Steve Klein, assistant coach for the United States youth national team and founder of the Pennsylvania Classics Soccer Club, has made waves in the future of American soccer.
The Brentwood native coached Christian Pulisic, the biggest name coming out of American soccer right now. The transcendent midfielder, Pulisic has been dubbed the most expensive U.S. soccer player ever after signing a $73 million deal with Chelsea.
Klein said his biggest focus when coaching talented young athletes is to work on their character and related aspects.
“Obviously, these players have the ability to be great, but a lot of that ability isn’t so much about what a coach can perfect,” Klein said. “A coach can really impact a player’s personality, character and discipline.”
This is a lesson Klein learned from his former coach, Dennis King, while playing basketball at Brentwood High School. Klein, a former United Soccer League star, isn’t afraid to take off the kid gloves when dealing with his athletes either.
“When you’re coaching talented players in youth sports, it’s easy to treat your best player with kid gloves because you’re afraid they may go somewhere else,” Klein said. “Really, these kids actually need more of the discipline and character building, because they are a special player.”
For players such as Pulisic, Klein believes it is up to the coach and club to provide an environment where they can succeed. Klein said that a bad club can ruin a good player any day of the week.
“Ultimately, it is on the athlete to do the heavy lifting,” Klein said. “Christian puts more hours into the game than any other player and it’s great to see the success he’s had. He still drops by to say hello to the kids in our club.”
Klein got into coaching back in 2001, when he and other founders opened up the Pennsylvania Classic club while playing for the Hershey USL team.
Back then, a player couldn’t retire on the money he made playing professionally. Klein thought that starting a club would be a great way to stay outdoors — avoiding a regular 9-to-5 — and around the game he loved.
“I love the sport of soccer,” Klein said. “Growing up, I had always wanted to play professional soccer and I always wanted to start a soccer club.”
After a championship loss, the Hershey Wildcats disbanded and Klein was sent to the Charleston Battery. The sensational striker was able to bring a championship to the Battery in 2003 and was awarded MVP for his efforts.
Klein took over as the director of coaching for the Pennsylvania Classics in 2004. It’s a position he holds to this day, while still giving his all on the field.
From there, Klein was sent to Vancouver, Canada, to play for the Whitecaps. All the while, he still managed his club from another country. Klein’s time in the Great White North was productive, to say the least. He earned all-league first-team honors in 2005 and won his second championship in 2006.
With his professional playing career over, Klein has focused all his competitive edge into coaching.
Klein will be taking the under-15 boys national team to Bradenton, Florida, in August for the CONCACAF championship tournament at IMG Academy. There the team will face off against top-tier teams such as Portugal and longtime U.S. rival Mexico.
“These kids love it,” Klein said. “It really is a lot of fun. They’re wearing the flag and we’re teaching them the pride of playing for their country.”