A full-blown coaching crisis. I’ve been waiting so long. Never in my lifetime has there been this much scrutiny on a United States head coach, yet after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Mexico, the United States have an undeniable soccer “crisis” on their hands. The team’s not progressing. Fans are pissed off. Is this what it’s like to be an Arsenal fan?
Still, there’s a stale feeling to it all. Sharpened pitchforks. The same, unrelenting voices only amplified after Saturday’s result, drowning out the more nuanced tones that sound genuine alarm. The tactics? Klinsmann (and, most who follow Tuca Ferretti) seemed unprepared for Mexico’s three-front. Responses? Gyasi Zardes, the obvious sacrificial lamb for the first adjustment, was left out for far too long, and more could have been done (quicker) to shake up a stagnant front two.
But after Saturday’s final, the whys and hows became irrelevant. The pitchforks are back, stirring a conversation that’s never been a fair one on either side. Those initial, persisting criticisms of Klinsmann still hit a jingoistic note, sometimes from those defensive about the idea of a foreign coach being brought in to revolutionize US soccer. Subsequent criticism held Klinsmann to the letter of his words (more technical play, positive tactics, a deeper and better player pool) as if they were easily achievable goals, as if a desire to change how players are groomed can effect change in one cycle. Instead of measured critiques that considered the obstacles, detractors became Antonin Scalias, holding Klinsmann to a literal, immediate interpretation of his words.
For his part, Klinsmann has often come across as arrogant and aloof, his jabs at Major League Soccer and US fan culture providing a callus target that’s too easy to detest. MLS, so crucial to maintaining the talent pool at hand, has been the constant target of his criticism, be it for its level of play, allegedly short seasons, or the training players get while with their clubs. And fans? Well, they don’t understand, quite yet, because the United States isn’t a full matured soccer culture. But won’t worry, all. Our new, cultured stepdad will surely get us there, some day.
The most annoying part about our new dad, though, is that sometimes he’s right. Take the player pool, for example. Looking at where players are playing and what they’re accomplishing at club level, this is one of the weakest player pools over the last 21 years. With the exception of Fabian Johnson, a player who was not reared by this country’s development system, there are no US men’s national team members playing in UEFA Champions League. The comfy stock of Premier League players we had a few years ago? Now we have Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan, neither of whom is performing at the levels of in-their-primes Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel.