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Dark day for US Soccer questions ‘progress’ made under Klinsmann


On a day that was set up to provide vindication for Jurgen Klinsmann and US Soccer, the day only brought more questions, more anger, and more blank expressions. On a day when critical goals for Klinsmann himself could have been met, the US failed to meet them, and now everyone is left to wonder just how much improvement there has been over the past four years, if any.

Early in Sandy, Utah, an impressively talented group of U-23’s took the field against Honduras attempting to write wrongs of four years prior in Nashville and qualify for the Olympics. Instead, the team played as Caleb Porter’s group did; uninspired, indifferent and frustrated football and let Honduras outplay them, and outcoach them. At no point did the same group that tore Canada, Cuba and Panama to shreds with the likes of Morris, Hyndman, Trapp and Kiesewetter ever look threatening. In fact, with as many players playing out of position and “out of their comfort zone”, it looked not all different to the senior team. And therefore the result can’t be surprising. Sure they can still qualify for the Olympics, but the road is far more difficult than it should be.

Later at the Rose Bowl, the US hoped to replicate big game performances past with an almost identical lineup to that of the game against Ghana at the World Cup. “A better version of ourselves” should be enough to be our greatest rivals, so the thought goes. The performance looked nearly identical, with the US conceding possession and almost constantly looking under siege. Except for a few counter attacks and set pieces, the US looked no different than they had prior to Jurgen Klinsmann taking over the reins. Inviting pressure is a dangerous game, and even against tepid tactics from Tuca Ferretti, the US paid for their cautiousness.

Jurgen Klinsmann set out two objectives for this new World Cup cycle: qualify for the Olympics and the Confederations Cup. He wanted those players to get major tournament experience that they cannot get in the Gold Cup and would not get otherwise. The sentiment is fine, even for tournaments that in the grand scheme may not mean much, but when your own expectations aren’t met and you’re directly responsible, it’s time for questions to be asked.

The game at the Rose Bowl was a typical US-Mexico game, but it could have been different if the US even attempted to play different tactics than they seemingly threw away a year ago. The midfield of Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley and Gyasi Zardes was poor, and even though Mexico was outnumbered they always looked superior. Every player that was churned through the midfield grinder through all of those friendlies evidently wasn’t better than an aged Kyle Beckerman and a crocked Jermaine Jones, and it showed. Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore were practically invisible, though there isn’t much they can do when the midfield can’t maintain a hold of the ball.

Mexico’s tactics begged for them to be attacked. Tuca Ferretti was naturally conservative seeing as he too had a short deck, but the US never mounted a serious string of possession to even conceive of challenging them. El Tri were not amazing, but they didn’t have to be to win the game. And they looked on top from the word go.

Now that two critical goals were not met, many are asking whether US Soccer is in a better position than they were four years ago when Jurgen Klinsmann took over. The answer is not one Klinsmann will say himself, but it seems fairly obvious. When a year’s worth of experimentation leads to a rehash of tactics that barely did enough to beat Ghana in the World Cup, and do little after, it’s a worthy question. When a promised tactical identity looks just as idealistic as it did four years ago, it’s a worthy question. Even though “Our team showed a lot of character and tremendous effort to come back twice”, when the spin doctor seems sick of swallowing his own medicine, it’s a worthy question. And when you say, “The Gold Cup was influenced by poor referee decisions. That’s why we were here tonight” instead of even remotely taking the fall for some poor decisions, it’s a worthy question.

The good news for Klinsmann and US Soccer, is that the gap between this harrowing day and World Cup Qualification is short. The road to Russia is comparatively easy, and shouldn’t pose many problems (though many said that four years ago and it took an Eddie Johnson stoppage time goal to beat Antigua). Even if the performance was the best of the year overall, what does that say about the other results, including the wins in Holland and Germany?

Landon Donovan said Klinsmann should be fired if he lost this game, but his seat isn’t nearly as hot as many would have wished. His contract is too sweet, and US Soccer doesn’t have the money to eat the salary it would take, even if it would mollify some of the angriest around the program. The managerial business is an instant gratification and “what have you done for me lately,” and ever since the World Cup, the results from top to bottom throughout the program haven’t been there. The players might not be world class but in one off game situations, anyone can beat anyone. The sport continues to prove that time and time again, and needs no further proof.

There will be many pieces on many different soccer websites like the one you are all reading right now. They will probably echo similar sentiments. The chorus continues to grow louder as they reach their crescendo, and soon even Sunil Gulati will have to listen. At some point, too much spinning will make you dizzy.

After a day of top to bottom failure, it seems like many around US Soccer are dizzy. And there isn’t enough Dramamine to go around.

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  1. MGriffith7

    October 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    It’s time for Jurgen to go all out and build the team he wants no matter how much it will bother the fans not seeing the likes of Dempsey and Bradley on the pitch. US Men’s soccer needs an influx of youth for world cup qualifying, similar to what they had 4 years 5 years ago. Russia is time for the Rubin, Wood and Morris to shine.

  2. Chris

    October 11, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Sure Klinsman has had a “rough one” for managing the USA this year, but I agree with some of the other comments and think it is more of a lack of quality on the field rather than a lack of managing skills… Not only do I think the USA has plateaued quality wise compared to his early year or two of managing, but other CONCACAF teams in the region have gained strength from years past ie. Costa Rica and Jamaica. Not Klinsy’s fault he has the same 20 person roster to choose from. There is a serious lack of depth in the American talent pool and coupled with increased quality of other countries in CONCACAF, the USA cannot be expected to walk all over the competition as they had in the past. Prime example is this last summer’s Gold Cup.

    • Eugene Molloy

      October 14, 2015 at 3:59 am

      Yes we are, Jurgen was by hired to”qualify for the World Cup”. He was hired to improve the program from what it was, A round of 16 team

      The player has always done great against Concacaf! There is no reason we should struggle against panama, Jamaica or Haiti

      Jurgen’s goals:
      1)proactive style- failed
      2) win gold cup- failed
      3) qualify for rio- not looking so good

      An coach around the world with these many failures would be fired

  3. hansenthered

    October 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    It was not a great game, chiefly due to our reverting back to the park the bus and counter strategy we seem to use almost every time we play Mexico. Mexico gave up the ball quite a bit and looked tired for stretches. It’s too early to fire him but if things don’t improve over the next year he should be replaced.

  4. Tom

    October 11, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Klinsmann has conceded more shots taken and more shots on goal per game than the previous managers. His defenses/defensive mid have allowed more completed passes in his defensive third than previous managers. Time of possession is not the lowest but it is down there.

    Kinsman does not have a high soccer IQ and is not real personable. This all shows in his results.

    The team is playing worse while having the best talent pool in the history of the team. He wants to hold his players accountable for being out of form. It is time for Klinsmann to be held accountable for bad form.

  5. francis

    October 11, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Everyone loves the never say die style of the USA at the world cup, but the cold hard fact is that the technical skills are just not there. Changing the coach won’t change that. American kids don’t grow up with soccer “in the blood” like in other countries. Walk through any US suburb or (if you’re brave) the inner city and you won’t see any kids kicking soccer balls. they’re either bouncing basketballs or tossing oval footballs.

  6. Ivan

    October 11, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    A lot of delusion of grandeur among US soccer fans…nothing wrong with that, but let us not forget a few basic things:

    There are several Mexican players from the current roster playing in good European sides, Porto, Benfica, Leverkusen, and in the world’s top international club competition: the UEFA Champions League.

    How many American players play there? Unless I am missing someone, the answer is zero.

    Liga MX is 2 levels above MLS in quality. If people deny that, they are either blind or named Don Garber. The return of the likes of Bradley, Dempsey, etc. the MLS has basically stopped their development as players.

    The U-23 team was badly outplayed to a regional rival in Honduras yesterday.

    Guys, face it, the US simply doesn’t have that many (if any) talented footballers at this time. That ain’t Klinsie’s fault.

    Currently, Mexico has better players and national team than the US and it showed yesterday, total domination on the field, game should have been over in 90 minutes…

    US simply ain’t good enough…it’s as simple as that…

    • Artimus

      October 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      I agree Ivan, the development of U.S. Soccer will take time.

    • Sean

      October 12, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Technically Fabian johnson plays champions league

    • Eugene Molloy

      October 14, 2015 at 3:45 am

      Ok I’ll give you Mexico, but what about Jamaica, Panama, Honduras, Haiti? Who are the champion league players from those teams? Are their domestic leagues better than the MLS too?

      Mexico has always been tough, if we are not better than them I get that. But you are telling me our players can’t beat Jamaica or Panama? Or struggle vs Haiti?

      The 2 goal scorers that night from Jamaica, both play in the MLS. And they scored on the starting goalie for Adton Villa. So the MLS is working for them. And Demsey scored 2 goals in the last World Cup and was one of the leading goal scorers in the gold cup. The MLS has not hurt him apparently.

      Losing to Mexico is one thing, but losing multipe concaff games is unacceptable and on the coach

  7. Neel

    October 11, 2015 at 11:58 am

    This coach needs to be fired today. We are going in the wrong direction. We have better players who can get the job done. Guzan for GK is a joke. I can play better than him.

  8. Artimus

    October 11, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Yep. All the keyboard warriors are on the warpath. Right next to the sports writers with delusions of grandeur.

  9. George

    October 11, 2015 at 11:44 am

    One of the worst performances by a US team ever. We have young players that show more heart than some of the current squad. Although I like Demarcus Beasley, what go we gain by playing him? Is the no young back that could have gained some experience? I saw Jermain Jones last week against the last place Chicago Fire. He was awful and should have had two yellow cards for tackles from behind, instead of the one he had.

  10. ifIcouldseeIt

    October 11, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Is Bradley, Beckerman and Jones our best midfielder? Time to develop that position. Had one good game with that line up in WC but nothing lately. It’s time to move on Jurgen.

  11. Golasos

    October 11, 2015 at 10:36 am

    This was the worst game ever!!! Ball possession? Incomplete passes? Poor selection of forwards? Delayed decision in making substitutions. Where is Ambition? Motivation? Mexico dominated this game in pretty much all aspects of the game. U.S. Was pretty much defending themselves entire time. Please pay me half of kinsmann salary and I will make sure that this does not happen again. Kinsmann please look into your local Bundesliga league and pick up some tips because based on what I saw yesterday looks like you did not teach them anything. Very poor performance.

  12. Derek

    October 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

    The tactics last night were bad. We invited pressure to hit them on the counter, but had no speed, besides Zardes, on the pitch. The team was set up for possession with 3 CM, but we saw none of the ball and they were outplayed. I don’t have a problem with counter attacking, but the team must be set up with loads of pace. Zardes shouldn’t have been subbed off. Jones was struggling for fitness and could have made way for Yedlin. Then we could attack down the flanks. Altidore is not the right striker either. Wood or Zardes upfront is a much better option.

  13. Smokey Bacon

    October 11, 2015 at 2:41 am

    This train wreck has been a long time coming. Zero progress. Times up Jurgen. Klinsmann out.

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