that before,” U.S. midfielder Graham Zusi said. “That’s just the way it is sometimes.”
Vogts expects about half of Azerbaijan’s 9 million people to be tuning in on TV to watch the match at Candlestick Park, the first of three World Cup warmup matches for the U.S. squad.
Not that Vogts is getting ahead of himself.
“First, I’m the national coach for Azerbaijan. Proud to play here against the United States,” Vogts said. “It’s a huge match for Azerbaijan, and I hope the match also will help the United States.”
He is quick to clear up a couple of things: Klinsmann hasn’t asked him to make any tactical adjustments based on better preparing the Americans even though his Azerbaijan squad has faced all three of the United States’ World Cup opponents; and Klinsmann offered the idea of this match.
“It’s a friendly. It’s a natural match. It’s not a match about two friends. It’s a match of Azerbaijan-USA,” Vogts said.
For Klinsmann, facing a team ranked 85th has its benefits.
“There’s a purpose behind choosing Azerbaijan. It’s a team that has met with a lot of the European opponents that we actually face,” Klinsmann said before practice Monday. “We had strong preparation the last 12 days. We did a lot of physical work, obviously, so the legs might be a little bit heavier.
“I think they will give us a very good game. It’s important to start with a win in the send-off series and build confidence and see where the guys are right now after that intense two weeks.”
The 67-year-old Vogts won the World Cup with West Germany in 1974 as a player and is in his seventh year coaching Azerbaijan. He coached Germany to World Cup quarterfinal losses in the 1994 and 1998 tournaments, and stepped down in September 1998. He went on to coach Kuwait from 2001-02, Scotland from 2002-04 and Nigeria from 2007-08.
Vogts sought permission to also assist fellow German Klinsmann, who coached Germany from 2004-06.
And Klinsmann called upon Vogts in March, when he shook up his coaching staff just more than two months before the World Cup.
“He’s very excited to be part of our path to Brazil and during the World Cup because that’s where the big music is played, and he wants to be part of the big music,” Klinsmann said. “For me he’s been a big mentor throughout my life, and he just has an outstanding soccer brain, an outstanding knowledge the way he reads the game, the way he analyzes things with his tremendous experience he has, is unquestionable, a huge benefit for us.”
After Tuesday, Vogts will endure a whirlwind stretch of travel and scouting.
He returns to Germany with Azerbaijan. Then he will drive to Rotterdam to see Saturday’s friendly between Ghana and the Netherlands. The following day it’s Cameroon vs. Germany in Moechengladbach.
“Then I come over to Boston and watch Portugal against Mexico, then I go to Jacksonville to be part of the (U.S.) team, then I stay two days longer in Miami and watch Ghana against South Korea,” Vogts said.
The U.S. will play Turkey in New Jersey on Sunday, followed by a game against Nigeria in Florida before departing for Brazil to finalize preparations for its Group G opener against Ghana on June 16.
Vogts is perfectly content to contribute behind the scenes, without getting involved in personnel decisions or weighing in on Klinsmann’s selection choices.
“I think it’s a good group together, the U.S.,” he said. “I’m not a coach. Maybe Jurgen has some questions for me about special things. I give him a clear answer. That is my part.”