Klinsmann Fired as US Coach – What’s Next for US Soccer?

jurgen-klinsmann-firedUS Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired yesterday evening, confirming speculation that his job was in trouble. The USMNT lost to both Costa Rica (4-0) and Mexico (2-1) in 2018 World Cup qualifying matches this month, which has put the US in an uphill battle to earn a spot in Russia.

Let’s take a look at Klinsmann’s US soccer career, what ultimately led to his firing (beyond recent losses), and where the future of US soccer is headed.

A Glance at Klinsmann’s US Career

On the surface, Klinsmann’s overall body of work with the USMNT has to be lauded. He produced a 55-27-16 record, and led this team out of the “Group of Death” in the 2014 World Cup and into the Round of 16.

His job was praised by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati after the firing.

“Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes,” Gulati told the press. “He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.”

Despite the highs of Klinsmann’s 5-year tenure, Gulati and others within US soccer felt that it was time to look at other options.

“While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction,” he said. “With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup.”

Klinsmann had been on Gulati’s radar for quite some time, but contract talks broke down in 2006. This allowed Bob Bradley to take over the position, which he held until 2011, when the team lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final.

This was all the reason Gulati needed to hire his guy the same year, giving Klinsmann both the USMNT coach and development director positions. The German-born coach quickly seized control of the opportunity, implementing sweeping changes to make this average US squad more like the high-powered Germany.

He also made bold moves such as cutting team captain Carlos Bocanegra right before a World Cup qualifier, cutting Landon Donovan before the 2014 World Cup, adding blood testing, running players though 3-a-day practices, and banning soda.

The moves were newsworthy, but they didn’t produce a superpower team. Klinsmann did just well enough to get a contract extension in late 2013, and this seemed validated when he took the US to the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, where they battled Belgium into extra time. But a closer look at the performance showed that America got outplayed in three out of four matches.

The US had become nothing more than a defensive team that relied on the occasional counter to pull out 1-0, 2-1, or 1-1 matches. Nowhere was this more evident than when the 2015 Gold Cup, where they finished an embarrassing fourth place after losing to Panama on penalty kicks. They also lost a playoff to Mexico for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, which was yet another blow to the team.

The one redeeming thing about Klinsmann’s latest performance was a deep run in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, where they made it to the final four after beating a tough Ecuador team. They lost to both Argentina in the semifinals and Columbia in the third-place match, but it was still looked at as a success.

However, it wasn’t so much of a success that US soccer could ignore a draw to New Zealand in October, and losses to Mexico and Costa Rica this month.

Why Was Klinsmann Fired?

While Klinsmann accepted criticism for the team’s performance, he was quick to question the heart of the players too.

“There is always things that you say you could have done differently,” said Klinsmann. “It doesn’t matter about the system, it is about the compactness of the team. The willingness to fight back — and after the second goal they didn’t have that power or drive to get back in the game. It is a very bitter moment. They were too flay, not enough alertness there, not enough tempo.”

jurgen-klinsmann-fired-2Some of the players did seem to give up in the 4-0 loss to an average Costa Rica squad. But Klinsmann also shares plenty of the blame.

For starters, he questioned the MLS and how it prepares players for the rigors of international play. And while this might be true to a degree, it also alienated some of the same players whom Klinsmann looked to when filling out his squad.

Another problem was the odd coaching strategies he used at times. One example was the recent Mexico match, where he employed a 3-5-2 formation that the team hadn’t used up to this point. Given the magnitude of a game against their closest rivals, this didn’t seem like the best time to try a new formation.

Klinsmann also struggled with his dual role of being both the coach and US developmental director. It seems like he would’ve been better suited to just coach, rather than also working on developing America’s youth soccer movement too.

Most importantly, the 52-year-old failed to make a dramatic change from the Bob Bradley era, which is what he was brought in to do in the first place. Instead, the USMNT is producing around the same level of results as Bradley did 5 years ago.

The Future of US Soccer

The future of the USMNT doesn’t seem much different from the past because Bruce Arena has been hired to coach the team.

Fired in 2006, Arena holds the distinction of being the only coach to take the US to two World Cups (2002 and ’06). He also won 71 international games, which is more than any other American.

bruce-arena-us-soccer“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the men’s national team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” Gulati said. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”

Some may believe that hiring Arena is a mistake since he’s a retread from the past. But one must also consider that he produced outstanding results with his L.A. Galaxy teams, developing a fast, attacking style that the Americans could benefit from.

Perhaps more importantly, he has close ties to the MLS and can repair this relationship after Klinsmann’s tenure. The US starts playing qualifiers again in March, which gives Arena some time to implement his style and get this team on the path to Russia 2018.

Euro Cup Final Betting: France vs Portugal

france-portugal-bettingAfter opening the 2016 Euro Cup with three lackluster ties in group play, Portugal has gained their form at the right time with victories over Croatia, Poland, and Wales to advance to the finals.

In their way stands France, which also had a mediocre group play performance, before heating up with wins against Ireland, Iceland and Germany.

Les Bleus have used the support of their home crowd to make the finals, and they’ll no doubt have a little crowd advantage tomorrow. Will this give them an unstoppable advantage, or does Portugal have enough strength to beat them?

Find out as we discuss the 2016 Euro Cup Final below, along with which team you should bet on.

Portugal vs France (3:00pm EST on July 10)
GTBets.eu Moneyline
France +100
Portugal +330
Draw +210

GTBets.eu Spread
France -0.5 (+100)
Portugal +0.5 (-125)

Why Portugal Will Win

Portugal has reached the Euro Cup and World Cup semifinals in five of their last nine tries, making them the world’s most-consistent team in that span. They also have arguably the best player on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo.

ronaldo-vs-walesDespite being a nation of under 11 million, Portugal has produced a football powerhouse. Unfortunately, they’ve failed to seal the deal in their deep Euro Cup and World Cup runs. Could this finally be the year that they atone for heartbreaks at the 2006 World Cup, and 2000 and ’04 Euro?

It’s a definite possibility, given that Fernando Santos has A Selecao playing their best football in a few years. One interesting thing about Portugal this time around is that they aren’t the flashy, offensive machine that we’ve seen in years’ past. Instead, they’re a gritty team that’s played tough defense and counted on every member of the squad in this tourney.

Portugal boasts a complete team with Ronaldo once again providing firepower. They lost to an underdog Greek team on their home soil in the 2004 Final. Now they have a real chance to spoil France’s odds of winning in Stade de France.

Why France Will Win

Didier Deschamps’ team has largely had a tougher road to the finals than Portugal. Tough matches against Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, and a Cinderella Iceland team has prepared them well for the final match. In Germany’s case, France has now denied them in the semifinals of both the European Championship and World Cup in recent years.

What’s impressive about France is that they seem to keep getting better after each round. As mentioned before, they weren’t particularly strong in group play against Romania, Albania and Switzerland. But they’ve since managed to play better in the elimination rounds, reaching a peak with their 2-0 victory over an injury riddled German team.

Make no mistake about it, though: France could’ve beaten this German team in full health the way that they’re playing now. After barely qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the French have done a lot of improving over Deschamps. They can now show the world just how far they’ve come with a win in the finals.

Battle Between Stars: Ronaldo vs Griezmann

Ronaldo has won every award imaginable in his decorated football career, which is the result of hours spent getting the most out of his incredible talent. But the one thing that has alluded him all these years is a title in a major international tournament. Expect an inspired performance out of a player who rivals Lionel Messi to be the world’s best.

France has its own star in Antoine Griezmann, who has played magnificently at the 2016 Euro. Already with 6 goals, he’ll be trying to turn in one more superb performance to help France win on their home soil. Griezmann has consistently done well in each match, and, with the team around him, has a good chance to repeat his excellence against a strong Portugal team.

Prediction on Portugal vs France

With so many strong finishes since 2000, it feels like Portugal is due for a win. And with a tough defense behind an even better attack led by Ronaldo, it feels like this could be the time that they triumph. It won’t be easy, especially with how good Griezmann and co. are playing. But don’t be surprised if Portugal comes away with a victory.

Final Score Prediction: Portugal wins 2-1
Betting Advice: Not only does Portugal have a good chance to win this match, but they’re also offering great value on our GTBets’ moneyline at +330.

2016 Euro Cup Betting: France vs Germany

france-germany-bettingWith Portugal having just secured their place in the 2016 Euro Cup Finals, via a 2-0 victory over Wales, it’s between France and Germany on who’ll meet them.

There’s little argument on who had the tougher road to the semifinals, with Germany earning a gritty win over Italy on penalty kicks. France, meanwhile, stomped on Iceland’s fairytale run with a 5-2 victory.

Will the host nation get another victory and meet Portugal in the finals? Or will it be the battle-tested Germans moving on after their close game against Italy? Find out as we cover this match and discuss which team you should bet on.

France vs Germany (3:00pm EST on July 7)
GTBets.eu Moneyline
France +170
Germany +190
Draw +200

GTBets.eu Spread
+0.5 (-250)
-0.5 (+180)

France vs Germany Overview

Up until their match against Iceland, France had not played well in this tournament. Les Bleus edged by Albania and Romania with late goals and came back to win against Ireland in the quarterfinals. Their shining moment so far came against Iceland in the round of eight, where they easily knocked out a giant killer. In this match, like previous ones, France relied on the offense supplied by Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, and Olivier Giroud.

olivier-giroudAs for Germany, their Euro Cup performance has been impressive at times, but below average at other points. They tied Poland and beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in group play, and needed to win on penalties against Italy. Nevertheless, Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory is still giving them confidence moving forward, and they’ve largely played better than France.

There are signs that Les Bleus may be coming around, scoring seven goals in their last three halves of play. This was against less-talented Iceland and Ireland squads, though; Germany won’t be nearly as easy to beat tomorrow.

Germany is Missing Players

The Nationalmannschaft have used a 3-4-2-1 system in all their Euro Cup matches, playing Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich as wing-backs. They’ve done a strong job throughout the tournament, and they’ll have to keep playing well due to how many players Germany is missing.

Midfielder Sami Khedira won’t play against France, and fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger could miss the match as well. Possible replacements include Emre Can and/or Julian Weigl, but this creates a tough situation for the Germans.

spain-italy-euro-betting-1Their defense will take a hit too, with Mats Hummels to also miss the match due to suspension. This could make Germany more vulnerable in the back line and open up opportunities for France.

Mario Gomez is just one more influential player who’ll miss the match. With Gomez out, Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler, and Mesut Ozil will need to step up and make up for their star striker’s absence.

Key Matchups

spain-italy-euro-betting-2Muller hasn’t scored any goals in the Euro Cup, but he’s doing everything else right. He set up Gomez for a score against Northern Ireland and has also helped Kimmich on defense. It’s likely that Muller will line up on the right and face France’s left-back Evra, who hasn’t been a defensive stalwart so far. Evra had an especially tough match against Iceland while manning the full-back spot. He’s going to need to play his best against Muller in order to slow down the German attack.

Another key matchup will be Jerome Boateng against Giroud. The latter has been huge for France, scoring two goals and assisting on two others. Boateng has also been playing excellent in Germany’s back line, with his only mistake being a handball against Italy. Whoever wins this matchup will have big implications on the final score.

Prediction on France vs Germany

Germany still boasts the fantastic core of players that helped them win the Cup two years ago. But in that run, they were able to keep key players healthy in the latter stages. That’s not the case this time around, though, with injuries to Khedira and Gomez, and Hummels suspended. The replacements are good, but are they strong enough to beat a French team in good form?

For France, the key will be withstanding early German attacks and using the same well-timed counters they did against Iceland. Their 4-2-3-1 formation has paid dividends in the last two matches, especially for Giroud and Griezmann. This attack should be enough to help France prevail against a shorthanded German team.

Final Score Prediction: France wins 2-1
Betting Advice: With the injuries and suspension hitting Germany, France looks really attractive on both the spread and moneyline.

2016 Euro Cup: France vs Iceland Betting

iceland-france-bettingIceland has had a magical run through the 2016 Euro Cup that began with a 1-1 tie against heavily favored Portugal, and has most recently seen them beat England 2-1. The big question, though, is if this tiny nation of 323,000 can continue slaying the giants.

France has looked solid on their home soil, but not overly impressive. They beat Romania and Albania, as expected, before drawing with Switzerland. Didier Deschamps’ team beat Iceland to advance to the quarterfinals, finally showing their talent in the second half.

Once again, Iceland finds themselves an underdog to a larger nation. Do they have another upset in them? Or is the host nation going to stomp Iceland thanks to their talent and home-field advantage?

Find out as we cover this match along with which team you should bet on.

France vs Iceland (3:00pm EST on July 3)
GTBets.eu Moneyline
Iceland  +700
France  -222
Draw +340

GTBets.eu Spread
Iceland -0.5 (-154)
France -0.5 (+125)

France vs Iceland Overview

The key for France will be carrying the momentum forward that they gained in Lyon against a tough Irish team. After falling behind 1-0 in the first half, Les Bleus mustered two goals to come back and win.

france-ireland-euroFrance has gotten by with mediocre efforts, turning it on occasionally like they did against Ireland. But Iceland is playing out of their minds and will force the French to turn it up a notch if they want to advance. France will deal with a handicap, though since Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante are suspended for this match.

As for Iceland, they’ve been doubted all along the way since many didn’t expect them to advance from group play. The doubts grew even larger when they faced a powerful English team in the quarterfinals. As you can see from our betting line, the doubters are in just as great of force in the semifinals.

But despite the naysayers, this is no longer a dream for Iceland. They are here in the quarterfinals with a real chance to win if things go well. Their defense has been stout, and they’ve also managed to score in every Euro match. If they can put it all together, like they did against England, then the Icelanders have a chance to reach the final four.

Key Matchups

The key player for France is defender Samuel Umtiti, who needs to step up for the suspended Rami. Along with Laurent Koscienlny, Umtiti is key to shutting down an Icelandic team that’s surprised people with their offense.

iceland-france-betting-1And this effort starts with controlling Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who heads Iceland’s offensive attack. Sigthorsson isn’t the most-heralded striker in the tournament, but he can be dangerous when not given proper attention. If Umtiti doesn’t stand out in his first major international debut, then Sigthorsson has a chance to net Iceland a goal.

One more key matchup will take place between center back Ragnar Sigurdsson and forward Olivier Giroud. Sigurdsson has been Iceland’s star, rarely making a mistake in this tourney. But Giroud will prove an extremely tough matchup, given his 6’4″ frame and strength. If Sigurdsson can continue his magnificence against the bigger Giroud, then Iceland could move on.

Breakout Performers: Olivier Giroud and Aron Gunnarsson

olivier-giroudGiroud didn’t score against Ireland, but the Arsenal striker was key to getting France solid shots. He also provided Antoine Griezmann with one of his two goals, making him a passing and scoring threat. With France likely to stay in the 4-2-3-1 formation that they successfully used against Ireland in the second half, Giroud will be working alongside Griezmann again.

Aron Gunnarsson, who captains Iceland, will be key to Iceland’s offensive and defensive efforts. Playing with an injury, the midfielder has shown his toughness by playing 90 minutes in three of Iceland’s Euro matches. Gunnarsson’s passion and work ethic will not only be important to his team’s game plan, but also in motivating the other players.

Prediction on France vs Iceland

Iceland has made it this far with a strong defensive effort coupled with well-timed counters. And their effort has been incredible since they’ve managed to outwork every team they’ve played. But at some point, it seems that this dream has to end, given that Iceland doesn’t possess the all-around talent that other remaining Euro teams have. This end will probably come against France, even if we’d love to see a great story continue.

Final Score Prediction: France wins 3-1
Betting Advice: We see three good bets here: France on the spread (+125), a draw (+340), and Iceland on the moneyline (+700). The dream probably likely ends here for the Icelanders, but we think that +700 is good value on the moneyline.

2016 Euro Cup: Germany vs Italy Betting

spain-italy-euro-bettingSaturday will renew one of the greatest rivalries in sports, as Italy faces Germany. Only…this rivalry has been a little one-sided over the years.

Eight times these teams have met in a major international tournament, and Germany hasn’t won a single match. But that could very well change this year since the high-powered Germans boast one of the top five teams in the world.

They’ve done little to provide doubts in the 2016 Euro Cup, posting a 3-1-0 record, with a 3-0 drubbing of Slovakia in their last outing.

Italy came into this tournament with the billing of having their least-talented Euro team in 50 years. They’ve shaken this notion, though, especially with their 2-0 victory over Spain in the round of 16, and a 2-0 win over Belgium in group play.

Both teams have impressive credentials, making this a tough match to call. If you’re looking for some betting advice, keep reading as we break down this matchup.

Germany and Italy (3:00pm EST at July 2)
GTBets.eu Moneyline
Italy +285
Germany +120
Draw +200

GTBets.eu Spread
Italy  -0.5 (-143)
Germany  -0.5 (+115)

Why Italy Will Win

Even after impressive wins over Belgium and Spain, nobody is arguing that Italy has more talent. But everybody is harping on the history of this matchup, with Italy being the winner on every occasion.

Some of these include triumphant wins, such as Italy’s 3-1 victory in the 1982 World Cup Final, and, more recently, another victory against Germany in a 2006 World Cup semifinal.

Of course, it takes more than history to win a match of this magnitude. Italy will rely on the defensive talents of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Leonardo Bonucci to stop the German attack. This is well within reach of this group too, considering that they shut down the Spanish and Belgians.

Coach Antonio Conte is also a key part of this effort. He’s shown brilliant tactical plans that highlight the Italians strengths and hide their weaknesses. Conte’s most-recent plan pressed the Spaniards and negated their ability to play out of the back. Forward Graziano Pellè stayed glued to Spanish playmaker Sergio Busquets, preventing Spain from doing much of anything on offense.

Even if we ignore history, Italy has proven that they’re far better than what anybody expected heading into the 2016 Euro Cup. And that gives them a legitimate chance to win this match.

Why German Will Win

How can this German squad erase a tortured history against the Italians? For starters, they have the better on-field talent. Manger Joachim Low has a number of options in his front side, meaning he can tweak his lineup whenever the situation requires.

spain-italy-euro-betting-1This deep, talented squad was in good form against Slovakia, as Jerome Boateng, Julian Draxler, and Mario Gomez all scored goals. The 6’3″ Gomez is the focal point of this attack, while Thomas Müller and Mesut Özil provide nice offensive support.

In the end, this could come down to a battle of wills between Italy’s defense and Germany’s offense. As mentioned before, the Italians have been exceptional in the backline, holding two top-10 teams scoreless.

But Germany’s front unit is more experienced, deeper, and more talented. This should help them win the possession battle and keep pressure on Italy. If Germany can score twice, this match is over.

Prediction on Germany vs Italy

spain-italy-euro-betting-2Making the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 is nothing out of the ordinary for an Italian squad. But after mastering a tougher-than-expected group and thumping Spain, Italy has gotten the world’s attention. This is a stalwart defensive unit that’s very efficient on counters. But in the end, Germany is too big, too experienced, and too good to not advance. Look for the Germans to end their losing streak against the Italians.

Final Score Prediction: Germany wins 2-1
Betting Advice: While Germany has the firepower to win, we like Italy’s moneyline (+285) or a regulation draw (+200).

2016 Euro Cup: Wales vs Belgium Betting

BelgiumWales has moved into the 2016 Euro Cup’s final eight by beating Northern Ireland 1-0. This means that Gareth Bale and company’s only loss so far is a 2-1 match against England.

Their opponent, Belgium, has also lost just once, dropping their first Euro Cup group play match to Italy by a score of 2-0. Since then, the Belgians have looked more and more impressive, crushing Hungary 4-0 in their round of 16 match.

Will this be the fate of Wales as well? Or can they pull off the upset?

Find out as we cover Friday’s matchup between these teams, and discuss who you should bet on.

Belgium vs Wales (3:00pm EST at July 1)
GTBets.eu Moneyline
Belgium  -125
Wales  +390
Draw  +240

GTBets.eu Spread
Belgium  -0.5 (-125)
Wales  -0.5 (+100)

Belgium vs Wales Overview

wales-euro-cup-bettingRanked behind both England and Northern Ireland in the FIFA rankings, few expected Wales to be the last-remaining British nation left in the Euro Cup. But here they are, riding the high of two straight victories and looking to advance to the final four.

Confidence won’t be an issue for Wales because they beat Belgium last year in qualifiers. And Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen have formed an impressive three-star rotation that’s putting the ball in the net. Wales looks as good as ever, meaning they have a chance to pull off this win.

But Belgium is also living up to lofty expectations, thanks in large part to defensive efforts by Thomas Vermaelen. Unfortunately, he won’t be available against Wales due to a suspension. The Belgians will rely on midfielders Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan to help maintain possession and keep Wales out of their backfield.

Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have also played well in this tourney, but they need more out of Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens, both of whom have been inconsistent lately.

Key Matchups

belgium-euro-cup-bettingAfter scoring two goals against Ireland, Lukaku hasn’t done much. But he’s a big forward who proves a tough matchup for Wales’ backline. Ashley Williams will be part of the backline trying to stop Lukaku and prevent him from doing damage.

Another important matchup will take place between Nainggolan and the Welsh midfielder Allen. The latter is key to Wales’ total effort, making solid passes and key tackles. But if Nainggolan can slow him down and disrupt Wales’ attack, then Belgium has a great chance of keeping the Welsh out of the net.

Breakout Performers: Joe Ledley and Kevin De Bruyne

Lost in the Welsh victory over Northern Ireland is that Ledley didn’t have a fantastic match. But he has a good chance to step up against the offensive-geared Belgian side and make some plays. We see him making big tackles and ruining some of the things that Belgium wants to do.

It’s been three matches since the Belgians last scored a goal on Wales. Don’t expect them to play reserved on Friday, as they’ll be looking to end this scoreless streak. This flow will favor Kevin De Bruyne, who’ll likely be playing a freer role. The Manchester City man could either score himself or create a goal for somebody else if the gameplan goes his way.

Prediction on Belgium vs Wales

Wales knows that they can play with Belgium, having done so last year. They also have three excellent players in Bale, Ramsey and Allen, who can provide the firepower needed to take down Belgium. But the Belgian side hasn’t even shown what they’re capable of yet in the tournament. While we expect Wales to provide resistance, Belgium might have a date with destiny in the finals.

Final Score Prediction: Belgium wins 2-1
Betting Advice: This is a tough one. We like Belgium on the spread, but Wales is offering good value on the moneyline.