World Cup winner Jose Kléberson helps Philadelphia Union to top of MLS
Portland Timbers’ Brian Fernandez, left, and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake battle for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Chester, Pa., on May 25, 2019. Matt Rourke | Associated Press

World Cup winner Jose Kléberson helps Philadelphia Union to top of MLS

When World Cup winner Jose Kléberson retired from the game in 2016, he knew that he wanted to get into coaching.

Fortunately for the Philadelphia Union, they gave him a role with the youth academy.

Fast forward two years, and the Union currently sit at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference standings. Helped by a group of talented academy products, like 18-year-old Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia will hope to win its first MLS title this fall.

Kleberson recently gave an exclusive interview to about his experience so far in Philadelphia, and whether or not his team can finally win that elusive MLS title.

“I hope Philadelphia can win the Eastern Conference this year," Kleberson said. "They are hungry to win! We have made the final of the MLS Cup three times and lost every time. But now, we have a new technical director and are playing a different style of football. We have started well, and have lots of motivation.”

Kleberson started working on his coaching badges almost immediately after he finished playing professionally. It is something that he has taken to very well.

“I retired almost two years ago and started by getting my license for coaching," Kleberson said. "I observed Philadelphia Union and the director took an interest in me. He asked me to start coaching in the academy and I was immediately interested so I began coaching right away.

Kleberson also spoke about the new focus in the MLS on the academy teams, which has helped grow the league over the last few years. While teams still look to grab talented players from around the world, like Wayne Rooney, teams know they have to develop players on their own to thrive.

“A couple of years ago, the MLS looked to bring top players into the league to add experience which would help them financially," Kleberson said. "The MLS have tried hard to grow their academies to help bring young players through to the first team, so they can hopefully get a move into the top leagues around the world.

"American players are usually strong and fast, and nowadays in football, you need to have both. They need to improve on their technical skills but that is something they can work on. I think the academy model is very different.

"In America, football is still growing, and it is not the number one sport that is being played here. The quality at a young level here is not good enough and that is why they are bringing top coaches here so they can improve the academies over time.”

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