Does Klinsman Have Anything to Do With the USMNT Loss to Mexico?
After the U.S. did not make the Gold Cup final earlier this year, it was clear that Jurgen Klinsman had been given a longer leash than previous National Team coaches like Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena. Now, after the US loss to Mexico on Saturday night and their match against Costa Rica tonight, we ask the OTF Staff: What changes (if any) need to be made to improve the United States Men’s National Team?
Oh God. I’m so fed up with this #KlinsmannOut nonsense. It’s not his fault the U.S. player pool is tapped out and faces competition over allegiances from its victorious southern rival. Moreover, from a stylistic point of view, Klinsmann started eight MLS players on Saturday night, so what does that tell you? That said, despite unattractive USMNT play, the match was tight. Only an exceptional strike after a defensive error with three minutes remaining until penalty kicks proved the difference.
Why can’t these folks calling for Der Coach’s head accept reality? Up and down the roster, Mexico has more technically gifted attacking players who, for the most part, play at higher levels of club competition. Yet despite this fact, Saturday’s was Klinsmann’s first loss to Mexico in seven matches played (3-1-3). What other USMNT head coach can boast such a record against El Tri?
Is Klinsmann perfect? No. Could his tactics use a bit of freshening up? Perhaps. But regarding the latter question, I reckon Saturday night’s result would not have been nearly as tight had USMNT rolled out a diamond midfield or a similar attacking tactic. America’s dearth of world-class creative attacking players was on full display on the weekend. And somehow I’m supposed to believe this is Jurgen Klinsmann’s fault?
Jurgen Klinsmann is not the problem. US Soccer is the problem.
In addition to his head coaching duties, Klinsmann was brought in as Technical Director to spark needed systemic and cultural change. Approximately four years into his tenure, he is, understandably, slogging it out. Moreover, he has no control over the unfortunate fact that America’s professional first division does him no favors. To add insult to injury, the U.S. top flight is led by a man who has publicly positioned himself in opposition to Klinsmann. Don Garber’s got to protect MLS LLC’s Members’ wallets, after all.
It is no secret Jurgen Klinsmann has support from the U.S. Soccer Federation. Why wouldn’t he? He’s taken the national squad to new heights since coming in 2011. After the 2010 World Cup, it was clear the USMNT certainly had great potential but was still not fully reaching it. Klinsmann was brought in because he possessed something former national team coaches did not. Klinsmann’s soccer background was European based. This definitely meant Klinsmann would bring tremendous success, no?
People say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I believe numbers do too. Dating back to the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. national team has had a total of 25 matches, which amounts to a total of 78 points. Out of those 25 official matches, Jurgen Klinsmann has led the team to a total of 38 points. That’s about a point and a half a game. These numbers aren’t too appealing, especially when the man who hails from Germany with new ideas and tons of experience is responsible for them. Where is the success and glory we all expected?
Sure, Klinsmann did lead them to a Gold Cup title in 2013 but we know our national team is past that stage. Leave that for the Canadas, the Jamaicas and the Panamas of the tournament to be satisfied with. 38 points out of a possible 78 just isn’t enough when it comes to competing on a global stage.
There should be questions addressed to Sunil Gulati about a possible change at the manager position. The U.S. development academies are excelling. We are generating talented players who are now moving overseas to play. Despite the Men’s Team loss and U-23’s fall to Honduras it’s still a positive time for soccer in the United States, but when you pull 38 points out of 78 at the senior level, something just isn’t right. This certainly has to be Jurgen’s last chance to prove why he could be the answer because frankly, we’re still left with just questions.
In my mind, there’s one way to go from here: play the freshmen.
I’ve long thought the parallels have been eerily similar between Klinsmann’s Team U.S.A. and a college program. Almost from the beginning, he’s placed emphasis on recruiting young dual-national players, sitting down in their living room and convincing their parents to trust their son’s future to the U.S.-of-A.
Now, it’s often been a bit trickier than a signed Letter of Intent — as Gedion Zelalem’s under-the-gun citizenship-by-parent-acquiring-citizenship illustrates -— but it’s revolved around the type of salesmanship and plucking at heartstrings that any 18-year-old American throwballer would recognize.
There are two types of college teams: those that perennially reload and are always competitive, and those that build in four-year cycles with a talented group of youngsters that grows into a talented group of college seniors playing at their peak.
What the CONCACAF Cup defeat and the (imminent, likely) failure to qualify for the Olympics have shown is that the USA isn’t a perennial powerhouse, and it’s time to rebuild. The good news is that the biggest stage in the global game, the World Cup, can lend itself to the same type of cycle.
That’s why it’s time to start the kids. Particularly if the Olympics bid does fall short (and we’ll know a lot more tonight) young American players won’t have that forum to hone their skills. It’s more critical than ever that they get into the first-team fire and learn how to forge ahead.
But this course isn’t without risks. For one, the U.S. could just be unlucky in the generational cycle. Another key question lies in asking what type of coach Klinsie is. Is the he kind that molds a lump of clay or the type that takes a great player and elevates them tactically? If not him, then who can take the Class of 2018 and guide them into an experienced, cohesive group? And even then, will that be enough to overtake the raw talent elsewhere?
Lots of questions surround the U.S. team right now, but the people who will answer them aren’t necessarily the ones who played Mexico, but the ones that will play in Russia. So let’s see what they’ve got to say.