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World Cup 2014

Donovan: Tactical plan to blame for U.S. World Cup loss

Jurgen Klinsmann, Landon Donovan

By CAITLIN MURRAY

It was the same result for U.S. Men’s National Team: An exit in the Round of 16. Only this time, Landon Donovan, who had played such a pivotal role last time, had to watch it on TV.

Donovan, who was controversially cut from coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup roster, had been offering his pre-game analysis to ESPN throughout the tournament. But after the USMNT’s disheartening exit from the competition Tuesday, Donovan seemed to put the blame squarely on the coaching staff.

“I think we’re all disappointed in what happened yesterday. I think the most disappointing is we didn’t seem like we gave it a real effort, from a tactical standpoint,” Donovan told MLSSoccer.com. “I thought the guys did everything they could, they did everything that was asked of them, but I don’t think we were set up to succeed yesterday, and that was tough to watch.”

The U.S. had lost 2-1 to Belgium, even despite a record-setting 16 saves from goalkeeper Tim Howard. The Americans appeared to be under siege for the vast majority of the match. They took precious few shots for the first 90 minutes as shots pummeled Howard and only finally attacked hard in extra time after going down a goal.

Donovan voiced disagreement with the roles given to Michael Bradley, who he said should’ve played deeper in the middle, and Clint Dempsey, who he said plays better with a partner up top. For Donovan, it all was part of a change that had been made tactically but didn’t work.

“If you really look at the performances, there were some good performances by guys, some not-so-good performances by guys. As a whole, I think tactically, the team was not set up to succeed,” Donovan said. “They were set up in a way that was opposite from what they’ve been the past couple years, which is opening up, passing, attacking — trying to do that. And the team’s been successful that way. Why they decided to switch that in the World Cup, none of us will know.”

With the loss, the team did no better than they had in 2010, when Donovan helped propel the USMNT out of the group stage with a late goal to win over Algeria. Donovan also represented the USMNT in 2002 and 2006, when the U.S. exited in the quarterfinals and group stage respectively.

Immediately after being unceremoniously cut from the national team before the World Cup, Donovan said he was committed to promoting soccer in the U.S. and left the door open to returning to the USMNT if called upon. Asked about that possibility again on Wednesday, Donovan sounded unsure.

“That depends on a lot of conversations that would have to be held,” he said.

503 comments
  • Jon Shurth

    Donovan just needs to shut his mouth, he is an awful analyst and not good on tv. He just sounds like a butter girl who didn’t get asked to prom.

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  • Brad

    Also, whoever said Donovan will be the best Wynalda/Harkes/Lalas/Twellman that uses their media personality to reminisce about what they meant to US soccer, I can definitely see that. Can we get an American who is an actual analyst at some point and not just a former US player that people know?

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  • inkedAG

    Landon has a point. While I am happy with the effort of the team and players, I see his points and I feel once Jozy got injured, the team couldn’t fully recover and I think that comes down to the coaching staff. The team fought for all four games, however, it didn’t seem to be our style to defend and chase for the most games.

    Jurgen Klinsmann is not infalliable; mistakes were made and hopefully he can recognize that and improve, just like the players.

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  • BulletToothTony

    Hey, that’s a shocker… we’re a better 4-4-2 lineup, and it directly contributes to our control of possession. Sadly for his argument, Jozy went down and there was no like-for-like available. Terrence Boyd wasn’t there, and he’s the only one in the pool right now with those chops… and he’s not that good — yet. The 4-5-1 variation they played against Portugal sure as hell worked tho. It also kept them alive against Germany… and it allowed for the counter-attacking shell that nearly won them the game against Belgium if someone didn’t kick a field goal 5 yards from an open net. But that shell along with a goalie standing on his head, like with the Swiss, can only hold for so long. This US team lost it’s most important player… and it wasn’t Donovan, despite him wishing it was.

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  • doug

    truth hurts. LD is right. Another thing i notice. JK with the DFB, and now with the USA has always had a No. 2 who was WAYYYYY more qualified to manage the team. Thats why Berti Vogts and Low were there. To provide the tactical knowledge JK doesnt have. Thats a sign that he isnt a coach, he’s a well paid motivavtional speaker essentially. I love JK as our coach and he has us going in the right direction, but the tactical part of his game was laid bare. Even with a healthy Jozy and fully fit squad, i still think JK squeezed all the juice out of this orange.

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    • Casey

      Lol ask Germany how they feel about Löw right now. He isn’t the tactical genius you want him to be.

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      • doug

        Seems to me he made all the right moves from selecting the roster to today. The only thing you can hang on him is that Lahm should be playing right back but his being at MF is out of neccesity and not some grand plan. He’s only there becasue Kroos, Schweinsteiger and Khedira either cant or dont want to cover the backfour. Maybe the “false 9” argument, but the way Germany play in the last 6-10 years, they dont need a traditional number 9. I think Germany feel pretty good considering there in the last 8 and probably will beat France and Brazil on their way to a 1986 and 1990 final redux against Argentina.

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      • Casey

        Or maybe having full backs sitting on the bench when you are playing centerbacks instead. Or his genius in the semis of Euro 2012. Low isn’t that great either.

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      • doug

        Who would play over Boateng and Howedes? They’re all too young and inexperienced. The 3 FB of Germany, excluding Lahm, have a combined 3 caps. Not exactly what you want when you had a group containing the wingplay of Ronaldo and Asamoah coming at you when the draw was revealed. Im sure that decision was made before the tournament in the same way Fabian Johnson was made a RB in order to combat Ronaldo, Asamoah, and at the time of the draw, what we thought was going to be Marco Reus. The Euro 2012 loss is more to do with Italy being Germany’s bogey team than some tactical blunder.

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      • Casey

        Wow this is hilarious. Low is not as good as you think he is. He was fired from previous coaching jobs just like JK. And yes Italy does give Germany fits but read anywhere about his tactics and you will see lots of criticism over that game and tournament as a whole from him. Lots of German fans want him gone for his tactics and use of players. But yes keep drinking his kool aid.

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  • MikeG

    Reality check: We have good up and coming younger players mixed with some veteran players for the WC in 2018. If Klinnsman is still the coach with all this good talent there is a good chance Klinnsman will use the same tactics as in 2014. Does USSF want to invest in a repeat of 2010 and 2014? I do not complain about the need for this team to counter attack in this last world cup. This was both as a result of players selected and players NOT selected and players out of position ( F Johnson should be a RW). Unfortunately, I feel like Klinnsman never settled on an effective consistent midfield and forward group. Talent in midfield and forward was available, but not effectively used. Lahm was right about Klinnsman. We also know Lahm was right about Klinnsman. I am not going to be apologetic for Klinnsman anymore.

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    • Silversurfer

      You’re asking if the USSF (aka Sunil G.) want to do something innovative and bold? That’s funny. JK is the coach because he can spout off bull spit in a way the Sunil thinks is brilliant and cool. Outside of his playing days, what has he ever won? The Gold Cup doesn’t really count. Look at BM before and after. He’s a mediocre manager but a master self promoter. Sunil is enthralled, Euro wanna bes enthralled, and worst of all US sports media. Is leading Germany to a 3rd place finish on home soil that impressive. Give him credit for recruiting the dual nationals but he is no genius. His arrogance and tactical limitations were exposed.

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      • Casey

        Oh yes I forgot BM has won the Bundesliga every year since he left and ever year before he got there. Get a grip.

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      • doug

        Bayern win the league every year because they are Real Madrid without a Barcelona to push them year to year. Raiding your domestic league best players to play with Bayern also helps a bit.

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      • Silversurfer

        So this shows that Klinnsman is a good coach? Bayern Munich wins without him before he is there and they win without him when he is fired. I’m a little slow on the uptake on this one. Klinnsman’s genius in that he dismantles the old ways of doing things and then sets the table for the next coach. Sounds good.

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      • Casey

        Sarcasm cuz there were years they didn’t win before and after and you can’t blame that one on Klinnsmann can you?

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      • Silversurfer

        So not winning a thing at BM is a resume builder?

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      • Casey

        Then what was your point about BM before and after? Yes he didn’t make it at BM but they were also sitting second in the table when he was let go. It was his exit in CL that led to it.

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      • Silversurfer

        Maybe we should hire Soren Lerby. If losing at Bayern Munich builds a career then maybe he’ll lead us to the WC finals

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      • Silversurfer

        Low isn’t the USMNT coach though. Fact about JK is this. The man has an enormous ego. Both good and bad for a manager. Man is willing to shake things up. Good and bad. Man has taken shots at people and made veiled criticisms at players and former US coaches. Not fair nor smart. Has been given credit for ideas that anyone with soccer knowledge already knew. Players not skilled enough yet, youth system needs overhaul, and US will need to be more possession oriented than we have if we’re to be an elite nation. Just don’t see the genius. Like any human, he’s got positives and negatives. Just not a fan of way he has gone about things.

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      • Fast Eddie

        Bayern were not sitting 2nd in the table when Klinsmann and Vasquez were sacked. They were in a 3 way tie for 3rd place and in danger of losing CL with 5 games remaining in the season. Yes, the 0-4 loss to Barca had an affect but the 0-4 or 5 loss the Wolfsburg and the 0-1 loss to Schalke at home (all 3 games played in 8 days) meant more.

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      • Casey

        Fine a strong third with a decent GD between them and Stuttgart. Your point being?

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      • Casey

        Those are fine critiques but I see him as a much better choice than BB or Arena. I hope one day Kreis can take over. Yes USSF was onto the changes with Reyna. Sometimes it just takes a figurehead to get the ball rolling on these things. BB never seemed to interested (at least publicly) in the youth programs.

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  • MikeG

    Sunil Gulati, it’s after the World Cup, now it’s your turn to play. Klinnsman lied to you. Sunil, you have a responsibility to the USSF, or you are no better than Klinnsman yourself.

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    • Mason

      Try to keep up. USSF signed JK to a four and a half year contract in February 2014 at more than $2.5 MM a year. They also gave him an additional title at that time. He’s not going anywhere.

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  • Talon

    Yeah. Tactics and the fact that their players are much, much better than ours.
    Other than that they got nothing on us.

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  • mouf

    I think Belgium having many players that are notably better than the USA’s is a key part of the loss

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  • McQ

    Wa! Wa! Wa! If this is how you are going to behave, just go away or hang out with your Kinsi – hating buddies Taylor and Alexi.

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  • Rayl

    Enough about LD already! A shame he cannot/refuses to take the high road as a man of respect and a good teammate. Kudos to JK and the USMNT for a great effort!!!

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  • Jon Shurth

    Let’s also remember that at every position on the field belgiums players are rated higher than ours, even if Howard played fantastic, in the eyes of world soccer cortouis and Howard might be equivalent. Tactics can only do so much we need to develop our younger players and that has been a big focus of klinsmann. Give it time, he brought in many of the youngsters that are now te backbone of the German team that many pundits laud.

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  • RBNY

    Landycakes is correct. The tactics killed us… but not those from the first 90 minutes – more those decisions in extra time sealed the deal. Belgium’s coaching staff absolutely WORKED JK and our staff. The way that they initially sat back to draw us out of our bunker was genius. Even I thought that they were tired watching the game at the bar. Then, they hit us on the counter immediately for the goal as soon as we got a little comfortable and exposed Besler and Gonzalez.

    It was really something straight out of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”. Brilliant stuff.

    All of that being said: WONDO SHOULD HAVE FINISHED.

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    • Creige

      100% correct. All should read Matthew Doyle’s column on MLS Soccer because we in essence reverted back to 1994 bunker ball. The USA played one good game of attacking soccer and then we defended in numbers for the rest of the games. If it wasn’t for Howard, what would the scoreline have actually been against Belgium? Me thinks 4 or 5 to nothing. We were outplayed by Ghana but won (conversely we outplayed them and lost the last two times) and badly outplayed by Belgium and Germany (who we outplayed in 2002). Klinsmann had such confidence in this team that he essentially threw on another defender as a midfielder to add to what can only be described as a defensive midfield to begin with.

      All of that being said: CLINT SHOULD HAVE FINISHED

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    • doug

      +1 The minute the Belgium lineup was out and we saw 4 CBs, I said to myself “we’re done” because we had no speed on the flanks. They had ONE GLARING WEAKNESS and we couldnt exploit it. It was evident in the first 10 minutes when Graham effing Zusi beat Vertonghen in a footrace. Credit to Belgium because they totally had the right tactic when De’Andre came in. They said, “ok if you want to raid up and down the right and cross balls, thats fine with us because we dont think you have the firepower to trouble us. And by the way, we’re going to LET you do it and keep Kevin DeBruyne at MF so when Courtois gets the cross or we clear it, you’re now chasing back trying to get DeBruyne who, has a 35 yard head start.” It was so simple yet so effective. I coach my u-12 team the same thing. If that FB wants to play all the way up the field, thats fine but please believe we are going to pummel that side all day and night with counters.

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  • django

    Donovan told it exactly like it was while Klinsmann is now blaming the mediocre showing in a bracket that was paved with gold all the way toward a historic semifinal meeting with the Netherlands on the players, who Klinsmann says are guilty of showing too much respect. Klinsmann never takes responsibility for his chronic tactical and roster mistakes. Did we really need Brad Davis, Timmy Chandler, Aron Johnansson, Mix Dikserud, Wodolowski sitting on the bench. Leave those guys home and pick four from these warriors: Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan, Terrence Boyd, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Parkhurst, Brad Evans, Joe Corona, Jose Torres. Zusi and Bedoya would have been better bench options than starter options.

    Klinsmann had the right to bring Donovan into camp in May. Like Lalas and Twellman say to do a humiliating stick the knife in and twist it snub. Donovan who is smart enough to know that snub ended his career in a US shirt, has the right to give his opinion. Am hoping that Michael Bradley who looked unhappy all through the World Cup will now speak out publicly about the Klinsmann bullsh!t and back up Donovan’s statements. He would be a hero if he has the courage to do it to call a spade a spade.

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    • tru_patriot

      Bradly should have done what Neymar did… He literally said on press conference he was unhappy with the lack aggressiveness or at least ‘push’ from “Filipao” and showed his hunger for more… And Filipao didn’t get angry or anything, quite the contrary he said he was happy his players wanted more and I think he actually cut them loose on the Cameroon game. Granted they too have some issues and are not showing as ultimate powerhouse right now, however they spoke out.

      LD is speaking out and I too hope players with as much talent as Bradley and CD8 speak out and ask we get a coach that actually orders what he says,

      Because on the one hand JK said he was going to go out and “try” to win the Germany and Belgium games, and yet they bunkered, and then he says both prior to the world cup and now after that the USMNT is “not ready to win” and “not to expect to win the WC”! what the hell?!?

      I dunno about you guys, but I don’t think Pinto told his boys either of those to phrases and look at were they are now…

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      • Mason

        Can we just ignore any game against Cameroon right now? Lets make sure they weren’t actively trying to lose before we use them for comparisons.

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  • tru_patriot

    So, my biggest question is:

    Let’s say the Belgium game went just as it did and then in that last minute, in that last play… Wondo, the same dude that in reality missed the shot – Let’s say he makes it… he actually had the skill to put that ball in and in that final moment the US scores with no time left for Belgium to react and they win the game… Head to quarter finals.

    IF that had happened, would we say: “man, US soccer is level 9000 now!” Or “we can win this cup!” or even “Wow, we should Belgium!”???

    NO – It would have been the most amazing finish because of the agony of the whole freaking game! We’re just letting emotions run the thinking process of what happened on the field.

    The reality is we did not play well and it wasn’t just this game it was with Germany and Ghana and some of the Portugal game.

    Let’s say that last play was Belgium’s, and that they actually scored on that last minute play… I think they COULD say, hey, we fought this whole game and wow, we scored on the last minute after who knows how many tries! We deserve to go to the next round!”

    Unfortunately, soccer is a growing sport in the US and I do understand that emotion and passion is probably more important for noobs than actual high level soccer… but that’s for the fans… This team, these players are way past that. and I have no doubt in my mind that had JK ordered a more offensive stand, or any other coach for that matter, this same team would have been way more successful, would have played better, and would have probably even gotten more new fans on board. We don’t need to wait another 4 years to “show less respect for the opponent” or “play toe to toe” against Germany or any other European team. We could have done that this time.

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    • doug

      It would’ve been dope to see Messi take our defense behind the woodshed, Black Snake Moan style

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      • tru_patriot

        The USMNT even with 11 bodies standing on the goal line would not withhold an inspired Messi. I know Argentina has left more doubts than answers this WC but bunkering with them would not have been like with Belgium. Argentinians have a lot more finesse when shooting on goal.

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    • Sup

      You can’t just “order a more offensive stand.” There is a flow to a game that depends mostly on talent, and little on what the coach tells you. You think Klinsmann doesn’t preach possession and attacking soccer? You think he tells them to sit back and absorb 40 shots? We lose the ball often, and our opponents are often technically skilled enough to avoid our challenges. It is as simple as that.

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      • tru_patriot

        I can tell you I didn’t see him screaming at the top of his lungs telling the guys to not freaking kick the ball back to Belgiums goalie when they had not opponent within 8-9 feet from them… I sure as hell did not see him get up and tell the boys “hey if Ghana scores one more goal we’re out! so you better start getting the ball back and try to generate an opportunity or two”

        No, I didn’t see that. I know he’s not literally telling them to bunker, but he wasn’t proactive enough to tell them to calm down, to look around and play the ball and keep possession. I did see that the last 10 minutes of the game, which leads me to believe he could have done that all 4 games and the boys would have followed orders.

        And you most certainly can order your players to change position, to do certain tasks and play a certain way to get certain results… I mean it’s not like they just go over instructions before the game starts and then he can’t talk to them again! The best coaches are the ones that can adapt their players to nullify or beat the opponents strategy.

        It only took 2 plays in like 5-6 minutes of the start of the game to realize Belgium was going to use the flanks to filter in balls leaving their striker free in front of Howard, yet how many times did that happen? 6 or 7? And if they blocked Fellaini and Witsel, they could have stopped so many dangerous plays against us.

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      • Sup

        A lot of people here think it’s up to Klinsmann. While he does control how we play to a certain extent, the two key factors that affect our style and ability to possess are 1) talent and 2) situational mentality. Obviously we possessed better when we were down 2-0 to Belgium! They took their feet of the gas and instinctively dropped off, while we instinctively pushed forward. This happens in ANY SOCCER GAME EVER, unless the disparity in talent is SO great that the superior team can just keep attacking.

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      • Mason

        Even after they dropped off, they still had a few good counters.

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  • MikeG

    yeah, ready for for team to express themeselves, with the hope of Klinnsman getting his contract bought out, but they will be selfish and not risk being kicked off the team.

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  • Sup

    Been waiting for Donovan to take a shot at Klinsmann. Whenever one team (USA) is less talented than another team (Belgium), tactics are key. If Klinsmann had really botched the tactics, we wouldn’t have made it to extra time. We all know Bradley is better box to box, and that Dempsey is better playing behind someone. That’s obvious, no genius analysis there. Klinsmann’s decision to put Bradley higher was due to our ample coverage at the DM position (Cameron, Jones, Beckerman) and the lack of creativity we have in our midfield (Bedoya, Zusi).

    Regardless of the analysis itself, you can never say it was the coaches fault. That’s not how soccer works. It’s up to the players. That’s just bogus.

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    • doug

      you just described why its JK’s fault. His decsion to put Bradley higher was his choice. He didnt have to play Beckerman at all and couldve just lined up with Bradley, Jones, Bedoya and Zusi. The lack of creativity in MF is ALSO his fault because he picked the EFFING roster and left the most creative MF (Mixx) off the field. Not saying Mixx was gonna light it up, but they couldve used some possesion, passing and playmaking for Dempsey instead of Bedoya and Zusi lobbing balls so Clint can go into aerial battles against Mertersacker, Hummels, Bruno Alves, van Buyten or Kompany. That was really a tough ask for Clint but he took it like a G i said it before and Ill say it again, 2014 was too early to judge the “Klinsmann Era”. 2018 will be the defining moment and will tell if all the money, infrastructure and time US Soccer has invested in JK has paid off. I have a sneaking suspicion in Russia we will be 1 to 2 levels above what we’ve seen now because the players who will feature in 2018 are more technical NOW than the players who featured in 2014, just too young

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      • Mason

        Who plays in in front of the bank of Bedoya, Bradley, Jones and Zusi? Dempsey and Wondo?

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      • Dr.K

        That midfield is awful. 4 pedestrian players with little to offer. These are mid level club players at best.We must rethink 2018

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      • sup

        @doug, you also just defended Klinsmann yourself. The more techingcal guys who would replace bedoya and zusi are too young, as you just said yourself! Klinsmann picked this lineup because it’s the best he had. Still wasn’t good enough to beat a very talented Belgium side.

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  • whoop-whoop

    We were placed in a group in which the immediate response from 99% of the soccer world within and outside the US was… 3 and out. We found a way to get through. Spain did not, Italy did not… many greats that did, did so without looking pretty. See Brazil, Argentina.

    Belgium.
    Prior to first touch: Man for man we are FAR outclassed. Our only effective hold up striker in the pool was out. Our brightest offensive threat FJ was out. We had traveled 10.000 miles, played in the hot humid north, they had traveled 1.500 and played in the cool south.

    In game: They held the majority of possession, but were largely ineffective at producing dangerous opportunities. The exception? Every time we pushed up field and our defense held a high line, they countered with scoring opportunities and in fact, both of their goals happened in just such instances.

    It was ONLY after they were tired, well into extra time, with a 2 goal league and they willingly bunkered down that we managed a threat.

    In spite of all of this against us, we had an opportunity to win the game in the final minute, and a reasonable chance to even it up 120 minutes against a far superior side. Incredible really.

    We have progressed to the point where we can play some pretty attractive soccer within our region and against top 20 sides such as Nigeria. Truth. We can not yet stand toe to toe with Germany or Belgium with our best lineups, let alone with players and other factors going against us.

    PLEASE. Let’s not feed into the absurd delusion that had we come out attacking in this game that there would have been any other result than us being absolutely gouged numerous times.

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    • Dr.K

      there are more flawed WC teams this year than ever. There are no favorites. Maybe VanGaal will outcoach the rest. Flawed teams make for intersting soccer though. That why this WC is so good, because nobody is good

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  • Jurgen Klinsmann

    I blame your tactical plan, Donovan. You screwed the team for 4 months.

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  • scurvy

    according to Google, we had 53% of the possession. If you read LD’s article, he says that Bradley was in an ‘unnatural’ position, then says that he’s better in a ‘deeper’ position like with Julian’s goal. Bradley hit the pass from the attacking third, right where an attacking mid would be. The times we did get scored on were exactly when we opened up and were vulnerable to a counter. I think the reason we looked better prior to the cup is because we were playing Azerbaijan and Nigeria rather than Germany and Belgium.

    LD’s a pro and knows better than me for sure, and the theme of his comments ring true about not attacking as much as we could have, but overall Klinsmann’s tactics as far as formation and player selection were pretty good, I thought. LD even goes on to say that Beckerman would’ve helped, but that was Klinsmann’s idea and a tactical change! He seems to be a bit vague about what we were supposed to do other than attack more.

    I like LD and he’s been great for the USMNT over the years, but this statement doesn’t strike me as helpful, frankly. It’s vague and the stuff he brings up that is specific is contradictory. Just my two cents.

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  • Daniel in Chapel Hill

    I like Klinsmann, but I think LD has a point here about the unexpected transition to a 4-4-1 putting us into a defensive shell from the get-go. The critique is honest and hard, yes, but not petulant.

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      • KingGoogleyEye

        D’Oh! I know. Total brain fart on my part. When I read the article—and even as I typed—I saw “Ale Bedoya” and thought “Juan Agudelo.” I know, I know: their names are sooo similar and they look like twins. Like I said: brain fart.

        Anyway, I liked Alejuan Agudoya’s sentiment. Good positive vibes.

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  • Alex C

    I don’t agree with Donovan’s assessment, but i understand where he is coming from and I am willing to give him some slack. It is very understandable given his situation and how the reporters ask him for comments. Give him some time.

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  • JakeTheSnake

    This is a mixture of truth and bitterness.

    Landon would have been an excellent sub in the Belgium game. I mean seriously, would anyone rather have Wondo come in or Donovan? Easy answer for me…Donovan!!

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  • david m

    Donovan is absolutely right. The US performance in the last two games was embarrassing. With Klinsmann, the US team took a large step backwards. It’s amazing to see all the klinsmaniacs (most of whom probably are still in their teens) in such a state of denial. Completely blinded by the excitement of coming out of what many thought was the group of death (although the US-Belgium and Germany-Algeria games make you wonder which group was more of a group of death) and the last 10 minutes of the Belgium game.

    In 2010, the US team actually played some attacking soccer with “bunker Bob” at the helm. With Klinsmann, was was supposed to bring us attacking, possession-oriented soccer, the team neither attacked nor possessed, the only exception being the Portugal game when it was forced to due to the early goal by Portugal. We can also compare the two games against Germany: in 2002 and this year. In 2002 the US actually dominated and outplayed Germany, playing offensive soccer, creating multiple chances, and losing largely thanks to Hugh Dallas. Now, just compare that to the game played a few days ago. I don’t think I ever saw a more bunker-in soccer from the US national team. And I’ve seen almost all of the USMNT games in the last 30 years.

    Klinsmann, for petty personal reason, left our best player at home, while bringing multiple tourists, like Zusi, Davis, Green, Johannsson, Diskerud, Wondolowski — who are nowhere near Donovan’s level, and either not ready to play at this level, or were not trusted by Klinsmann. Under Klinsmann, the alleged fitness guru, the team did not appear to be any fitter than any of the teams it faced, and probably had more pulled hamstrings than any other team in the WC. Most likely, Klinsmann just wore players out with his intensive practices just prior to the WC.

    Klinsmann liked to talk about making players uncomfortable — well, he certainly succeeded, making most of our top players — Dempsey, Bradley, Cameron — play out of their position. And what was the brilliant strategy for the Belgium game? Have Howard singlehandedly win the game by parking the bus and taking the 0-0 tie into the penalty shootout? The Beckerman-Bradley-Jones trio looked so good in the group play, largely thanks to Beckerman — so what does the German genius do? Sits Beckerman of course, and disrupts whatever cohesion there was in the midfield.

    No wonder, there is so little respect for Klinsmann the coach in Europe! It’s sad that he’s been able to fool so many in this country.

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  • CO

    This long diatribe makes absolutely no sense and you really have no idea what happened during the games. I don’t deny that he made some mistakes but I have not seen much out of Donovan in the last year. He isn’t the same as 2010 or 2002. I don’t know why people hold onto the past so much.

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    • RLWinger

      He’s definitely not the player he was a handful of years ago, but if we were looking to “steal” a win from a better team like Belgium, a counter would be our best bet, and while he may not perform 90 min. like he used to he still proves (if only in the MLS) he’s still got a key counter attack or two in him.

      Like

  • Neruda

    Donovan spoke so let’s push for 500+ posts.

    After reading Donovans comments I felt similar in many regards in terms of coming out looking like a very different team than the US does in CONCOCAF and in friendlies. After all the analyzation and intelligent discussion for me it boils down to what team is better. It’s hands down the Belgians. They’re superior skill wise and have many legit stars. Strong teams like the US need one or two lucky breaks (like Wondo banging home the header at the end of regulation) to beat WC title contender teams like Belgium.

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  • RLWinger

    LD must have known he was going to be tagged as “bitter” saying these things (he’s not stupid) so kudos for him for making the decision to let his opinions fly. JK kept talking about “taking it to” these other teams — then he roles out Gonzales, Besler and Cameron (and Beasley and Johnson) in that final game — that’s a whole lot of defensive minded players. I was bummed when I saw that lineup. We had no holdup play with Deuce up there all by his lonesome. And, our counter attack wasn’t exactly uber dangerous looking. As “old” as LD is he still runs a pretty convincing counter attack. My last thought: JK always had a different lineup (not just in the WC, but in virtually all of the games going into the WC) I think the lack of consistency hurt the team. There didn’t seem to be an understanding between JJ, MB, the wingers (who were always changing) and Deuce like you want to have on the attack.

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  • Fredo

    Landon is right. Jürgen’s tactics & set up showed a lack of belief. I don’t think the players lacked it.

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  • jpc

    of course Donovan’s right. Klinsmann had big talk about playing attacking football, but at the end of the day what did we see. 3 Defensive midfielders, our most creative player playing as a target forward, our wings were slow and technically poor. Mix Diskerud didn’t see the field? why? b/c our major problem was possession and that’s his fortay. Geoff Cameron played the entire year at right back or centerback for the national team, but played in the midfield…. We had other players in the pool, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson, Luis Gil, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Sasha Kljestan, Mike Magee, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Brek Shea; who are attacking players that are better players than Brad Davis, Grahm Zusi, Julian Green, Chris Wondolowski, or Aaron Johanson….. If your gonna be an attacking team, you need to pick attacking players. If you don’t think they’re good enough stop saying we are going to be an attacking team.

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  • Paul Thomas

    I’m sorry, but if a tactical plan produces a situation in which you’re one missed sitter away from upsetting a superior opponent, it’s a good plan. Good processes can lead to bad outcomes. When you’re a sufficient underdog, it’s safe to say that good processes are LIKELY to lead to bad outcomes. The point is to maximize your chances; demanding perfection is idiotic and reactionary.

    For whatever reason (travel, fatigue from tough conditions, the quality of opposition, or whatever) the US couldn’t string two passes together in the last two games. That, not anything to do with the coaching, is why they lost those games. You don’t need to invent silly coaching conspiracy theories to explain it– the team played badly and they lost, deservedly so.

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  • toiletduck

    (1) Donovan is a horrendous analyst – monotone, disinterested sounding, almost…well…bitter. (2) He might as well have just come out and said we would have won if he had been there, because that’s pretty much what he meant. (3) He’s got nothing to say if Wondolowski does not blow the chance at the end of regulation. (4) Did you ever think that Belgium is just really, really good, as is Germany? You can play however you want, but accurate, incisive passing will always defeat you and that’s what the Belgians did. Stretching the field is actually worse against that type of team, you need to clog things up as much as possible. Klinsmann is not perfect but he accomplished way more than LD has in his career, and he has the benefit of a decade watching and learning more at the top levels of the sport. I’ll defer to him, not MLS Landon.

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  • Patrick2

    I’m a big Landon Donovan fan, and I think the way he poked fun at himself after getting booted off was hilarious.

    That having been said, it’s just too g*dd***ed easy to snipe at Klinsmann after the fact. There are a thousand different roster selections and a thousand different tactical permutations he could have gone with. Would LD have chosen a different path? Bob Bradly? SBI? Me and you? Sure. But the team did as well as could have been hoped for against a murderers row of competition.

    It’s like bitching at the coach of KState that he could have been more perfect and gone farther in March Madness despite the fact his path had Gonzaga, Duke, Stanford in a (hypothetical) group stage and say N. Carolina in the round of sixteen.

    I probably would have left Mix, Brad Davis, and Green at home (Not taking Green would have been one of my mistakes), and taken Boyd, Edu and LD. Klinsmann wasn’t perfect, but I think it is dishonest to say that there were clearly better choices to be made for every personnel decision and tactical choice. Not making it past the round of sixteen with the talent pool available would have been a likely outcome for Muriño, SAF, or Pep Guardiola.

    As it is, JK gambled right on playing Bekermann long minutes, bringing in JAB over Goodson, putting FJ on the right (instead of the left, and playing Cameron or Chandler at right back), Giving Beasley his confidence, Bringing Green, etc.

    A lot people can snipe now, in hindsight…but are they being honest with themselves? Are they forgetting to factor in decisions that JK did and got RIGHT which they wouldn’t have taken? My pet peeve was not taking Edu. Not having him along, and having to play Cameroon in the midfield against Belgium when Bekermann wasn’t 100% hurt…but I also wouldn’t have brought Yedlin in as much, I probably would have tried FJ on the left and Chandler on the right, I wouldn’t have brought Green, etc.

    The Michael Bradely “out of position argument” doesn’t fly with me. Putting him up top allowed the USMNT to put Jones and Bekerman on the field…Bradly played pretty well against Belgium, I suspect his mistakes would have happened anyways, because they had less to do with his position, and more to do with him having tried to hard or possibly overexerted himself in camp.

    Anyways, going forward this is more and more going to be JK’s team, and hopefully we will all have from further out clarity whom JK is growing for the Super Copa America and Russia 2018 and why. He should also have more of “his” people that can play “attractive football”. If the team is tsill having to bunker 80% of the time to survive at the 2018 Cup against a hopefully less killer draw, then the JK detractors can claim to be vindicated.

    About the only unequivocal thing I would want to quiz Klinsmann on, is on injury prevention, warmups, stretching, Pilates style exercises , and yes, if he may have pushed the team a bit to hard in camp. The number of pulled hamys was unreal, no other team came close that I can recall.

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    • Ali Dia

      Great post Patrick2 (I doubt many will see it but it deserves to be read). I think your sentiments are shared by many, and well articulated regardless. In particular, I think your final thought is among the most unexplored. My girlfriend remarked during the GHA game that it really looked the guys should be eating more bananas or potassium down there… simple cramps that early in the game is almost a matter of diet. True or not, it was odd.

      Like

    • CO

      I agree with most of it however I don’t think Edu should have gone unless you solely wanted it based off experience.

      As for the injuries no one talks about the injuries many other teams were picking up including Portugal and Germany. They did look exhausted at times but it almost seemed like they stretched their bodies too far. I know I hyper-extended my quad punting the ball in practice. Things happen sometimes.

      Like

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