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The SBI Show: Episode 152 (Recapping the USMNT’s World Cup, and more)

USA goalkeeper Tim Howard

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As the 2014 World Cup winds down its final days, it is time to take a look back at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s journey in Brazil, and just what it means for the game in this country.

Episode 152 of The SBI Show takes a look back at the U.S. team’s World Cup performance, and what it means long term. We also discuss the good and the bad of the U.S. team’s showing in Brazil.

Co-host Garrett Cleverly and I also discuss Landon Donovan’s comments about Klinsmann’s coaching job, and much more.

Give Episode 152 of The SBI Show a listen after the jump:

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What did you think of the show? Agree with our take on the U.S. team’s World Cup performance?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I feel this analysis is wanting. One of the things that is missing in this whole discussion is that the margin between the established powers and “so-called” dark horses and minnows has shrunk dramatically. Brazil was shown to be a flawed team in the first game. England which played attractive soccer for two games couldn’t hit enough goals and were quickly shown the door. Teams like Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica that had key members missing or recovering from injuries came as close as a few plays from completely altering the final four. Garret’s comments on Brazil strengths are completely misguided. Their domestic league is not well managed anymore and half their team wouldn’t have made the squad in previous years. Brazil’s midfield has been horrible and David Luiz while skilled is lazy on defense and far from a complete player, why did Chelsea let him go? The French League is not the Premiere League. And Ives your understanding of Brazil is absurd. The Dutch would slaughter them even with Neymar. That team is not that good. They are not even top five anymore.

    With respect to the U.S., we may not have a great midfield, but it is a little contradictory to say that the best player was Jones while Beckerman was solid. Yes we couldn’t hold the ball consistently, but how much does that have to do with a flawed tactical strategy rather than just talent. You all give too much credit to guys like Fabian Johnson who contributed significantly to the goals conceded against Ghana and Portugal. While on the other hand, a guy like Bedoya was outstanding defensively. He was having to cover because we couldn’t press with Dempsey upfront with a broken nose and the tactical alignment. A bigger part of the breakdown with the U.S. has to do with line-up selection and a rash injuries. The training regimen may have not been conducive enough to limiting injuries. In fact, it could have caused it. With the U.S.’s travel schedule and the fact that no team other than Portugal that played in Manuas had a victory in the next game, the team should have been organized better to use its depth against Germany and at the end against Portugal.

    As for the whole Donovan thing, I think this overdone. Obviously there was a personal grudge before these comments. Klinsmman gave all sorts of chances to Chandler, when the guy didn’t want to participate for the longest time in a U.S. shirt. That being said, clearly there were other players that should have been on the plane regardless of the Donovan situation. The absence of Boyd and EJ are the most significant. Personally I would have taken Joe Corona over Brad Davis. The issue for many who follow this team closely is that Klinsmann’s approach reflected both ambivalence and cynicism. He brings youth to the tournament along with skilled veterans that had a legitimate chance to get off of the group. Then he says the U.S. shouldn’t think about winning the cup because we are not there yet. Then he proceeds to talk about how the guys need to have a tougher mentality and learn to suffer. That whole bit was some of the worst motivational crap I have ever seen in sports, and it doesn’t fit with the culture of the team or the country. The fact is the youth should have played more and if guys had been in their correct positions with a player like Boyd been included I think the performance overall would have been better. We would still exit the group but have an even bigger upside for the future. I had no problem with guys like Green and Brooks on the roster. The famous Bill Walsh believed in playing talented youth over aging veterans. Unfortunately, more of the minutes were given to guys that have never proven themselves consistently on the international stage like Davis and Wondo (doubtful he makes 4 out of 10 clutch goals in a major international contest-his track record says he can’t) and a tired Zusi in games 3 and 4. Meanwhile Dempsey and Bradley played in positions where they do not excel. The irony is how the Green sub nearly turned a game in which the U.S. was being thoroughly dominated into a feisty, frenetic finish. Why wasn’t Green brought on in the 80th minute or sooner for a guy like Zusi who was out of gas and clearly struggling.

    Those decisions and approach of Klinsmman simply echo the concerns when he was hired to replace Bradley. It is why he struggled so much at Bayern and the reason why Lahm said what he said. You can’t say Lahm is some sour grapes critique like Donovan. This is a guy who has done even more in his career. Klinsmman is great at conceptualizing and recruiting, but he is not good at execution. The success of getting out of the group has more to do with the guile and sheer will of the players than it did with him. Guys like Bradley, Jones, Howard, Besler, and Beasley do not need him to motivate them or push them to be leaders and professionals. What they needed was a coach that could manage the team through the rigors and come up with an effective plan that gave the U.S. a chance. He didn’t do that consistently. The defense against Ghana was well organized, which resulted in very few shots on goal despite a plethora of crosses from the wing. Ghana needed to play through the middle and the one the goal they got came off a great back heel and a defensive lapse. I would much rather see a Jose Pekerman or another tactician like a Jorge Sampaoli manage the USMNT. I think Klinsmann is better as a big picture technical director and recruiter than a coach. The U.S. won’t evolve that much more than they did under Bradley or Arena with him coaching. Plus his personal pissing match with Donovan and his kid getting involved reflect a guy that has personal issues with players. That’s just bad leadership and he is inconsistent. You guys have given him way too much praise and too little critique. How else do you explain Algeria playing better than we did against Germany and Belgium. They have good players, but their midfield isn’t a carbon copy of Barcelona. This tournament and the performances of teams like Algeria, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Costa Rica show that good coaching, organization, and depth make a huge difference and can significantly close the talent gap. The talent gap excuse for the U.S. is part of the story, but you make more than it should be

    • There is too much for me to write about in this message (that I disagree with), but I will say that while living in Germany, Lahm had a reputation of talking too much and being too arrogant, Him having a go at someone is not unique. Neuer is also know to be very arrogant as well. Not all tactically decisions work out for coaches. Not all of his did, but most did.

    • I don’t know where to begin with you incredibly flawed analysis. It would take me 1 hour to respond, but I have a tight 3 hour deadline for work. The coaches and teammates know a lot more than anyone on the outside even some of us who have over 20-plus years of high level soccer behind us. So, I defer to them as to who to take and not to take. Does LD have the talent to be in the team, yes, but he clearly should not have been on it based upon his behavior. Why would any coach include a player that is disruptive and doesn’t respect him. It induces insubordination.

      Your saying bring an entirely young team who exits, but gets blooded is flawed as well. You want to cultivate a winning attitude, so you bring a few who who will be leaders, but overall enough talent and ability to get out of the group. You also don’t know what his directive was from USSF. I think it was get out of the group. Finally, you are really underestimating how good the group was and how big the talent pool was on all the teams we played except for Portugal. We played (arguably) against 3 of the top 6 midfields in the tournament. Ghana’s midfield is stacked! Belgium’s midfield is stacked! Germany’s midfield is stacked. Honestly, our best midfield players (Bradley, Jones, Beckerman) don’t even make those teams (seriously). Our defensive unit, while not the strongest, is not that far off from others. Their forwards are better than ALL our forwards. If you don’t think Benteke, Origi, Lukaku, Close, Mueller and Gyan are better then…I don’t know what to say.

    • A lot of words Dawwilly but you did not say anything.

      Very shallow critique; similar to making judgments based on headlines or news summaries without actually reading the source material. It reminds me of the good old days when we used to refer to USA TODAY as MaCpaper.

  2. Something overlooked with regards to Klinsmann, if he knows that Jozy(stage two hamstring and everyone’s professional opinion was that he was done for the WC) and Johannsen(having ankle surgery for a knock picked up in camp out for 8 weeks) are injured to the point of not making another appearance at the world cup, why not call in an injury reserve player at that point? Terrence Boyd was on standby. I am assuming that you can call the standby players when another player is out with an injury, i think that is how it works. So why no call after the Ghana game to Boyd?

    • No. I believe standby players can only replace a roster spot prior to the start off competition. But, I am happy to be corrected. In either case, your point is a good one and echoes my own sentiments. These issues are overlooked here on SBI and elsewhere. ESPN didn’t do a good job of bringing these points to the discussion or in reporting on them. Same goes for Timothy Chandler. We know he had an injury in the Spring. Was a he fully recovered? Makes no sense to give roster spots to guys that aren’t 100% and need surgery after the World Cup. Surely it impacted Johannsen’s efforts against Ghana.

    • (1) You can only substitute a player with someone on Stand-By BEFORE the tournament starts. Once it starts, you dance with what you brought.

      (2) Form what I read, Aron was hurt in Brazil, but I could be wrong.

      (3) I still think bringing in Boyd or EJ (probably EJ because you could force him on the wing) hurt instead of Davis or Wondo

      (4) I am a big LD fan, but why bring a guy to a team that does not get along with the coach. I wanted him included, but trusted JK decision as a coach. There is addition by subtraction all the time in sports ( I have lived through it). That being said, I have lost respect for LD. He revealed himself to be a whiny, little b**ch when not included with the things he repeatedly said compared to the way EVERYONE else who got left off acted. Still respect him as a player…respect he less as a man.

  3. Ives,
    You say Donovan would not have helped because we lacked posession in midfield and that is not his game, he is good for counter attacks. 2 things on that:
    1) Although Donovan is better on counters, he is still better in possesion than any player we put in the midfield. Just because he is not Pirlo, doesn’t mean he would not have helped us posses the ball.
    2) We sat back so far, our only hope was a counter attack, except we had no one who could counter (Dempsey was all alone, Bedoya and Zusi could complete a pass, Jones would make runs up the middle and then proceed to lose it). Seems to me that Donovan and his counter attacking ability would have been perfect for this tournament, even if he wasn’t playing 90 minutes.

    • Didn’t say he wouldn’t have helped, I said he wouldn’t have addressed the team’s biggest issues. If you listened to the show you would hear me say he would have done more than Davis and Wondolowski. And Donovan MIGHT have helped on the counter, but he also would have hurt the team defensively. He just doesn’t have the engine to offer two-way contributions anymore. Just not convined Donovan is the international level difference maker he once was, but obviously Davis and Wondolowski proved not to be.

  4. Good for Ives calling out the younger players to go to Europe. But it really points out Bradley’s awful decision (for the US MNT, not him personally) to come back to MLS. What a terrible example.

    • Bull! He played in the Eresdivisie, the Bundesliga, the Premiership and Serie A.
      He ha splayed professionally in some of the best leagues in Europe since he was 18-19 years old. Toronto showed him the money and he saw an opportunity to secure his family’s future. I don’t fault him for one second.
      His poor showing, in the attacking half of the field, this world cup – is much more about Klinsman playing him out of position, not leaving him in his natural position as the deep lying, distributing defensive midlfielder and asking him to instantly turn into a Welsley Snjeider / Xavi / Pele overnight, than his playing in MLS for half a season.
      Be serious!

      • +1000 but this has been explained ad nauseum here and some simply will not accept that reality

  5. Aron Johannsson was ignored as one of our future stars.
    Now we know that he was injured during the first game.
    Perhaps, soon after he was subbed in for Altidore.
    That’s why he didn’t play again.

  6. Ives,

    I am having difficulty reconciling your World Cup grade for Jurgen Klinsman (C, C+) with your (accurate) statements that the USMNT lacks quality in the midfield.

    I completely agree with your assessment of the 2002 midfield vs. the 2014 midfield. As you correctly point out,…there is no Claudia Reyna and no John O’Brien like talent on the current USMNT team. Let’s not forget that Claudio Reyna was “Best 11″ in Japan/Korea,…simply the best performance by any USA player, ever. Furthermore,…I suspect that many of the visitors to this site have no idea how good JOB was.

    So,…if the current midfield is so lacking,…and in spite of this limitation JK got the USA out of a group with Germany (likely WC Champion), Portugal and Ghana into the round of 16,….how does he get a C-C+? Why not a B-B+?

    Also,…you were spot on with your assessment of Jermaine Jones and DMB. Jones was massive. Not to mention,…had Wondolowski converted his last minute chance, JJ would be getting due praise for winning the head ball to set-up Wondolowski at the death. Think about it,…they guy had run his sox off for four games and in the 90th minute of game four he outduels a Belgian defender to set up the best USA chance.

    DMB,…congrats, man. You were awesome and you got better and better game after game. Against Belgium you showed your class. Que up Dick Vitale,….”Awesome Baby!!!”

    Lastly,…going abroad vs. MLS,….is a little bit of a ‘chicken or the egg.’ In the short term,…going abroad may be the best option,…however, if we want MLS to improve, we need to keep our best players.

    Good show!

  7. Ives and Garrett make great points about youth academy and youth NT players not panning out. Remember Sal Zizzo, Danny Szetela, Stefan Jerome, Charles Renken, Andre Akpan, etc.? Not saying they’re altogether flops, but all these guys were pegged for massive USMNT careers by now.

    • Yep. Most players don’t pan out. By huge amounts the number that don’t pan out exceed the number who do.

  8. what’s happening with the USMNT is more evolution than revolution. the problem has ALWAYS been talent level, which is why choosing to not bring one of the most talented in the pool reeks still.

    what Jurgen’s USMNT did was what any US soccer enthusiast understood when he took over and sold 76 trombones…we don’t have the talent to play how Jurgen said. No big deal there, except Jurgen dumped on the then-current USMNT before he got the job by ripping our style of play, when it turns out we play that way because of our dearth in talent…the same thing many already knew when Bradley played this way, or Arena, etc. Wasn’t the coach, it was the talent level that dictated

    but now there is the next generation of talent coming through and it will make us better. we are evolving.

    but playing a certain attacking style or possession style or whatever style just because you want to doesn’t work without the talent, and considering the USMNT talent level, of course we played tactically how we did at this World Cup. it was nice to see we can still gut out results and fight hard, the foundation of the team Jurgen took over

    what Jurgen gets big credit for is recruiting talent to play here, and that will continue to be the biggest issue imo, but with the new kids coming up and the others Jurgen is recruiting in, that will make a difference next cycle in our talent level…evolution again.

    but considering the fact it’s essentially all about the talent or lack thereof it hurt not having one of the most talented in the pool to turn to in Brazil, and not being able to recognize that now, in hindsight, makes no sense. If it was difficult to see before the World Cup started, OK, but now? That’s not fanboy talk, it’s the reality of the situation.

    must be a huge number of folks here who will hate what I just wrote, or will look to push it all aside as an ignorant lack of understanding. Cheers to you all anyway!

      • Here here. If I were better with my stupid itunes setup I’d subscribe and it would be a lot easier for me to listen–as it is I need a quiet time that I’m neither reading nor being pestered by my bastard children.

      • hey GW, had no idea Alexi saw this situation so clearly.

        Instead what we see today is that so many refuse to look at the uncomfortable nature of this talent discussion when it comes to Jurgen and his choice to deride the USMNT and our style of play before he arrived, only to end up playing basically the same way 3 years later in Brazil.

        so who you got today? Argentina or Holland?

      • beachbum,

        By the way,

        JK never derided the USMNT or what you call “our style of play before he arrived.” JK is trying to improve on “our style” and said it would take time but he never ruled out doing whatever is necessary.

        What he did say is “Obviously, my highest priority is preparing the national team so we qualify for Brazil and then do well in the World Cup.”

        He always left his options open. And he also has a good appreciation for unappreciated American talent. .

        After all, he’s the guy who made everyone mad that he left EJ off the roster after you all wanted EJ banned from the USMNT.

        And he’s the guy who capped Alan Gordon in 2012 for the match at Azteca. I wanted Lenhart who would have been more fun but whatever.

        And how many of you even knew who Besler was before JK capped him?

        And he is also the only guy in America who all along, was willing to explore the idea that Beckerman could be a World Cup starter. Most of you thought he would have been better off opening up a store in Denver.

        You want to get on people for ripping “our style of play before he arrived “?

        Look at the USMNT “fans” who post on SBI. The posters on SBI have been far more vicious than JK in their evisceration of “our style “ exponent, Bob Bradley, who most of you wanted burned at the stake along with Rico Clark and Jonny Bornstein, and his empty bucket, defensive, score only on the counter or on set pieces style.

        Alexi appears to hate and resent JK most likely because JK was brought in specifically to move the US away from much of what Alexi feels he has a copyright on i.e. defensively solid, scoring on set pieces or on the counter and win through physical fitness, discipline, teamwork and never say die sprit. The truth is many teams over the years have won with that formula, Cost Rica being the most recent example.

        My theory is Alexi’s lack of expertise is increasingly being exposed especially when you compare him to the contingent of ex-players and pundits, all of whom have more intelligent, insightful things to say than Alexi, even the ones who are barely fluent in English.

        I’m waiting for Stuey Holden to get Alexi’s job. At least he understands more about soccer than set pieces.

  9. Loved the Podcast guys, but Garret…….seriously man, put down the pipe for God’s sake.
    Yves is right…..overseas development is ESSENTIAL….the earlier the better.

    Garret – You said that “pockets of the US can develop such highly talented players”……no matter WHAT sport, industry, activity, game, …..ANY activity… order to improve you MUST be educated, trained, surrounded and challenged by greater talent, skill, and knowledge. This ONLY happens in dedicated and committed schools or organizations who make that their priority. We simply do not have those here in the US. No harm or blame….we just don’t have them like Europe does.
    I am NOT a Euro snob at all….this is just the truth. I’d love to see more Euro teams invest & partner with MLS teams here to form youth academy’s in order to train and recruit young talent. This would permit a true “pipeline” for players to more easily obtain overseas training —-even if in short duration—opportunities.
    Get off the pipe man.

    • And again, GREAT job on the podcast !!. I am glad you have opinions; that’s why I tune in. Just busting balls Garret.

      • I LOVE Dempsey’s game, but there is NO way he will be play in the next WC. His just doesn’t have the speed and will likely slow even more. Especially with Klinsmann’s love for youth.
        I would actually say the the US Men’s setup really stagnated in since 2010. They have a much larger pool of players now—all with a simialr level of talent. But I don’t think they have developed many players with a significant difference in talent. They need a CHANGE to take a non-linnear (jump) step in player pool quality.

  10. The core of this year’s German team was formed, Lam, Mertesack, Klose, Podolski, etc, in 2006 under Klinsmann. The attacking philosophy and belief in youth was also established by Klinsmann.

    This year’s German team has talented players but none Ronaldo or Messi. They are in final again because the team was molded in a solid form.

    I like Klinsmann’s blue print for USMNT and hope it will take less than two WC to show off.

    • I don’t understand why some people are just convinced Klinsmann doesn’t have a clue what he is doing. Sure there are some choices I may question, but overall, the US has been successful and has grown under his brief leadership. I expect even better things this upcoming cycle.

      The only thing that might hinder that is if the USSF, fans, and certain media members put the screws to him so much that he feels he may not have the room to operate like he thinks he needs to in order to advance the program. I believe after “The Article” some of that occurred and stalled part of his plans. I guess we’ll see…

      • ArsenalFan host Robbie once said “all the football powers should worry if US let Klinsmann takes charge”. Jorgen used to play for Arsenal archrival Tottenham. His toughness and cunning was respected by even Arsenal fans.
        US soccer fans is being better informed after this WC and those Klinsmann haters can not get their lies straight.

    • I could also argue that before Klinsmann took over, Germany was in the final. Then Klinsmann only got his home side to the semis, four years later Lowe could only get them to the semis, and now that they are far enough removed from Klinsmann, they are back to the final. Also, Lowe was there in 2006, so maybe the credit should go there. What is true I don’t know, but I am just saying that just because 8 years after Klinsmann caoched Germany they are in the final, doesn’t mean we will be there in 8 years.

      • Your argument is legit. The same argument should hold for Donovan. Just because Donovan had three open shots without a goal against Germany in 2002 WC, he should automatically be selected in 2014 WC,

        Klinsmann is not fully responsible for today’s Germany, but he initiated the change in 2006. My argument is based on facts not by nostalgia.

        2002 German got into final by doing 1:0 on opponents. 2004, Germany was knocked out in the group stage.

        In the last 8 years, soccer embraced a lot of innovation and moving forward faster than ever. Spanish domination, decline of Brazilian, emergency of German, etc. Klinsmann seems to have the grasp of the direction of innovation.

  11. On LD’s commentary: silly to say “he doesn’t have to say it.” But as far as the divide goes, I think that he should absolutely have been included, and I think that his comments were absolutely sour grapes.Still correct, though.

  12. Harry Shipp is very good.

    Our WC team was not a young team–average age was essentially at the overall average age, squad-wise.

  13. This current golden age that Germany team is enjoying is the result of what, 12 years of steady step by step growth? Climbing the ladder takes time. Hope US fans still mystified why we are where we are in the world are paying attention. This is how it’s done. One of the top 3 domestic leagues in the world, a majority of started on deep running Champions league clubs. Key triangles playing on the club level together. Depth, depth, depth for days. You can say the same thing about Spain 2010, Italy in 2006

    This is what wins the world cup.

  14. Guys.

    While I accept there exists a logic to make the selections JK made–that is that there is a sequence of permissible logical moves that carry you from JKs premises to his conclusions.

    What seems like you keep on sneering at is the notion that some of JK’s premises were faulty. It isn’t just fansboys and idiots thinking that if you are going to bring someone who will not contribute after the WC, you bring someone that has the shown and proven ability to rise to the occasion when the tension is the highest.

    You don’t have to believe he’s 2010 or 2013 vintage to think someone who reads the game like LD would be better to bring than Davis, much though I love his single functional foot.

    • TJ,

      “you bring someone that has the shown and proven ability to rise to the occasion when the tension is the highest.”

      Spain brought a bunch of those guys.

      It’s the manager’s job to figure out if in the case of such players, past performance is a guarantee of future results. Del Bosque got it wrong with his guys. Did JK get it wrong with LD?

      Prior to the WC there was a lot of fear about the fullbacks, about, the center backs, about Jones, about roster passengers like Green, Brooks and Yedlin.

      We will never know how LD would have worked out but since JK got most of the questions about this team right I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the LD question.

      One thing last thing, JK has lived in LA since 1999. If all accounts are to be believed he immersed himself in the soccer culture of SoCal. In fact, he knew LD well enough to take him to Bayern Munich on loan in 2009. Think about that for a minute. It should tell you that JK has a great deal of respect for LD’s talent.

      Yet there seems to be this idea that JK doesn’t respect or understand Donovan. My guess is that on the contrary, he knows LD and what the deal is with LD better than most. He has watched LD grow up and has seen him at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

      So if five years down the road, JK doesn’t think LD can cut it anymore for the US then I’m willing to take his word for it simply because JK likes winning too much to let some imagined personal slight get in the way.

      • Hey, it’s not a bogus argument to say that JK has information the rest of us don’t–he’s the coach, he sees a lot, he’s been around–totally. But think of how much weight that information would have to carry to offset the evidence in favor of LD’s inclusion! That would have to be some serious deep dope.

      • TJ,

        “That would have to be some serious deep dope.”

        Why do you say that? JK said it was very hard for him to do but I doubt it was truly that much harder than cutting the other 6 players, several of whom had served him well.

        JK’s known LD a long time so in one way or another he has been working on this decision for quite a while since taking over. Unless JK sits down and goes through his exact thought process, and I doubt that ever happens, you will never know exactly what factors decided the issue.

        Maybe JK himself could not tell you exactly, maybe he just had a gut feeling and went with it. In any event, JK is big on moving on and is already working on 2018 so I’m sure LD is the furthest thing from his mind.

  15. Nothing I luv more than seeing Brazil get the snot kicked out of them and Germany certainly did that today. If Germany had really wanted to they could have scored double digits Even with the game out of hand, Brazil was still tryng to pull off the Brazilian Flop, looking for a PK but the ref didnt buy any of it

    Good job Germany, I can’t see anybody stopping you now

    BTW – the result would have been the same even if the two missing players were healthy and playing. Germany is simply that much better

  16. Sooo… I’m thinking that the Germany B team should have done better than the round of 16 after Germany A look so good.

  17. TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE would never let Germany drop 5 goals on us in the first half. Cause we have American spirit, while Brazil have tiny bananas. There, I said it.

    • haha but Landon… I’m not sure you can diss somebody else for having tiny bananas. Not with your grape seeds…


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