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Gold Cup

Legitimate questions need to be asked about Jurgen Klinsmann’s decisionmaking


The US Men’s National Team loss to Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final Wednesday night is a shock to the US Soccer system, and it’s indicative of many tournament specific failures. However the big picture is still a different matter.

In this particular tournament, the US was not good enough by any measure. It was plain to see against Honduras when the team struggled to find any sort of footing out of the gate. Honduras, like Haiti, could not take advantage of a staggered start from the Americans and later succumbed as the match went on. Panama, a slightly better team than both of those, caught the US sleepwalking but were unable to hold their lead. Jamaica has been best team in this tournament thus far and deserve every bit of credit for tactically outthinking Jurgen Klinsmann tonight.

Winfried Schafer set up his side with the same structure as he did in the first four games of the tournament, which allows for an easy counterattacking game, suiting the strength of the team. They are not the most technical team in CONCACAF, but they are one of the most well-disciplined and fittest. They just about withstood the surge from the US at the start of the second half and were never really troubled again. They picked correct times to pressure the ball higher up the pitch, causing mayhem in midfield and also causing Kyle Beckerman to have one of his worst halves of soccer in a US shirt. And once it was clear the gameplan wasn’t working, the only plan B was Route 1.

In many respects, the US is in a similar position to Mexico two years ago. Their semifinal loss to Panama was quite shocking, but it came on the heels of a disastrous Confederation Cup run and with a second-string squad. The US hasn’t won a full-strength Gold Cup now since 2007, which is alarming. However, with the Confederations Cup playoff that will take place in October, the US can make amends, if they get their act together by then.

Jurgen Klinsmann will now find himself in the eye of a brewing storm, and rightfully so. Bob Bradley was sacked as USMNT manager for a loss in a final to Mexico in a glorified road game in which his best player was injured and he was being incredibly ambitious tactically. Jurgen Klinsmann’s offense, on paper, seems far worse. But in terms of the bigger picture, this loss will only be perceived as disastrous if the US fail to qualify for the Confederations Cup. But, there are legitimate questions to be asked.

The Ventura Alvarado/John Brooks experiment at centerback has clearly failed. It is possible that either could succeed independent of each other, but together they have failed. Thirteen different back four combinations in 15 games is also not conducive of success, and has put so much onus on the defensive midfielder that on nights when he does not play up to capabilities, the US is in big trouble. Jozy Altidore’s fitness is also a worry, and a fit Altidore certainly would have changed the look of the team in this tournament (sound familiar)? The constant tinkering and toying with the lineup not even just in this Gold Cup but ever since the World Cup has been maddening. There is little chemistry or understanding between almost anyone considering the wholesale changes made almost by game to the XI, and it shows itself on nights when you’re tactically second best. Friendlies exist for tactical and lineup experimentation, but building chemistry is also critical in short tournaments, and it seemed like none existed in this Gold Cup.

Even with all of that being said, the US is not as bad as tonight indicates. Nor are they as good as the wins in Amsterdam and Cologne indicate. They fall somewhere in the middle. They ran into a structured team with a tactical gameplan that befuddled them, and lost as a result. These happen, and even though on paper it’s a shock, based on tournament form it isn’t (even if Jamaica have been lucky to face some dreadful finishing by their opponents).

As for Klinsmann, this defeat will not cost him his job. But the pressure has now intensified. He was the one who put the importance on this tournament specifically, and avoiding a one game playoff for the Confederations Cup berth. Now, it is he who will have to answer questions about why, as the chorus of chatter begins to get ever louder.

The 2015 Gold Cup will not go down in the record books as one of US Soccer’s finest moments. But that can be glazed over… only if the ultimate goal isn’t squandered in the end.


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  1. Brass Monkey

    July 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Klinsmann was tasked with developing talent, building a framework and a foundation for success. It caused an uproar when he threw LD out with the leftovers before the World Cup. Now, the same fans who applauded him for beating Germany and the Netherlands are calling for his head after an early loss in a meaningless tournament. Come on, man.

    If our goal is to develop a team that is actually capable of competing for the World Cup, don’t we need to try different tactics and formations and give young/unproven players a chance to cut their teeth under pressure?

    It’s a long-term project, folks… but I’d rather see my manager trying something new than remain a perennial CONCACAF finalist and World Cup also-ran.

    And finally, give Jamaica some credit… they took it to the US and finished the chances that they created.

  2. David

    July 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Unfortunately, its’ hard to compare Klinsmann to Bradley. Klinsmann is in charge of so much more like youth development, USMNT, etc. It’s hard to make a case for him to be fired now. I do agree, he’s made some questionable personnel decisions. His gamble of using young players in the World Cup payed off, but it backfired in the Gold Cup.

  3. Cutman

    July 23, 2015 at 8:33 am

    Is it fair to wonder what percentage of fans would have been okay with the USMNT not winning the Gold Cup if it meant that their non-American born manager would’ve been sacked?

    As much as he didn’t do himself many favors with his selections and on-the-fly experiments, you can only piss with the cock you’ve got. Jamaica won this game as much as USA lost it.

  4. Smokey Bacon

    July 22, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    This major disappointment has been coming for some time. A gold cup final appearance is the absolute minimum required of a U.S. MNT coach and Klinsmann failed to deliver. A disastrous tournament from start to finish. The constant chopping and changing of personnel and tactics are not helping. Klinsmann needs an immediate improvement before World Cup qualifying starts. The honeymoon is finally over after this failure.

  5. Ehren Schwiebert

    July 22, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Klinsmann must go. Bob Bradley managed a win, two draws, and a loss in the 2010 World Cup, lost the following year’s Gold Cup final, and was shown the door. How is it that Klinsmann manages a win, a draw, and two losses in the 2014 World Cup, loses the Gold Cup semifinal, and still keeps his job? It’s just ludicrous.

    • Jason

      July 22, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I think Klinsmann’s tenure will come down to the Confed Cup playoff now. Lose that then its the sack.

    • Bo

      July 22, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      And who better are you going to get to manage the USMNT? huh? yeah noone available
      for nationals teams.

      One thing I’ve learned as a Spurs fan and our manager sillys, maybe it’s not the manager maybe it’s the… players :O :O

    • Tim

      July 23, 2015 at 7:24 am

      Agreed. I dont care what he promises. No one man is going to chage the system. Bradley got to the final of confed cup and won his WC group then got fired after making the final in 2011. I am not saying he needs to go now but if he loses the playoff too….

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