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U.S. Men's National Team

Gulati says 'disappointing' 2015, poor Hex led to Klinsmann firing

Jurgen Klinsmann Sunil Gulati USMNT 84

Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team produced mixed results. It began on a high with the 2013 Gold Cup, but ended on a low with back-to-back defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica in the Hexagonal phase of World Cup qualifying.

The latter seemed to be the breaking point for U.S. Soccer and its president Sunil Gulati. Klinsmann was relieved of his duties just six days after the embarrassing 4-0 loss to Costa Rica, which was the USMNT’s biggest defeat in qualifying since 1980.

Gulati reiterated that it wasn’t just the defeats to Costa Rica and Mexico that led to Monday’s decision, but it played a factor.

“I think what I said was the two games on top of everything else,” said Gulati on a conference call on Tuesday. “I’ll reemphasize that we don’t make decisions based on individual games. It’s an overall record and you get new data points. These last two games were obviously important data points because of the importance of the games, where they were played, and the results.”

This is the first time the USMNT has begun the Hex with two defeats since this round was implemented for 1998 World Cup qualifying. The U.S. also saw its 30-game home unbeaten streak snapped by Mexico earlier this month. Not only was it El Tri’s first victory in the United States since 1972, it was also their first win in Columbus.

Those facts alone are indicting. However, there was a sense of optimism following a semifinal run in the Copa America Centenario. The 4-0 defeat to Argentina was a crushing blow, but Gulati made it clear that previous results in 2015 also contributed to Klinsmann’s firing.

“Starting at the Gold Cup, there have been some up and down results,” Gulati said. “The Gold Cup was a big disappointment for everyone, for Jurgen, for the players, for our fans. We had a chance for reprieve against Mexico, but didn’t get that done in Los Angeles. Then [we] had an upswing in Copa America, where after a bad start, we won three consecutive games and got to the semifinals, and then of course finished with a disappointing game against Argentina.

“It’s all of those things that are a part of the evaluation. It’s not just those, it’s the most recent results, it’s talking with people in and around the team, which we do on a pretty regular basis. So it’s all of those things combined that led to this decision.”

2015 was a big letdown for the USMNT. A historic loss to Jamaica in the semifinals of the Gold Cup set up a one-game playoff for CONCACAF’s Confederations Cup berth against Mexico at the Rose Bowl.

However, before a redeeming Copa America, 2016 began on a negative after the U.S.’ failed to qualify for a second consecutive Olympic Games in the Klinsmann era.

An underwhelming 2015 and the Olympic team’s dispiriting elimination by Colombia, combined with the poor start to the Hex, led to Gulati’s final decision on Monday afternoon.

“Where we would have liked to have seen the team is, in an ideal world, 2-0,” said Gulati. “But 0-2 puts us in a very difficult position… We would have liked to see the team playing at the Confederations Cup next summer, either by winning this last Gold Cup or by winning that playoff game. So I think those are two big things. We would have liked to have seen the Olympic team in Brazil. If I could pick three things, those would be three.

“We would like to have had a better start to the Hex, we’d have liked to see the team in Rio and we’d like to be playing in the Confederations Cup next summer.”

Now, more than five and a half years after Gulati announced the hiring of Klinsmann, the German was given his walking papers. U.S. Soccer’s president said it was not an easy choice “on a personal or professional level” but it was one that had to be done to put the USMNT “in the best possible position over next 18 months.”

6 comments
  • Ronniet

    I think when we consider that a heavy emphasis was put on winning the GC, the Confed Cup(since the GC was lost) and qualifying for the Olympics and none of them were attained it was always going to be difficult to look at JK’s reign as anything but not good enough. I’m sorry to see it end this way but for the sake of qualifying this move had to be made because it was beginning to look like Juergen had lost the team

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  • Jack

    I think Klinsmann not really getting his head around the obstacles of Concacaf was his down fall. That’s what worried US Soccer and why they really thought qualifying was in jeopardy. Getting beat in Guatemala, being destroyed in Costa Rica, the Gold Cup loss to Jamaica, a 0-0 draw in Trinidad.

    It seemed like all the lessons of the first cycle Klinsmann just forgot. Remember the match in Honduras where Chandler was awful. Flying these guys half way across the world then to central america is brutal on them. After that in many ways we built a core in domestic players, who played in an organized consistent way, and went on to top the table.

    We might just have to have a qualifying team and a World Cup team to a certain degree.

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  • Dr. Offside

    Everyone, particularly Gulati, seems to be forgetting all the hoopla about Klinsmann “transforming” US soccer. He wasn’t hired just to guide the national team to world cup qualification, but also to create a sea change in the quality of US soccer from top to bottom. Now, many of us thought this was nonsense from the outset, but ignoring it lets Gulati off the hook. He has demonstrated over the past decade that he does not understand the soccer business, not just hiring a national team coach. Leaving him in charge merely guarantees that we will go through all this nonsense again after Arena steps down.

    Liked by 1 person

  • HydraHamster

    While Klinsmann made mistakes, he is merely a scapegoat for people who are more at fault. One of the people are the USSF and US Soccer in general. Even if Klinsmann had all the magic abilities he was hired for, US Soccer is not set up to accomplish those goals. Klinsmann was put under a lot of pressure to do the impossible while the rest of US Soccer is the complete opposite. The biggest road block is US domestic soccer. Germany, for example, seen they needed to change their soccer structure and nationals teams to catch up with the best, so they restructured it from top to bottom. China is currently doing something very similar. We just don’t have the right people in charge of US Soccer in general nor the right kind of leagues (including MLS). We don’t have the players that will form into a team that can constantly beat other teams like Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Colombia and Argentina. Most of our players are not committed to being good players. We have a few that is trying to achieve things in this sports, but it’s Know use when grouped with crap.

    Solution:

    – Fire Sunil Gulati
    – Restructure US Soccer from top to bottom
    – Hire someone with actual soccer management experience as USSF president
    – Hire a group of people with positive soccer management experience to lead US Pro Soccer
    – Restructure the youth system where everyone with a youth club are in the same system
    – Have rules and guidelines where the financially struggling and/or poorly managed teams are automatically relegated into the amateur leagues.

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