USMNT: Time to Show Jurgen Klinsmann the Door


When Jurgen Klinsmann started the job as head coach of the USMNT in 2011, he was regarded as the future savior of U.S. Soccer. To say that the American fan had high expectations for the German-born legend would be a gross understatement.

Gaining access to the whole men’s national program from U.S. Soccer Federation president, Sunil Gulati, there was no question the new chieftain would improve the state of U.S. Soccer over his tenure.

Sitting here four years after Klinsmann was granted the keys to the kingdom, can we honestly say U.S Soccer has improved in that time?

Let’s dissect this a bit.  Klinsmann was granted two titles when he took his post: manager of the USMNT and technical director of U.S. Soccer, which includes taking charge of youth development and junior national teams.

Now, I am not going to claim to be an expert on the proper actions of a technical director. Aside from observing the amount of foreign-born American talent brought in and the ascension of key national team contributors such as DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes, and Joe Corona (just to name a few), judging a technical director from the outside would be difficult as I am certain it is a job that takes more insider knowledge of individual players than what fans see.

It also focuses on development, which is a long-term initiative that takes time in revealing its results, far longer than Klinsmann’s current tenure.

As a head coach, however, Klinsmann’s work is more visible and therefore a lot easier to measure. The task of a head coach is simple: make your nation proud by winning as many competitive matches as possible and bringing home trophies. Being head coach of the USMNT is about short-term results.

There is an obvious conflict of interests with his role as technical director, which is focused more on long-term objectives. Klinsmann has admitted this issue in the past and it has visibly bled into tangible results as head coach of the senior squad.

The 2014 World Cup roster was most representative of this issue. More specifically, the inclusion of 19-year-old Julian Green, who totaled prior only one USMNT cap (in a friendly) and the exclusion of World Cup veteran Landon Donovan, arguably the heart and soul of the USMNT, best summarized this conflict of interests that Klinsmann had been facing.

Klinsmann had been trying to find the right balance in the World Cup between fielding his best team and sacrificing depth to get the younger players more experience. Did he succeed? I don’t think so. If he wanted younger stars in the roster, he could have replaced other older players such as as Brad Davis and Graham Zusi. But to cut Landon Donovan, there must have been other underlying issues at play.

Aside from the problems that arose from the many hats that Klinsmann has tasked himself to wear at once, his performance solely as a head coach has exposed itself enough for criticism.

Tactically, Klinsmann has shown little in his ability to organize a group of players that can work collectively to dictate the flow of a game. Mind you that was one of his objectives when he first took the job as head coach. Unfortunately, this goal has simply gone unfulfilled four years later.

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The formations and lineups selected by Klinsmann were clearly evident of his lack of ability as a true tactician. Not once did the two different backlines that started in the four 2014 World Cup games feature in any previous competitive match.

Also, placing players such as Jermaine Jones, Damarcus Beasley, DeAndre Yedlin, Edgar Castillo, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, and Alejandro Bedoya in unfamiliar positions with loose instructions as to their roles on the pitch further emphasized the lack of tactical discipline.

Let’s keep in mind Sunil Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation must have known this side of Klinsmann before hiring him. The same had been said of the boss when he coached Germany to a third place finish in the 2006 World Cup. German players complained that Klinsmann only focused on athleticism and spent more time conditioning players than educating them on their individual roles in the larger team.

Fortunately, Klinsmann was blessed with the tactics of his assistant Joachim Löw, to whom German players accredit for translating their athleticism to on-the-field results.

Unfortunately for the USMNT, I believe we are seeing the effects of this lack of tactical discipline in the locker room. The World Cup was a crucial moment in this player-coach relationship that really jump-started all the doubts that surround Klinsmann today.

Leaving Donovan off the roster and including inexperienced youngsters such as Julian Green and Terrence Boyd in his stead did not only put into question Klinsmann’s short-term commitment to a successful tournament, but also pitted players against the coach, as it did fans.

The constant switching of formations and bringing in certain undeserved players for one-game stints started creating a sense of disorganization and eventual distrust that came to a summit at the end of the World Cup.

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  • Although the USMNT were winning before the World Cup under this structure, we weren’t winning by the pressing style that Klinsmann had set out to adopt. Performance-wise, the World Cup itself was less than impressive, with the Portugal game being the only match in which we were barely able to dictate a portion of the game.

    After the tournament, things went downhill. Klinsmann had shown his hand. He was all about pushing for athleticism and physical ability. However, that had only taken the team so far in the World Cup, as many even went down from exhaustion in the matches.

    For the players, the Klinsmann experiment was up. Trust for the head coach had already been broken amongst the players and Klinsmann had visibly lost the locker room. There is no returning from that.

    Do I think Klinsmann should be let go as the national team coach? Yes. Do I think he has not been helpful to U.S. Soccer? No. Rather, I would want him to stay in the program as technical director.

    Although he has not proven to be the coach we all thought he was before doing our research, he has proven to be a strong voice for U.S. Soccer and a visionary for youth development. We still have a lot to gain from the man, but it is not as head coach of our senior team. It is time to get Klinsmann out.

    Next: USMNT Fall in Rivalry Clash to Mexico: Klinsmann Out?

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