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.

5 Takeaways from USA Soccer’s 2-1 Victory over Germany

usa-vs-germany-2015Just a week after their big win over the Netherlands, Team USA earned a 2-1 victory over defending World Cup champion Germany. This now marks two victories over top-ranked international squads, causing many to wonder where the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) is headed. It definitely feels like good things are coming in the future, that’s for sure. But what exactly is it that’s going so right for this team, which, despite a Round-of-16 World Cup appearance, seemed over-matched against soccer’s elite? Let’s analyze five points from the 2-1 win over Germany to determine what they are doing right now.

1. As Michael Bradley goes, the US goes

The 2014 World Cup wasn’t Michael Bradley’s finest hour, as the American midfielder had some tough games. But you’d never know that by looking at the 27-year-old now. Bradley played an excellent field game against the Netherlands, then followed up this performance with another gem against Germany. In fact, it was his sweet cross-field pass that set up the game-tying goal. Assuming USA is to win the Gold Cup next month, they’ll need Bradley to at least be on his A or B-game. Considering the latest results, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

2. USA is winning without Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore

clint-dempsey-ghanaOne year ago, if you were to tell a die-hard soccer fan that USA would beat both the Netherlands and Germany without Clint Dempsey (child born) and Jozy Altidore (injury), they’d think you were crazy. And crazy is definitely the right word for what the Americans have done without their star players against top-flight international competition. Sure, these are only friendlies, and teams are always utilizing tweaked lineups that aren’t their best. But still, when you have an unknown like Bobby Wood step up and nail game-winning goals, it has to be encouraging for the overall US soccer system. On a side note, Wood isn’t even on the 35-man provisional roster for the Gold Cup.

3. The Americans have Incredible Speed

This American squad can definitely match other teams in regard to speed. This is especially the case with DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes and Jordan Morris, who can create mismatches with their running ability. Teams will definitely have trouble containing Yedlin and Zardes on the flanks, which will give USA plenty of scoring chances in future international matches. So suddenly, the Americans, who featured below-average speed at the World Cup, have changed one of their greatest weaknesses into a huge asset.

4. The Tough, Grind-till-the-End Mentality is Back

While USA may not have been the most-talented team at the 2014 Cup, they did earn lots of praise for their never-quit attitude. Unfortunately, this mentality was largely missing in late 2014 and early ’15 matches, where they lost embarrassingly to Ireland (4-1), Chile (3-1) and even Denmark (3-2). However, things are looking up again as the USA toughness is back, and they’re grinding matches out until the end while waiting for their opportunities. And these opportunities definitely did come late against both the Netherlands and Germany.

5. Every Player has to compete for their Spot

Soccer: Friendly-USA vs GermanyUnder Jurgen Klinsmann, there’s no complacency in regard to a player’s international roster spot. As we saw with Landon Donovan before the 2014 Cup, Klinsmann won’t let big names decide who plays and who doesn’t. That said, there are a few players who’ve shown enough to be safe, including Bradley, Yedlin, Dempsey, Altidore, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Zardes, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. However, from an overall perspective, Klinsmann is bringing a real European attitude to the table, where every spot is up for competition and players need to work hard to start, no matter how talented they are.