When Bob Bradley got sacked as US manager after the 2011 Gold Cup, it was the right move. The US needed a new voice. Fresh ideas. Different energy. Bradley did a good job, but it was time for both parties to move on.
A 4-2 loss to Mexico in the tournament finale at the Rose Bowl was the final straw. Never mind that the US went down to what was the best Mexico team of the century to date, Bradley was canned.
Bradley coached that tournament like he had nothing to lose, because he knew that his job was on the line. After an indifferent first year following a decent, unspectacular World Cup, the manager couldn’t recover from losing the Gold Cup on home soil.
That was four years ago this summer, and circumstances surrounding the US national team are frustratingly familiar.
After a successful, if slightly disappointing World Cup, the US under Jurgen Klinsmann has had a torrid year. They’ve shipped late goal after late goal in friendlies amidst acrimony and scandal, with little to no progress being shown in the program overall
There is absolutely no reason why Klinsmann shouldn’t be held to the same standard that Bradley was – win the Gold Cup, or get fired.
If you still think, after almost four full years, that Klinsmann is a transformational soccer mind, you’re delusional.
Klinsmann, is, in fact, a mediocre manager whose greatest assets are his playing career, his undeniable charisma, and his massive ego.
There is no great American soccer revolution coming, and nothing screams inferiority complex like handing the keys to the entire national team program over to a man that has accomplished nothing that his two predecessors didn’t because he’s German and they were American.
Klinsmann’s force-fed narrative about being aggressive and provocative doesn’t match what we’ve seen from his teams on the field.
Getting out of the Group of Death at the World Cup was a great accomplishment, but one that has greatly diminished in hindsight. There was a fair amount of luck involved.
Ghana were a side with infighting so outrageous that two players were sent home during the tournament, the players’ bonuses had to be flown into Brazil on a private jet under threat of a strike, and the FA was allegedly making lineup decisions – and that’s just the stuff we know about. If you’re interested, a movie is already in the works.
Portugal ended up being extremely mediocre; while Germany had already won the group by the time they met the US in Recife and were hardly at their most motivated.
The US conceded four goals after the 80th minute in the tournament, sat 10 players in its own half in three of the four games, and had the majority of its endearing success by running faster and trying harder than ever before.
This isn’t to say that Klinsmann doesn’t deserve any credit – he was golden on Kyle Beckerman, DeMarcus Beasley, and DeAndre Yedlin – but by the time the Belgium game rolled around, the US were so completely exhausted, mismanaged, and confused that they were absolutely massacred.
That’s not to mention the non-contact muscle injuries to Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, Fabian Johnson, and Jermaine Jones, or how Klinsmann played the team’s best player, Michael Bradley, out of position for the entire tournament.
In truth, Klinsmann destroyed much of the morale and confidence that his team had built up throughout 2013 when he stuck a knife in Landon Donovan’s back at Stanford.
Whether you like Donovan or not – and you should, because he’s the US’ greatest ever player and, by last year, a stand-up person – his play mandated that he go to Brazil and play a big role.
The US’ senior players were aghast when he was cut. Tim Howard could barely keep it together when asked about the shock move in interviews. In cutting Donovan, Klinsmann put himself before the team, and it hurt.
Donovan would have made the US twice as dangerous as they were in Brazil – especially in Altidore’s absence, which Klinsmann made all the worse by deciding to bring Julian Green and Mix Diskerud instead of a single backup target forward.
Instead of Donovan, we got Brad Davis starting against Germany in the platoon from hell with Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi. No wonder the US couldn’t keep the ball.
Whether the US bunkered because Klinsmann’s setup was incredibly cynical, or whether they bunkered because they weren’t good enough to go toe-to-toe with Ghana, Germany, and Belgium, Klinsmann certainly didn’t deliver on his original message to change the way the US played the game.
His reign has been comparable to Bruce Arena’s and Bob Bradley’s so far, in both style and results. The only difference is, Klinsmann has more autonomy than those two did, he is getting paid far more, and the US is now a much better soccer country with a much better soccer league than it was in previous World Cup cycles.
I was all for giving Klinsmann a shot in 2011. He hasn’t lived up to his billing.
Even if Klinsmann was unquestionably doing a great job, it’s hard to coach a national team for more than four years. Ideas are stale. Messages get repetitive. Complacency sets in.
Players are tired of hearing about how they’re not fit enough. They’re tired of hearing about how they need to be pushed out of their comfort zones. People are tired of hearing Klinsmann bash MLS. He’s lost Don Garber’s support, as well as that of much of the media covering the team.
Klinsmann’s obsession with recruiting duel-nationals and changing everyone’s position makes it difficult to build a true team.
Grant Wahl of SI reported a few weeks ago that there is considerable unrest amongst players as well. Klinsmann’s particular brand of condescension is growing ever more grating, and he no longer has a World Cup to keep everyone in line.
It’s not a surprise that Howard has taken a year off from national team duty. Why would he want any part of the national team setup right now, three years before Russia 2018?
Klinsmann is stubborn and has no new ideas. Morale is low. If he doesn’t win the Gold Cup, he should be fired. That’s how we treat average managers. And Klinsmann is nothing if not an average manager.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $9.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more