Should USA Soccer fire Jurgen Klinsmann?

jurgen-klinsmannThe US Men’s National Team suffered an embarrassing and surprising 2-1 defeat at the hands of Jamaica in the Gold Cup. The FIFA rankings, although not always accurate, say everything in this case, with USA ranked 34th and Jamaica ranked 76th. Of course, an upset loss in a big tournament is not enough by itself to question US soccer, specifically Jurgen Klinsmann’s leadership. However, the reason WHY they lost may fall back on the coach along with other lackluster results.

Sure, USA has turned out some spectacular performances in friendlies recently. But those are friendlies, soccer’s definition of an exhibition game where players/strategies are experimented with. This was a serious tournament where the more-talented Americans played like the inferior team in virtually every way.

Jamaica did what they always do: try to play disciplined, defensive soccer while using their speed on extremely quick counterstrikes. Pretty much any top soccer team would have been ready for their strategy – although Jamaica should be given credit for how well they executed it. But execution or not, the Americans kept over-pursuing offensive chances and getting caught off-guard when Jamaica would force a turnover and start their counterstrike. This was not a flaw with the players, it was a flaw with Klinsmann’s approach to managing the game.

usa-jamaica-gold-cupKlinsmann’s managerial strategy wasn’t the only problem here because, once again, his odd approach to constantly tinkering with lineups created a dilemma. It’s fine to test different strategies on the road to the 2018 World Cup in hopes of finding the winning combination. But at some point every key player on the team needs to know exactly what their role is when it matters most. The Gold Cup semifinals game mattered greatly, yet several players were once again shifted around and used in a variety of ways, leading to another uncohesive performance.

His choice of players leaves something to be desired as well, like midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who has seen his best years pass by. The 33-year-old consistently looked slow while resorting to a number of fouls that finally got him benched by Klinsmann. It was a big factor in the game and one that allowed Jamaica to work their strategy to perfection.

Will Klinsmann be fired following this humiliating home loss to Jamaica? The likely answer is no, because he’s done some good things as well. He’s definitely been a factor in improving the USA soccer developmental structure, which was abysmal at best before his arrival. Now it’s looking more and more like America might be able to turn out quality talent on their own. DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Perry Kitchen are excellent examples of this fact.

Meanwhile, Klinsmann has also done an excellent job of recruiting players who, through FIFA rules, are eligible to compete for multiple countries. Fabian Johnson, Aron Johannsson, Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks are all products are of this effort.

But if the USA soccer program wants to make a cold and calculated decision on what’s best for the USMNT, then there’s probably a better manager available in the way of in-game management and match preparation. From an overall standpoint, Klinsmann has definitely done a solid job up until now. However, it may be time to go another direction with regard to taking the USMNT to another level.

Jurgen Klinsmann explains Team USA’s Ugly 4-1 Loss to Ireland

usa-soccer-loses-irelandComing off of their surprise Round of 16 performance in the 2014 World Cup, the USA Men’s National team isn’t exactly following it up with great results. And they hit rock-bottom yesterday after a 4-1 loss to Ireland’s reserve team (A-team benched after 5-0 loss to Scotland).

Now this wasn’t the United States’ A-team either. However, the squad they sent to Dublin shouldn’t have lost by three goals to a country with 4.6 million people either. USA did a poor job of clearing balls and maintaining possession. And their trend of terrible second-half performances continued as they were outscored 3-0 after halftime.

This now makes four straight matches where the Americans have failed to show up in the second half. Following a 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic to open international play, the Americans allowed late goals against Honduras and Ecuador (both ending in 1-1 ties), led Columbia 1-0 until giving up two late goals, then allowed the three aforementioned scores to Ireland.

Obviously this isn’t the same team that beat Ghana, tied Portugal, and played both Germany and Belgium tough during the World Cup. And head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a good idea why his team is playing so poorly right now. Klinsmann said the following after the Ireland match:

Bobby Wood“They have to learn emotionally how to digest a World Cup, and a lot of our players really had big problems digesting those extreme emotions. They dropped 20, 30 even 40 percent in performances in their club environment. Many of the Europeans lost their starting spot. Many other players in MLS or wherever went down 30, 40 percent in their performances and this is because they didn’t know how to deal with all these emotions and all that recognition and all the compliments in the world that came after the World Cup. In a certain way it’s human. I mean, it’s understandable. But the former World Cup champion player made clear this shows “we are not there yet. We have quite a way to go.”

Klinsmann also believes that his guys may still be out to vacation after the 2014 World Cup. After citing how stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi take vacations then pick up where they left off, the German-born coach said his players are still adjusting to a new season. “Our players, they went on vacation, they had a good time, they come back and they lost their spots in their clubs,” he said.

Aside from how players still have issues getting back into the feel of soccer, Team USA may have a toughness problem during their World Cup hangover. “We need to get an edge, more nastier. I’m telling you that again. We’ve got to get nastier,” Klinsmann emphasized. “It’s not a negative word. We have to become more physical. We have to hold our ground more, dominant, and send signals out all over the field.”

Sadly, some of the biggest names from the Americans’ Round of 16 run have been playing the worst. Chris Wondolowski and even Fabian Johnson are two names that come to mind right away, as they’ve failed to show the same glimpses of greatness that they occasionally had during the World Cup.

In the end, it sounds like Team USA isn’t used to dealing with the rigors of a tough World Cup run, then hitting the field hard again just weeks later. And without any rest in sight, with club seasons in full swing, the Americans may not get their swagger back until next year.