Tuesday, November 22, 2016
After Almost 5.5 Years in Charge, Jurgen Klinsmann is Fired as USMNT Head Coach & Technical Director
After a wretched 4-0 loss in a World Cup qualifier last Monday night in Costa Rica, you had to wonder if Jurgen Klinsmann was done as both the USMNT head coach and technical director. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati was non-committal after the match and after he had a week to think about it, today he made the somewhat expected move: Klinsmann was out in each capacity. By itself, this was disappointing enough but heap on the fact that LA Galaxy head coach (and former USMNT head coach Bruce Arena) is said to be returning once again so I can't help but feel like the U.S. Soccer Federation has lost its common sense.
I understand that it's quite possible many of the key players (Michael Bradley for sure) had begun to tune Klinsmann out, how else do you explain their recent form, but you'll never convince me that Arena or any other American for that matter will be able to match Klinsmann's all-World resume. He was a World Cup winner as a player with Germany and also coached their national team along with Bayern Munich (Germany), one of the most powerful clubs in the universe. Instead, they are at least temporarily going back to a guy that hasn't been in charge of the USMNT in a decade (1998-2006) and who has been coaching in lowly MLS (New York Red Bulls and Galaxy) since then. Ugh. Thanks to Klinsmann, the U.S. was able to bring in many Mexican-American and German-Americans (Jermaine Jones, John Brooks, Julian Green, Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler) who have become some of the top players.
The U.S. just doesn't seem to have a realistic view of itself or rather, they are completely mistaken for what is the proper way to go from a mid-tier country (their usual status) to one that can consistently challenge for major titles. Where is that outside the box thinking that brought them Klinsmann? This is all semantics since Arena is still the winningest head coach in USMNT history but Klinsmann is second (55-27-16) since he took over on July 29, 2011. He led the team to a program-record 12-game winning streak in 2013 and their 16 wins overall and .761 winning percentage in 2013 are an all-time record for a calendar year. They also advanced out of an extremely difficult group at the 2014 World Cup before losing to a far superior Belgium squad in the round of 16. Things seemed to have turned stale this year though as they finished a disappointing fourth in the Copa America on their home soil (losing a knockout game to Jamaica, come on) and they lost a heartbreaker 2-1 to Mexico in World Cup qualifying on November 11 in Columbus, Ohio.
The weird part is that the men's national team has never been more popular and therefore also more scrutinized in the United States than it is today. This is of course a good thing. With such easy access to games from all over the world constantly (featuring many of our brightest stars), we are much more knowledgeable when it comes to the beautiful game. Of course, the sad truth is that the men's team will probably never be an upper-echelon program simply because most of our best athletes play other sports (football, basketball, baseball, hockey, etc) that pay better and bring far more fame at least in the states. Non-soccer fans never quite understand why the USMNT isn't better but that is the main reason why. As technical director, Klinsmann made sweeping changes to the U.S. youth national teams and the fruits of that are already being seen with an amazing prospect like Christian Pulisic who rightfully got the hell out of the U.S. to test himself at a very high level (Borussia Dortmund).
Arena is just a placeholder, a lame duck coach that is said to only be around through the 2018 World Cup. I know we are all starting to get worried about even reaching that point but keep in mind that Mexico had to go all the way to a playoff (vs. New Zealand) to reach the 2014 World Cup and CONCACAF is still filled with numerous awful teams so the U.S. should bounce back in March when they finally reconvene to face Honduras on March 24 and go to Panama on March 27. The U.S. under-23 men's head coach and former U.S. star midfielder Tab Ramos is apparently a candidate further down the road for this job but he's not ready for it yet.
Even before Klinsmann took over, I've felt for a long time that the U.S. men's national team should have a non-American in charge in order to reach our ultimate potential. I believe it's the exact opposite thinking for the U.S. women's national team since they are the gold standard in their sport so why mess with their immense success? He gave us a certain amount of credibility globally that is suddenly gone and will never be replaced by the likes of Arena, Ramos or any other U.S. lifer that has yet to experience the highest levels of competition that the sport has to offer. I know that many bandwagon fans wanted to see this happen but I'm pretty sure this will be your classic case of buyer's remorse when the U.S. fails to really grow at all in the next few years. Honestly, getting to the 2018 World Cup won't be much of an achievement if they bow out in the group stage.