The news that Jürgen Klinsmann has received a four year contract extension from US Soccer that will take the Head Coach through the 2018 World Cup was well received in many quarters. But while appreciating the move and its intent of giving long-term stability and direction to a previously anchor-less US program, I do have some questions about the deal.
US Soccer President Sunil Gulati has long been infatuated with Klinsmann’s reputation and his talking points about transforming the US program, so it should be no surprise he has gotten this extension plus the added responsibilities of being “Technical Director” before he has really accomplished anything.
My questions about the deal are:
1. Bob Bradley’s US side won the CONCACAF Hexagonal in 2009, didn’t struggle in the semifinal stage in 2008 the way Klinsmann’s team did in 2012 and eventually won its group in World Cup 2010. Yet Bradley had to wait one month after the tournament to get an extension amid media speculation that Gulati was looking for another option. What if Klinsmann fails to advance the US out of its group in Brazil? Will he be given the sack as he has fallen short of Bradley’s established mark?
2. Bradley lost in the final of 2011 Gold Cup and was sacked. Will Klinsmann be given a similar termination should the US lose in the 2015 Gold Cup?
3. As US head coach, Klinsmann took a distinct interest in the progress of the youth teams, but the US Youth National Team program is at its lowest in two decades. The U-17 team didn’t qualify for the World Cup, the U-23 team didn’t qualify for the Olympics playing Klinsmann’s favored system and the U-20 bombed out of the U-20 World Cup. Now Klinsmann has added Technical Director to his responsibilities. Does this mean he will be held accountable if and when the US Youth national teams fail again?
4. Why the hurry to give this extension a week after the draw? Who exactly was knocking on Klinsmann’s door? Following his spectacular failure at Bayern, I am not sure any major European club is interested in his services. Besides, Klinsmann has stated publicly on numerous occasions he is more cut out for national team management, or maybe that was merely a way to justify his Bayern failures.
5. If Klinsmann were given this extension due to qualifying performances, then why was Bruce Arena — whose side buzzed through CONCACAF with almost identical results and score lines in 2005 — not given an extension that year? That summer in the U-20 World Cup, the US beat eventual champion Argentina and did well in the U-17 tournament as well. If that standard was being applied, Arena would still be US manager.
6. Finally if Klinsmann is being asked to set a direction for the US program with his new title, is he now responsible for hiring youth coaches, dictating tactics for the entire program and establishing a general style by which the US plays?
Perhaps Klinsmann earned this extension from the good work he is doing to establish the United States as a soccer power, which is largely below the radar. But at the same time I wonder about the timing of this move and whether it was in fact fair to Klinsmann’s predecessors who both enjoyed similar success in portions of their tenures.
Editor’s note: For the latest USMNT news, analysis and opinion, visit the US Men’s National Team page.