Heroic Effort From the USA’s Players Cannot Overcome Jurgen Klinsmann’s Management Madness

The World Cup never let the USA breathe. From the moment they were drawn into the Group of Death and handed the World Tour travel plan, the American national soccer team couldn’t come up for air.

There was the bombshell team selection, the smash and siege against Ghana, ultimate triumph snatched away with an afterthought of a cross from a defeated team in Manaus against Portugal, agony on decision day against Germany, and a remarkable finale against Belgium that left no room for more drama.

Now, it’s over.

There would be no salvation against Belgium, even with Tim Howard turning in one of the best goalkeeping performances in the history of the World Cup and the ultimate lightning rod Julian Green scoring a sublime goal with his first touch of the tournament.

There was a moment, however brief, when the US put together an awe-inspiring free-kick routine that turned the ball to Clint Dempsey who was through on goal when you thought that maybe, just maybe, there was a little more magic left in the tank.

But Dempsey’s decisive touch got away from him, and his final shot was smothered by Thibaut Courtios. It wasn’t to be this time. There are only so many John Brooks moments in a World Cup campaign.

For what seemed like hours, the US’ ears were pinned to the stadium walls by a Belgium team that came of age in front of our eyes.

Howard saved a World Cup record 16 shots. The game finished 0-0, but in extra time, Belgium broke through.

They fought with everything they had, but the US finished their campaign gasping for air, having run every last ounce of effort and energy away into the thick Brazilian air.

That extra 30 minutes was one step too far. It wasn’t just miracles the US was out of, it was physical gusto. Never lacking for will, it was Green who fittingly made it tantalizingly and agonizingly interesting – but his goal only served in the end to push the Americans further into the Heartbreak Hotel.

Jurgen Klinsamnn, whose last trick – pushing the fitness of the obviously unfit Jozy Altidore – was particularly cruel, talked constantly about his players pushing themselves to their limit.

It was extra time that pushed them past their limit. After playing virtual knockout soccer for the better part of two weeks with games against the best teams in the world, the US was running on fumes.

Maybe after facing Cristiano Ronaldo, the looming threat of playing Lionel Messi in the quarterfinals was a step too far for even the most poetically inclined soccer gods.

There isn’t much blame to go around here. These Americans made their country proud.

Klinsmann did throw himself into the firing line by bizarrely benching the unflappable Kyle Beckerman, but as we’ve learned in unflinching fashion this summer, you live with Klinsmann, and you die with him.

The coach couldn’t help himself. He had to make a shock move – like inserting Geoff Cameron in the midfield for Beckerman. While the US was fine defensively as Cameron turned in a decent performance, the team didn’t have the awareness, balance, or calmness that Beckerman provided. The move backfired.

Klinsmann did have time to make amends and insert Beckerman – but he opted for DeAndre Yedlin and then Chris Wondolowski and then a strange waiting game with an exhausted team expiring and extra time ticking before making his final change at 2-0 down.

Of course, the US could have used Landon Donovan’s pace and experience in a counter-attacking game like this one. They could have used it all tournament long. Green’s goal and the performance of the team doesn’t change the fact that it was lunacy not to bring him.

That’s Klinsmann for you. He made this campaign a whirlwind, with plenty of misdirection and moves as bold as they were infuriating.

Will Klinsmann keep force-feeding us his narrative about being “proactive”, and “aggressive” going forward? Bob Bradley’s 2010 tactics looked reckless compared to Klinsmann’s 4-6-0 bunker.

The farce to cap it all off was when US Soccer acknowledged that they were playing a 4-5-1 in Salvador, but sent out their formation as a 4-3-3 to send an attacking message to their players.

In many ways, the 2014 campaign reflects what happened in South Africa. In both, the US scored five goals, advanced by the skin of their teeth, and had their heart wrung in 2-1 extra time losses in the Round of 16.

What effect has Klinsmann really had? What has really changed? The US played a knockout game in 1994 against Brazil that went almost exactly the same way as this one against Belgium 20 years later.

In many ways, the resolve of Klinsmann’s team bailed him out. He will lean on the results from this tournament, because they flattered far more than their performances did.

Klinsmann is a good match for the US in terms of his optimism and strength in belief – but those are traits the Americans have always possessed in abundance.

I’m not totally convinced. Klinsmann’s all but refused to attack, and his hands were tied without the likes of Donovan and Eddie Johnson. The players are the real heroes here.

In this game, Howard did more than anyone could have reasonably asked of him. But to advance, the US was going to need a lot more from Dempsey, Bradley, and Jones, who all were far from their best.

Klinsmann’s deflection of a question about the hamstring injury bug that took Fabian Johnson in this game was weak. Over-trained, under-coached indeed.

There are complaints to be had, but the truth is, we’ll look back with fondness at this crazy ride directed by this crazy coach.

The immediate aftermath isn’t about pulling back and looking at the progress that soccer has made in this country. That’s disrespecting and belittling to a team that defied Death and never met a game they didn’t have a chance to win.

It finished 0-0 after 90 minutes in Salvador against Belgium. It was the US’ last great hurrah. Extra time was too much to ask – even if the Americans refused to concede until the very end. It was a gallant, brave, admirable performance.

And to that, you tip your cap.

51 thoughts on “Heroic Effort From the USA’s Players Cannot Overcome Jurgen Klinsmann’s Management Madness”

  1. Always the players’ credit when they win, always the manager’s fault when they lose.

    Jurgen will never win over the US crowd, at least not completely. He could win the World Cup in Russia, and people would still moan about how we didn’t do it in style. Like you said, you live with Klinsmann, you die by him. Support your manager as well as your team.

    Otherwise, go hop on a bandwagon of another national team.

    1. Well said.

      The country is full of “couch managers”. You’re not better than Jurgen, no matter how much you dislike him. Sorry.

  2. You have no idea what you are talking about. The US team was a hair away from beating Belgium to advance and it’s all down to Klinsmann. You are revealing your bias and you clearly don’t know anything about soccer. Finding reasons to support your bias proves this.

  3. Cannot agree with one whit of what you have written. Klinsmann is the reason we are moving forward rather than staying stagnant. He needs time, he needs to develop new players, and he needs to implement his plan – and contrary to what you write, he does have a plan. For the first time, US Soccer has worldwide respect and it grew tenfold after tonight’s performance. Klinsmann has made American soccer more legitimate than it ever has been. You think any other manager would have had the guts and foresight to drop Jones, Donovan, and add young talent like Yedlin, Green, and the other German-American contingent? NO! In Klinsmann I trust, if you don’t, may I suggest Capello and his fancy sweater vest is more to your liking. Utter rubbish!

  4. I believe in JK remember we were not suppose to get to the knockout round. lets chill and digest not just vomit the first thing that comes into our brain.

  5. Jurgen Klinsmann convinced John Brooks, Tim Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Julian Green, Terrence Boyd, Daniel Williams and Aron Johannsson to play for the United States. No other coach would have managed that. And those, dear sir, are quality players.

        1. Germany?!

          Really? You think with the depth of the National team they would have made the World Cup squad? Umm no.

  6. Sounds like you blame Jurgen Klinsmann through this World Cup 2014 the US Coach has shown a pure knowledge of the game with perfect moves that scored goals, assisted in goals, and the Cameron move today was for height.
    The real reason why USA is flying home as we speak is just they lack talent from the kick off of the match they were on their heels totally on the defensive and the time of possession was pitiful. As time goes on and USA youth grow to love this game talent level should be good enough w/I 2 more world cups so 2022 I will be 56 years old not to many World Cups left.

  7. meh I disagree with this entirely.. Klinsmann did pretty well with a fairly average squad & was one kick away from the quarters…

  8. Not a clue why this was allowed to be posted.

    It was clearly explained that Geoff Cameron being roughly 6 inches taller than Beckerman was the reason for his “shock” start. We barely got the set pieces defended as it was.

    You are living in the past by mentioning Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan. Johnson is too moody these days to be at a World Cup and Donovan would’ve gassed out quickly. Plus, Donovan doesn’t defend well.

    While I love the defiance and passion the players showed in the 4 matches, I consider the 2014 World Cup a failure. Klinsmann was hired to improve the team and we ended up with same result as 4 years ago. A Semifinal appearance is a must for me in 2018.

  9. Honestly, this article would be a far better fit on Slate than on an actual, soccer-centric website. Totally revisionist account of the USMNT’s run in this World Cup, shoehorning incoherent arguments to fit a false narrative. If anything, I thought Klinsmann got his selections spot-on, and that his substitutions had a touch of magic to them (Yedlin and Brooks in the opener, Green today etc). This talk about the players left behind is just critics clutching at straws which were already chewed up beyond recognition.

  10. “Of course, the US could have used Landon Donovan’s pace and experience in a counter-attacking game like this one.”

    OH please stop with the “Dovovan” stuff already. Enough, that was talking point 30 days ago.

  11. Shockingly poor article. To take potshots at Klinsman the second we are knocked out after basically defying all odds in EVERY game is weak sauce.

    All you need to do is look at foreign coverage and response to this team (guardian, bbc, marca, daily mail) to realize how impressed the world is by our performance despite not having enough horses for the race.

    3 of 5 goals scored by Klinsmans substitutes, and one more set up by a sub, all while playing without our only legit striker, and while facing the toughest string of 4 opponents any team in the WC has faced. But yeah, lets slag off Klinsman, who would snapped by any number of other top nations should he fall on the market.

    I need to remember to skip every article this guy posts.

    1. Don’t forget the US had the toughest Travel schedule and travel milage of ANY team in this world cup. No other team had to travel as much.

      The Belgium’s had the lowest. I’m not taking anything away from the Belgium team. They looked good. Good enough to possible beat Argentina, just noting that fact.

      I agree with others posting here, couldn’t have this author have waited a few days before writing such as kick in the gut piece? I find it overly harsh.

  12. On a side note, the British paper “Dailymail” has pics and reported that in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium is was expected that about 5,000 people would show up to watch the game on the big screen. How many actually showed up? Over 10,000.


  13. I had to scroll up to find the writer’s name. Now I know to skip Abe Asher’s articles from now on, if WorldSoccerTalk is dumb enough to publish him again.

    I said going in the WC that this could be the best team the USA has ever produced and still not get out of the group. Very few people gave the USA a chance to advance, but JK did it with a team of mostly young players who were unknowns a couple years ago.

    The USMNT is trending upward and it is because of JK, not in spite of him.

    1. I agree, especially with your first paragraph.

      In his World Cup preview, Abe said that Croatia is “possibly the most successfully footballing country to split from the USSR.” Now, I’m not sure in which fantasy world Croatia split from the USSR, but it didn’t do so in the real world.

      If you’ll forgive the history lesson, Croatia was a part of Yugoslavia before Yugoslavia was broken apart in the 1990s. While Josip Broz Tito was a communist who ruled Yugoslavia, he steered Yugoslavia away from the USSR. Croatia could no more split from the USSR than could the state of Oregon.

      It would be nice to skip Abe’s posts if I could. However, the authors aren’t credited on the front page. So, I’ll have to click on a story, then find out who the author is.

      If the Croatia split from the USSR gave rise to question Abe’s credibility, this article slamming JK is the icing on the cake.

  14. Must be written by a Portland hipster. Sorry Abe, you need to go back and coach AYSO. No issues with the team or Klinsmann.

  15. Refreshing to see so many people post support of Klinsman and not buying into the alexi Lallas and bitter Landon Donovan rhetoric..

    1. Eric Wynalda too. I was disappointed in his comments yesterday (Tuesday).

      I know he’s not a fan of Klinsmann but some of the stuff he said I think were off base, such as with this loss US soccer has taken a big step backwards.

      1. I don’t watch fox coverage of football, I certainly don’t think that Eric Wynalda offers anything of worth to any discussion about football.

  16. Very disappointed in this line of half-baked, link-bating analysis. Klinnsman made all the right moves and the players gutted out a performance for the ages. For him. Because of him. Absurd and xenophobic to think otherwise.

  17. Now then, without any hysterics or ra-ra USA!, how was this team qualitatively any different from the one in 2010 under Bradley?

    1. They had an easier group in 2010 and would have gone home if it was not for Donovan. This time around, They beat a good team, should have beaten another and lost to two of the favorites. They have definitely improved, no question. Add a true number 10 to that line up is what they need to do to get to the next level. They have a solid foundation and their collective will to win is the best of any team at the World Cup.

    2. You cant really be this dense.

      England, Algeria, Slovenia, Ghana

      Germany, Portugal, Ghana, Belgium

      See the difference?

  18. So everyone feels that Graham Zusi belonged on the field yesterday and was left on there the right amount of time?
    Everyone feels that JK adjusted well to an absolute shellacking of pressure?
    70 minutes of regular time of constant bombardment, nothing that could be done tactically to rein things in a bit?
    I’m not unhappy with the team’s performance or JK’s, but I think it’s fair to have an open mind to criticism.

    1. So everyone feels that Graham Zusi belonged on the field yesterday and was left on there the right amount of time?

      You could say the same about half the team dempsey was poor yesterday bradley was poor was one nice ball doesnt make up for losing the ball the whole game. Jones wasn’t great.

      Not sure what JK could have done about the pressure his team was gassed and totally out classed. The players aren’t good enough period the team got extremely lucky and could of stole it at the end. But JK is not the problem he’s part of the solution he needs more time before we can judge him.

  19. I can’t make judgement here on who or why they lost-I can only say that with the loss, yesterday, that myself and millions of soccer fans as well as millions of new soccer fans can not be more proud of the way our mighty USA team clutched and clawed through the entire game. With their high spirit, gusto and never-say-die attitude they made us all proud. WHAT A GAME!!!

  20. klinsman did mess up.You cannot play without an out and out striker.Where were the goals going to come from.With Altidore out,Donavan would have been the perfect replacement.Also,the Belgian forwards shredded that defence time and time again.That needs to be addressed.Without Howard,the outcome would have been embarrassing

    1. The Belgian players are better. Even if Klinsmann had the rest of the entire US squad as substitutes at his disposal compared to Belgium’s three, the result would have been the same. The quality of the US team tops out at Dempsey and Howard. They fought admirably but the US had no top class player on the bench to come in and make a difference, like Lukaku did…and before anyone mentions Green and his goal, he isn’t top class yet.

      1. How about Terrence Boyd and
        Eddie Johnson ?

        If Boyd had been in Wondolowski’s
        place, he would surely have put that
        last-minute goal in.

        The problem is, once Boyd and Johnson were left out, the US has
        no effective target man as an
        replacement for Altidore.

    2. That’s the problem when you have NO DEPTH your screwed when someone gets hurt. Donovan is not a back to the goal player he’s a guy who plays off the stiker at this level would have been the same result.

    3. Donovan plays nothing like Altidore, so I’m not sure how one could replace the other. The closest thing to Altidore would be Terrence Boyd or maybe Eddie Johnson

  21. This article is idiotic. Jk is good for the USMNT. We are headed in a positive direction due to the duel nationals that JK has brought to the USMNT. More talent equals more success. Without JK there is likely no, Brookes, Fabian Johnson, Green, Chandler, or even Johannsson. The Author cleary is an MLS HOMER. I find it interesting that no MLS only experienced player scored in the World Cup for us. Brooke’s(Germany) Green(Germany) Jones(Turkey) and Dempsey who started and will end in the MLS, but honed his skills in England were the goalscorers. Landon Donovan was the man from 2001-2012 vbut all good athletes careers come to an end. Get over and move on! The future is bright!

  22. Abe,
    JK is the one that brought on Yedlin – the kid that should have won them the game had there not been a let up in the last 45 seconds against Portugal. He also held Green back until extra time of the Knockout Rounds because he knew the kid was ready, but didn’t want him to feel the pressure of that Group of Death. He also inserted Wondo rightly last night and went for it – Wondo just totally missed the chance that he nets 10 out of 10 in San Jose. He played without Beckerman and held that Belgian side scoreless through 90 – yes, they had chances, but he had faith in Howard.
    JK is more of a tactical genius than people give him credit for. He knows what his players can do and puts them in positions to let them do it. If not for Wondo’s miss, the US would be playing Saturday against Argentina. Klinsmann set that up.
    Editors at Worldsoccertalk, please stop letting this guy write unless his whole job is just to write stupid articles so readers will get pissed and respond.

  23. Couldn’t we argue that Hazard, Kompany, Lukaku, de Bruyne and Mirallas (and probably a couple others) are better than any of the American counterparts? I’d love to have a few of them in a USA kit.

    And the USA were even with them after 90 minutes?

    Heckuva effort, I say.

  24. ” Jurgen Klinsmann As USA Coach Is A Disaster Waiting To Happen. ”


    These should have been in the lineup that day.

    Terrence Boyd
    Eddie Johnson
    Julian Green
    Aron Johansson
    Landon Donovan

    John Brooks
    Tim Chandler

    Instead, Klinsmann kept fielding
    Zusi,Bradley, Bedoya,Cameron, when
    these had all been underperforming
    in most of the matches.

    When he did not use Julian Green at all
    until the last moments, it reminded
    me of Sven-Goran Eriksson bringing
    along Theo Walcott ”just for the ride”
    in 2006.

    And to drop out a potent striker from
    Rapid Vienna, Terrence Boyd, is just

    Chris Wondolowski looks like a bit of
    a clown, really – not the type who could perform at international level.

    I’m not surprised he missed that
    surefire goal.

  25. The author made a few nice points about Klinsmann but the message came far too cynical. Here’s what I saw:

    The team selection of Zusi, Bedoya, and Davis on the team were made to provide Jozy with service and allow Dempsey to use his poaching ability in a slightly withdrawn role underneath Jozy. Once Jozy went out it forced the teams two best players to play out of position (Dempsey and Bradley).

    This is where I disagree with Jurgen’s roster selection of both Wondo and Johannsson. There should have been a more natural replacement for Jozy to be able to hold the ball up and relieve pressure. I think Jurgen should have picked between Johannsson and Wondo, while replacing them with Terrence Boyd. This would have allowed the team a better chance to retain possession.

    Since the wide players were meant to provide Jozy with service and provide defensive cover I’m surprised he didn’t move Johnson into midfield as he provided the only dynamism in attack. Outside of Donovan he’s probably the best suited player in the pool to play on the wing, with the speed to start a counter attack (much needed against the slow fullback the US faced against Portugal (Meireles at LB), Germany, and Belgium. I think he expected the team to have more possession after its friendlies and qualifying campaign.

    However as for the positives, Jurgen looked good including Brooks, Green, and Yedlin on the roster. He was a master motivator, has such a magic touch with subsitutes, made a good call moving Cameron in midfield to combat Fellaini’s aerial prowess.

    All in all, they went as far as their talent took them and managed probably the toughest schedule in the World Cup out of any other team in the field so far and lost in extra time. Onto Russia now!

  26. His reasoning for using Cameron over Beckerman against Belgium had some merit (dealing with the height of Felliani). It’s not like he just changed things for the sake of changing them.

    The only thing “crazy” he really did was leave Donovan at home, but ultimately I don’t think it much mattered in the end anyway.

  27. I wonder if people would still be criticizing Klinsmann if Wondolowski had scored and put the US into the quarter final. I think not.

    It’s interesting that people who are more knowledgeable about soccer (like our cousins on the other side of the pond) feel that Klinsmann has put the US on the soccer map and that the future looks bright. In fact, one newspaper believes that if England fails at the 2016 Euros that Klinsmann should be seriously considered for England manager.

    1. The players put us on the soccer map, not Klinsmann. They played their hearts out. I think our players would have done even better had we played more aggressively and not sat back in a shell.

  28. I agree with the writer, Landon, and Lalas. Klinsmann had us playing too defensively. We were trying not to lose instead of using our talent to try and win. Belgium looked so much better because we allowed them the time and space. I think we are good enough to play with teams straight up and would have had a better chance to win had we done so. Klinsmann didn’t think so. Lets hope in 4 years he believes we can win.

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