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Steve Birnbaum to miss USMNT-Panama friendly with minor knee injury


photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports



One of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s talented up-and-comers will have to wait for a chance to build on his promising debut.

Steve Birnbaum delivered a solid outing in his first international appearance in the Americans’ 3-2 defeat to Chile on Jan. 28, but will not have the opportunity to play again in Sunday’s match against Panama because of an injury. Jurgen Klinsmann informed reporters Saturday that Birnbaum was ruled out for the friendly at StubHub Center with a minor knee problem, but neither the German-born head coach nor U.S. Soccer disclosed any details beyond that.

“He’s been sharp from the first day on and understands the opportunity that came across, and it’s a bummer (an injury) obviously keeps him out of this one game,” said Klinsmann. “But most importantly is that he’s going to be healthy in the next couple days and continue preseason with D.C. United, so definitely a very positive experience for Steve. Yes, it changes a little bit our approach, how we’re gonna play the back line.”

Birnbaum, 24, was one of three Americans to see time in their first U.S. match last week. The D.C. United defender started the friendly in Chile on the right side of a new-look, three-man defense, and earned mostly positive reviews for holding his own defensively.

His absence could mean that one of Matt Hedges or Perry Kitchen earns a start vs. Panama, though Klinsmann could opt to go with a four-man back line and deploy Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler in the middle.

How disappointing is it for Birnbaum to have to sit out the Panama game? Who should start in his place? Think Klinsmann sticks with a three-man defense now?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Bac, respect your opinion. I really enjoy this forum because we are all passionate about this game. I’m watching the female play France. Why can’t the men play as fluid and maintain possession like the women. Is it because the ladies have a system in place that they’ve effective in for years? The men have good players who are being played out of position and within a disjointed system. As I said I don’t hate the man but he is not what we think he was suppose to be, an effective and good Coach. Not taking LD to Brazil was personal. It tells me that JK’S ego is bigger than the Team. Any reasonable and professional Coach would place the Team above his ego. I don’t think we can attribute the development of the Youth Teams to JK. Under his tutor ledge, I’ve seen a regression in the quality of players under him. As Ghorgio said, God bless his Soul, JK is not the right man for the job. What has he done to deserve such control over US Soccer? What’s his track record? I’m sure the players he had under him at Bayern sounded the alarm but Sunil was not listening. To hell with US Soccer Culture. An effective coach could put a system in place that will work if he knows what he is doing. I wonder what this Team would look like with the Mexican Coach in charge. He and other Central American Coaches respect MLS. Only problem JK doesn’t. He keeps making excuses over and over again. I give him a C-. Initially he looked good in his position but has been a failure since prior to Brazil. Yes we got out of the group of death but we were lucky and that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes. Soccer will progress inspite of him. We definitely need a new Regime.

    • The US Women’s soccer team is dominant because:

      1. They have far less competition than the men do

      2. They have a constant, consistent supply of top players

      3. Their basic core of players spends a lot more time training and playing together than the men do.

      4. They won the initial World Cup in 1991 and again in 1999 and so for most of their time have had the mental edge of being a top contender, the same way Brazil or Germany do in the men’s game.

      The situation for the men’s team is not as good as that of the women’s team in all these areas.

  2. Kosh, could it be that JK does not have what it takes to be an effective Coach? Lets remove emotions from this argument. Have you seen any progress with our Team since he took over? A lot of people say don’t be alarmed the game against Chile was a friendly. A lot of people were estatic when we beat Italy, Germany and Mexico in previous friendly games. Are you satisfied with the style, progress and results under his tenure? JK is a motivator, not a tactician. He lacks people skill which is so important to be an effective Coach. It appears he is either a poor communicator or poor Coach. A couple of months ago it appeared the Mexican and Canadian Teams were imploding. They switched Coaches and are playing beautiful and cohesive soccer. I know the Canadians lack the quality players Mexico and the US have. However they play with a sense of purpose and move as a unit. That is some thing we are lacking today. Not ever good player becomes a good Coach. What type of basketball Coach MJ would be? How was Maradona as a Coach? JK had Low to run the German Team. JK was just a figure head. He flamed out at Bayern and will do the same in the US if he is not surrounded by individuals who know what they are doing. I dont hate JK, I just think he is overwhelmed. Maybe he needs to step away from that position or hired a ‘Low’ to complement whatever skill set he possess.

    • Robbo,
      I’d love to tackle this issue but there’s not enough room to go into detail without writing a novel- So I’ll give some bullet points:
      In broad terms, I think every criticism of JK stems from 1 of 3 basic categories:
      1. The relationship with, & eventual decision to cut LD, our best player ever.
      2. The fact that he’s an outsider: The limited number of relevant voices in American Soccer is made up of a fraternity of once relevant players who are not in his circle of influence and seem offended by his opinions, way of doing things, etc. There’s a lot of jealousy..
      -But someone once told me, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got”
      3. The uncomfortable fact that we just don’t have a lot of good players. As I said yesterday, I’ve viewed our player pool as “wider” but not “deeper”

      I think every major issue falls into 1 of those 3 basic categories.

      Because of this-every time there’s an issue, a bomb goes off in panic mode, people find a reason to go into “revisionist history” mode..and view JK as either an angel or devil. Those who don’t like him find outlandish reasons to link him to every problem ever since the dawn of civilization. His supporters are bashed as JK apologists. Since he cut Landon, there’s been zero middle ground.

      To answer your question of progress- Yes I’ve seen progress, but not consistently enough. But as I said, people are consumed by revisionist history, and quickly forget things like the best year we ever had, winning our qualifying group going away, and giving a rebirth to players like DMB, Beckerman, EJ…
      He frustrates me at times with line-up decisions, and I think he struggles with effectively leading players who aren’t on his level.
      Overall- He’s still and always will be ” the guy who cut Donovan”. I personally thought it was a mistake and wanted him in Brazil, but don’t assign blame to JK for this totally. Based on the previous 8 months, LD entered camp down the depth chart-and the rarely quoted NYT article that had an anonymous source said once LD stated publicly he can’t train for 12 days straight-JK was livid, shocked- and his fate was sealed that day. I find it curious that nobody else left out all the way back to Boca, have never really said anything bad about him, but LD has been very vocal. Right or wrong- history will eventually judge his performance.
      But overall I’m still glad we have him, and I’d grade him about a B.

    • What are you going on about here, Robbo? Let’s not downplay the counter arguments as being emotionally tainted so as to cheapen the debate, shall we? You made an argument and it was challenged – no emotions here, well not on my side.

      Posts like yours are not unique, at least not here they’re not. We see a post like yours every time JK is mentioned on here. The thing is, Robbo, those who know this game much, much better than you and I – those who live it – have seen our improvement and have lauded the US’ performance in the last WC. But somehow, in some strange way, folks like you are exceptionally good at nit-picking incidents to sneak in your baseless accusation of JK not being a good coach, or qualified to lead us, or lacking credibility (which was the original attack).

    • Robbo,

      Rather than answer you point by point here is what I will say.

      People dumped on Arena for playing favorites and staying with his boys too long. More likely he had little choice. Arena was fortunate in 2002 to have a great group of players but by 2006 they had slowed down enough so that the lack of depth caught up with him.
      Bradley had the beginnings of a solid “core” when he took over.

      Howard and Keller, Dolo, Gooch, Boca, Spector, DMB, Edu, and most important, Deuce and LD near the top of their game. And eventually Mikey showed up though you all crucified BB for playing him so much.

      Bradley, the permanent “interim” guy’, didn’t have anywhere like the support from the USSF that JK has but then again he wasn’t trying to change their style either. His 4-4-2, twin holding midfielders play solid defense and look for Deuce and LD to score on the counter was what he held to the entire time. And you all savaged him for his boring lack of imagination and his incompetence with lineups and substitutions.

      JK teams give up late leads, BB teams conceded early leads.

      BB, a very smart manager, did not try to do too much. He took that core and capped a record number of players looking for replacements and eventually found “his” team in the 2009 Confederations Cup.

      That team could have been something much more in the 2010 World Cup but suffered significant injuries to Demerit, Gooch and Davies. Injuries also severely impacted Arena’s 2006 WC effort.

      The US has always had and still has a fairly lean talent pool so injuries, particularly to key players have always been a very big deal to the USMNT. In 2006 it was JOB and Reyna, in 2010 it was Demerit, Gooch and Davies, and in 2014 it was Jozy Fabian and AJ.

      Want to solve our injury problem? Easy, get more top class players into the pool.

      JK’s 60 games. 33 wins, 11 draws, 16 losses, wp 55%
      BB’s 80 games 43 wins, 11 draws, 25 losses, wip 53.75%
      Arena 130 games 75 wins 27 ties, 28 losses wp57.69

      The point of these records? That there is no significant difference between them.

      Unlike you I rate Arena, BB and JK as all very good managers.

      At the end the day all three of them are hamstrung by the same limiting factor. All this noise about tactics, fitness, favoritism, criticism of MLS is just so much BS. The big deal is the US does not have a lot of top class players. Never did and still do not.

  3. The irrational stretching to link JK to all things wrong with the team is flat out ridiculous. Sometimes I wonder of the Wahls, Lalases and many others who play this game do so because they simply dislike the guy or because they know this gives them some kind of recognition, net presence and relevance…or both.

    JK criticizes his team for coming into camp unfit – the evidence was clearly there as they showed in the Chile game, they were unfit. Now Jones, an older vet struggled with a new experimental formation (understandable) but had the gas to go the mile in that game. It was clear that many of the younger guys were running out of gas fast after the hour mark. JK is not saying that American players are not fit or using them to hide behind the result (anyone who looks at him objectively knows that’s not his play) he, the head coach, was ticked that many of his professional players came into camp further behind in fitness. He has every right to be disappointed and ticked by them not meeting that basic expectation. But to hear Lalas and his ilk do their thing you’d think that JK is a hack who has never had any idea of what he’s talking about.

    It’s that same lack of fitness that results in these types of injuries – plain and simple really. But if you go looking for something, anything to prove your point or agenda well then you start asking questions that have nothing to do with the answer or evidence. But nope, Wahl goes and finds some guy who has no idea what’s happening in JK’s house to again substantiate his clearly biased agenda… or as he and most call it now – news.

    JK is no saint and I can certainly disagree with some of his decisions but this basely mob action that often seeks to question his credentials and credibility by the Lalases and Wahls is lazy analytics at best and deceptive at worse – I’d wager these folks do the magical and combine both of these “qualities”.

    • I disagree. Having watched Birnbaum all season, the kid is going to be a bigtime player! He could possibly even be starting on the backline somewhere at the next world cup.

  4. It’s crazy how the fitness and injuries in the USMNT camp are so common. If you are a professional athlete your number one priority is nutrition, Fitness and muscle development, round the clock, 365 days a year….hence the term professional. Most, if not all, the players on the USMNT can afford a personal trainer and nutritionist (and I’m not talking about their respective team/club staff), people whose sole purpose is to keep their bodies working and functioning at their optimal best. A driver is only as good as the car he drives, a sniper/hunter is only as good as the gun/bow he uses……an athlete is only as good as the condition of his body, his level of fitness.
    Top athletes train with a fixed schedule, knowing what they have to do every week (be it Olympics, boxing, MMA, Soccer), on a strict nutritional diet, with only one thing in mind…….to be the best at what they do. Yet we have players that come to camp out of shape, get hurt during training…….for lack conditioning and lack of fitness. Why is it most of the greats almost hardly have these issues? Preparation. You can’t build a house on a weak foundation. If you try to push a level 6 player to a level 9 in a short period of time… get injuries. Blame should be shared between coach and player, but it is the players responsibility to at least come to work at their best

    • Bizzy,
      You make a great point that for some reason gets overlooked when it comes to soccer.
      Example: Michael Jordan used to get butchered early in his career when the NBA was still like the WWF- so he adapted and began hitting the weights after games and in the off-season so he could take the punishment.
      Example: Jerry Rice used to run up hills with a chute on his back to stay in shape in the off-season.
      Those guys almost never missed time due to injury.
      Even Beckham, with his lifestyle, family globetrotting, everything he was into, kept himself in phenomenal shape.
      Why? The smart ones realize they have a very short window
      Good post

      • THIS!

        It’s called being a PROfessional! Many of these dudes have not gut that yet. My boy Ben Troupe got to the NFL (Tennessee Titans/Raiders) and learned this quick. Aaron McKinney got him schooled fast about eating right and working out daily. Troop was a genetic freak and was getting by and THEN took it to the next level!

        Too bad the concussions and foot injuries got him in the end.

        Time in the spotlight is short. 🙁

  5. This is just ridiculous:
    – Great reporting by Grant Wahl- who hates JK since he cut LD
    – Comments from the former trainer who admits he’s not privy to what goes on in our current group, yet then makes the statement that a star US player whose in great shape is not considered to be in great shape compared to his European peers. Then talks about a training regiment meant to be impossible to complete, and calls it sociology (maybe he meant psychology??)
    – Reading these comments makes you think we were the ONLY team to have injuries in Brazil… which isn’t hot or humid…..
    -To address the poster who named names…hmmmm
    -Holden- knee blown apart and prob came back too fast- JKs fault
    -Omar- Was injured before WC camp started- JKs fault
    Aron J- Was injured before WC camp started- JKs fault
    Joe Gyau- Stepped on the ball making a run down the line- JKs fault
    Evans- Withdrew prior to Jan camp with an injury- JKs fault
    Any others you geniuses wanna blame on him?
    Obviously we know what happened with Birnbaum because it was reported exactly what happened right? Duhhh, it must be JKs fault
    How about Mikeys nerve issue & surgery during the MLS season before the WC
    How about Danny Williams, injured in league play & kept playing-before the WC
    How about Boyds knee? Torn during league play
    How about Garzas knee? Injured during a game w xolos
    Greens shoulder injury when he slipped and fell on it- I think JK purposely put him in shorter cleats to challenge him….
    All JKs fault obviously
    Anyone else?????

    Let me just ask ONE simple question and see if anyone can answer it:
    Who actually looked even close to being in shape vs Chili? Honestly?
    Jozy did, in midseason from Sunderland
    Jermaine did, who spent his entire career in Europe, and is the oldest player out there with more miles on his legs than anyone
    So what SPECIFICALLY was incorrect about what Klinsmann said??

    It would just be so much more efficient for you guys to just say the following when commenting on JK- “I hate JK because he cut Landon”… it would be so much more efficient

    • Since you raised the specter on LD, which isn’t by beef, our chances of further advancement in Brazil were diminished greatly with Altidore and LD not being available. Coaching, um, I say yes. I am not an apologist, just want results and accountability.

      • And as I asked the same questions in another thread last week addressing this specific issue….
        Who actually looked like they were even somewhat close to being in shape?
        What specifically was incorrect about what JK said?

    • Excellent reporting by SI (and I am not referring to the Swimsuit(less) issue)…. Point being we’ve lost what little competitive advantage we’ve had; irrespective of his 2013/mid 2014 results. Deeper, broader talent pool appears less prepared – physically, tactically, spiritually. Period, end of story.

    • Precisely
      Barrieu said. “The one thing I can talk about is what went on during my years on the team with two different regimes, Bruce and Bob. Fitness has been a hallmark of the team. People were always saying, ‘You guys are hard to play because you’re very fit.’ So now when Jurgen said this, I’m scratching my head. It’s surprising.”

  6. Hey, long googley eye, if the watching the world cup wasn’t enough , read this article. Everything came together when I saw this. The best part? JKs most recent gripe with his players is fitness, but guess who’s at fault?

  7. Hum? Peculiar? I guess Birbaum is now a scratch, and further hinders heir Klinsi’s experimental 3:5:2 or 2:1:5:2 forays?? Too many injuries under JK’s watch. Jozy, Fabian, Besler, Johanssen, Omar, Holden, Evans, Joe Giau (SP),..missing others for sure…. Somebody with a higher pay grade ought to do a full compilation of injurys, lost time and complete root cause analysis! Anyone at US SOCCER…Buehler, Buehler?

  8. My concern is, are the players receiving the right training regiment. Injuries happen but the frequency of soft tissue injuries is concerning.

  9. What’s going on with all these injuries? Is it the training or lack of training? The players are either breaking down or fading during the latter part of each game. This has been going on for quite sometime.

    • Ahhh, the loaded question in which the inquirer tries to mask a suggestion while feigning ignorance or a genuine inquest. OK, I’ll play – it’s a slow morning so what the heck, right? The answer to your question is preseason lack of fitness.


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