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USMNT focus shifts towards World Cup qualifying after CONCACAF Cup fallout


Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports


Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup is over, and the U.S. Men’s National Team must now turn focus towards an even more vital task.

With Saturday’s loss to Mexico, the U.S. was forced to settle for another defeat, one that keeps them out of the Confederations Cup. Now, with World Cup qualifying around the corner, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the rest of the USMNT is now tasked with reassessing while avoiding yet another disaster for U.S. Soccer.

“Well, a loss is always difficult to swallow, especially when there is a lot at stake,” Klinsmann said. “That means you have to work even harder than you did before to earn the results.

“We have to get our group together and rethink the next couple of months. We have to kind of sit together and discuss things. Who are you counting on? How do we want to build towards the next couple of games? There isn’t much time between because World Cup qualifying is World Cup qualifying for both teams, Mexico as well. Obviously there will be a lot of of conversations coming up the next couple of days. “

One of those conversations is where the U.S. stands on the hierarchy in the aftermath of Saturday’s loss.

Clearly, the U.S. is unable to claim the status as kings of CONCACAF any longer. Saturday’s loss paired with this summer’s Gold Cup struggles makes that fact plenty apparent.

Yet, the U.S. still counts itself among the most talented teams in the region. While teams like Jamaica and Costa Rica remain on the rise, the U.S. still feels that they remain a team to beat in North America.

Saturday’s loss to Mexico challenges that fact, sure, as the U.S. put forth yet another disappointing performance in a winner-take-all game. However, there is still a belief and confidence that the U.S. is as good as anyone, even the victorious Mexico.

“Listen, we have quality players. They have quality players,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “It was always going to be a tight game. It was always going to be a game that was a battle, intense. When you put all those together, it’s a game of fine margins.”

“I think our players can score even those goals like the third one on a God-given day,” added Klinsmann on Paul Aguilar’s decisive finish. “Clint Dempsey can do something like that, also Jozy. No, I don’t think there is a difference in any way.”

No matter the perceptions, the U.S. will kick off World Cup qualifying against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Nov. 13 before taking on Trinidad & Tobago four days later.

Starting with Tuesday’s friendly against Costa Rica, the USMNT is determined to put the frustrations of the CONCACAF Cup in the rearview mirror as more tests rapidly approaches.

“We have to. We can’t look back. You can’t change the past,” said Guzan. “You can’t dwell on results that haven’t gone your way. You have to find a way to move forward. It’s our job as players along as the staff along with everyone involved with this to keep pushing each other and keep fighting when we represent our country.”


  1. But we shouldn’t be losing to Jamaica and Panama twhen where only their better players are even in MLS.

    And we have been able to play Mexico with much more possession with mostly MLS players. And anyway Jurgen has nothing but open disdain for the MLS.

    We are not producing the worlds elite players but the MLS has gotten better and Jurgen is bringing this team down. Ego maniac with zero tactical coaching ability.

    Any self respecting soccer federation would fire him after these embarrassing results. But we have a soccer inferiority complex and think anyone from Europe knows better.

  2. Its a given, that while the level of talent in the US has improved dramatically in recent years, we are still considerably further behind the elite national team programs. Also, it s a given that the national team has a fairly limited role in developing players. If you accept both of those points, then it is incumbent upon the national team coach to set forth a system that matches the strengths of the player pool (that is expected to be available) and reduces the exposure of their weaknesses. The job then becomes about finding, assessing and matching talent to the needs; ensuring all levels of the program apply the same style and making the correct tactical decisions during a match.

    JK picked a system that we could never realistically play with the talent on hand or in the younger pools. That is ultimately the biggest problem. He must have come to that conclusion; otherwise why fall back on a style we saw Saturday night. Similar cases could be made on his cultivation and (mis)management of the pools and of course his tactical blunders were on full display in recent games (Gold Cup, Brazil, Mex).

    Yes, the players ultimately play the game. However, you must set them up for success with the right system – again one that maximizes their strength and minimizes their weaknesses.

  3. The real issue here is that MLS is not developing world class talent. So, the USMNT consists of mediocre young players, aging guys who don’t deserve to be there and foreigners whose fathers happen to be US servicemen.

    Jurgen isn’t the answer, but he’s not the problem either.

    MLS’s failure to develop talent is the issue.

  4. Reading Klinsmann’s comments makes me realize the guy is getting more and more delusional by the minute. He is losing competitive games THAT MATTER on home soil to teams in his region (his last 3 competitive games have all been losses: Jamaica, Panama, México) and he just says he has to work harder…how about set up the right tactics? He’s a coach, not a fitness coach. Someone tweeted that Mexico’s warm ups were about positioning and quick passing, the USMNT focused on sprinting and shooting/long passes. Fine if JK is the fitness coach, not the head coach (and even worse, the freaking technical director)!

    And his narrative of “well Aguilar just scored a wonder goal, our guys can do that too” is just a lazy excuse. Well they didn’t. Not against Mexico, not against Panama, not against Jamaica, and yeah, the U23s also didn’t do it against Honduras. Last “amazing goal” was probably Jermaine Jones in the WC. You can blame a player here or there but consistently blaming them…turn around and look in the mirror.

    This guy is a fraud and Sunil doesn’t have the stones to man up, take the financial hit, and get a real coach in here. Maybe we can finally start to improve in 2019 since JK’s not going anywhere until then.

  5. The way I see it is that we are still a development nation when it comes to men`s soccer, we are regressing with Jurgen, I was his fan and now his detractor, we need an american coach tostick to the basics, this is one of the worst US teams ever, no real hunger, no leaders, nothing, dissapointing.

  6. Unfortunatly the underlying problem is that the current generation of players are not good enough. The coach? I think we can do better, I really don’t like his petty jealousy of players like Landon. So go ahead, get rid of him too. I’m not sure how much better we will be for a while though, we just need a new generation of players who can compete with the best in the World, and we’re not even close to that now.

    • On defense I agree, it is a down period and they are going to have to work hard(er) to find 4 reliable people who can keep scores down and make us more competitive.

      On offense, I disagree that it’s an actual down period, there is a lot of exciting talent coming up, though it may be more offensive than defensive, eg, Jones or Beckerman types. So there is a mismatch between JK’s Big Game approach of countering and his Friendly Game callups of a talented bunch of attackers.

      And there is talent aplenty, Zardes, Wood, Yedlin, Mixx, AJ, Green, Zelalem, on and on. It’s not settled talent with a role yet.

      Get over the darned Landon thing. He’s retired. Old news. My bigger concern is his current goofy selections, his resort to certain headscratchers over and over, his allowing the core of the team to get old and stale and waste this whole competitive season basically. That suggests out of touch.

      • My view, too. We can score on anyone. We just don’t consistently stop opponents from scoring more.

        That’s been the main shift over two decades. We used to have good defenders. The old line on the U.S. used to be we had good keepers but beyond that… not much. A few Europeans eventually conceded we had some decent defenders, too – around the time that Lalas moved to defensively-minded Serie A, etc. Now, we produce midfielders and attackers who, while not comparable to the top internationals, are pretty skilled. But in terms of defender individual skills and unit tactics, we’re pretty far below where we’ve been.

      • I think you overestimate the talent among that group. How many of them play regularly on anything approaching a top club team? It depands what you are comparing them to, for example Jozy is a top MNT player but he wouldn’t start in most European second tier clubs. The bar is set way too low.

      • I think Mixx has been found wanting too many times. Zardes has shown he belongs, but whether he will be good enough to carry a team or even be a big contributor, remains to be seen. Yedlin shows promise but is still raw. Wood looks good, but is still in the second division. Green and Zelalem are mere speculation. AJ may prove to be good, but he’s been hurt so often, who knows? I certainly don’t see any sure Dempsey/Donovan combinations in the future. Morris is probably our best hope with Zardes a decent possibility. In top teams you have guys who are 20, 21 who are already playing regularly in top leagues.

    • Naw.
      JK, with Bertie Vogts whispering sweet nothings in his ear will get this team firing on all cylinders in .
      We will steamroll through CONCACAF qualifying.
      There is a lot of very promising young talent in the pipeline.
      Ultimately the Confed Cup is meaningless.
      My read on the lineup is that he was giving the veteran players their last hurrah, their last chance to continue the “dos a cero” tradition. Now he will start to build the 2018 team.

  7. The time for a coaching change is now. Let some fresh air into the process. Find someone who, for much less money, can cobble together a coherent approach and make roster selections accordingly.

  8. We have slipped so far under Klinsmann. Right now, we make our 1998 World Cup team look good. Klinsmann had some good early results working with the players that the program had already developed. But he has done nothing to help develop the next generation of players. He’s a joke who has allowed us to slip to the point where we are now maybe the fifth best nation in CONCACAF. Thanks for setting us back, Jurgen.

      • I would agree that it’s probably not a correct assessment but… how confident are you right now that we’re still in the top four?

    • Are you crack? Again, NATIONAL TEAM COACHES do not develop players, CLUB Coaches develop talent. How, in God’s name, can JK develop players if he only spends 30 days a year with them. All National Team coaches do is recognize talent and implement a system that works. They essentially put together the most compatible all star team they can find.

      US had greater depth, but greater depth in mediocrity not quality. I have been saying this for a couple years. I have been saying that there is a generation gap (Jozy’s generation — he usually played up – he’s 25 but played with the 28-30 group).

      • Exactly. To which I would add that one of the complaints about Klinsmann is that he plays players out of position. This is a problem with a lot of lesser national teams. For as long as i can remember we have had a problem finding a good LB, so the coach must convert a good player from another position. Yes MB shouldn’t be the playmaking midfielder, but we don’t have anyone who is really good in that role. Haven’t had since Reyna retired. Based on his recent play I’m not sure Hyndman is going to be all that great, either. It’s not like you can go and sign players you need to fill holes, so you often have to move players around.. Another aspect of this is when you have two or three good players at the same position and you’d like to get all of them on the field because they all have quality. So, you have to move them around.

  9. I do think that we currently are suffering from a lack of talented players, at least in comparison with the top international teams, and that is the biggest “problem” at the moment. Even compared to the US teams of the last 15 years or so, we are as weak as I can remember talent-wise. We had exactly two (field) players that starts for a team in one of the “big four” leagues in Europe playing against Mexico, and surprise surprise, one of them was our best player in that match. The other was coming off an injury and not 100% but we had no choice but to play him anyway.

    My biggest complaint with JK’s approach as manager is that he continues to force players into positions they aren’t as comfortable in. Maybe getting the players out of their comfort zones isn’t working. A national team manager should leave the tinkering to the club coaches, pick an approach, and plug in the players that fit the role.

    When is someone going to try something different with Jozy. He’s clearly our most talented striker, and just as clearly better with at least one other striker (not named Dempsey) to play off of. The current midfield is not working. Has JK ever tried Bradley at the #6, where most say he seems best suited? Hopefully we’ll go back to the drawing board a bit for what should be an easy WCQ group.

    • Altidore played with Jolhannsson for, I believe, half a season at Alkmaar. The problem with that is that Johannsson has been injured often the past year and a half. And when he’s been healthy Altidore is often injured. I think we need a speed guy with Altidore and Wood, Morris, and Zardes are all options.

  10. isn’t it sad/hilarious/ironic how JK trotted out a veteran, somewhat decrepit line up out there against Mexico after years of wild experimentation, that, with something on the line, reverted back to the same stalwarts the USMNT has been relying on for almost a decade, or longer?
    It’s almost as if the core of the team had been given the opportunities to play together in the Gold Cup, and friendlies going into the game and maintain some cohesion, it would have helped as opposed to a hodge podge of NASL and college and whatever else JK could find under a rock-which in the end was all for naught

    This was an errieliy similar starting line up the WC, yet it hadn’t played together at all this year. Other coaches have found plenty of players to trial and work into the team, with the core maintained throughout and parts around the core changed when merited…

    Dempsey and Beasley-played for USMNT since Arena
    Jozy, Bradley, Guzan, Jones, Beckerman-been with senior team since Bradley became head coach
    Fabian Johnson, Cameron and Besler and Zardes are the only players in the team that differ from those of their predecessors

    one could argue that both Beckerman and Cameron had been available to Bradley yet were overlooked for the most part, a nod to JK, but four plus years into his “revolutionary” term everything looks much the same as it always has
    basically as most sober fans know, JK is a placeholder and a charming con man who is wildly overpaid to make statements than fans want to hear and mistake for actual progress

    • “isn’t it sad/hilarious/ironic how JK trotted out a veteran, somewhat decrepit line up out there against Mexico after years of wild experimentation, that, with something on the line, reverted back to the same stalwarts the USMNT has been relying on for almost a decade, or longer?”

      So he gets slammed for experimenting with younger players over the past year (even though that led to Wood, Morris, Alvarado, Brooks, Yedlin) and he gets slammed for going with a veteran line-up. Klinsman has his flaws, but at least be consistent in your criticism.

      • What you are pointing out is a good example of something we see most of the time here. People start with a conclusion and then cherry pick facts or opinions to fit their conclusions rather than look at all the facts and form a conclusion based on the totality of information. This is all too common in politics these days and it seems to have suffused throughout society. Someone once approached the famous economist John Maynard Keynes and accused him of being inconsistent and changing his mind (a flip flopper in contemporary terms). Keynes replied, when I get new information I check it to see if it conforms to prior information I have had and if it doesn’t, I revise my conclusions as needed. What do you do? Here we see people revise the information to fit their conclusions instead of the other way around.

  11. Thanks god we are out of the meaningless Confed Cup.

    It is not important and distracts us from scheduling some real intense, meaningful friendlies with European powers. (the only true tests for 2018 progress).

    • We were in it 2009 and made 16 round world cup. We missed it in 2013 and made 16 round world cup. Mexico went 2013 and was playing awful. So what. Its meaning is exaggerated. It would be nice in, the world will continue to spin without.

      We have already tried the obsessive, have to get it approach. It led us to go with older players too long on the idea they were more experienced and had had success and would get us back. We obviously need to try different people. If we learn the lesson it has served its purpose.

    • I’m of the opinion that the Confederations Cup is neither vital nor useless. It’s nice to go, but doesn’t mean all that much for the next World Cup and the squad can go to Russia at another time to get a feel for the country. They could even schedule a friendly with Russia, as they did a couple of years ago. You are right about the necessity of scheduling European teams in friendlies. Because there are so many European qualifiers and European seeded teams, it is very likely that whatever group the US is in there will be 2 European teams in the same group. This has been the case in every single WC since 1990, except for 1990 when there were 3 European teams in the US group.

  12. I liked Yves’ article on Much of the conversation since the game has focused on the coach – but what if the reality is that Mexico is just performing near their potential and others teams, like Jamaica, are just that much tougher to beat? And Mexico will have to perform since they are in a group with El Salvador and Honduras. The US has a cakewalk group (again) that should give it the leeway to settle on that core group of players to lift it from its current rut. the sky isn’t falling – US fans just need to stop being so insular and take a look around at what’s happening across the region.

    • Except the problem is that the US does not seem to be playing to their potential. That is on coaching and you could see things going. If you go player by player and look at form and history of each player compared to the competition the US pool is clearly superior to teams like CR and Jamaica and at least on par with mexico.

      One of the most important aspects to playing defense is communication and understanding between the entire back line. Over the last year and half how many times has our first team CB’s (besler and Cameron) played together? How often has the US played someone completely out of position? (hint MB is a good player and should be on the field but not is not an attacking midfielder). Those issues are entirely coaching related.

      • Your statement that US players are comparable in quality to Mexican players is true, if you look at their achievements in their prime. However, many of our best players are now over 30. Many of Mexico’s best players are about 5-7 years younger than their counterparts on the US squad. As another poster has pointed out several times in the past, there is a sort of vacuum between the Donovan/Dempsey generation and the group of younger players who look promising coming up.

  13. Sunil should be fired for not firing this fool.
    The glitter and pompoms worked decently enough for one cycle but even very capable coaches are rarely given a second cycle because it never works; players tune out the coach and know if they are the coaches guy or not so they aren’t hungry to prove themselves.

  14. Assuming we qualify for next WC…and that’s not a sure thing: I wonder who the 23 would be if you tried to pick them right now. Who would be on that list that we’ve kind of never heard of. It’s tough given the internet coverage of our youth teams for someone to come out of the blue. I think i can oly say that amongst those on the roster the other night, who is not on the list:..and this is not a diss on any them


    • At least one concern I had is you could look at the ages on the roster and see this coming after Brazil. We handled the transition poorly.

    • In fact, one could argue that JK’s obsession with winning the tournament this summer led him to delay roster churn of old age players — to keep the experienced squad together — which actually results in the losses when we look old and broken down, and get beat by younger, peppier sides more in their prime. Ironic twist, that.

    • Predicting something like a WC Squad 3 years in advance is nearly impossible. There are always unknowns, players who get hot, and injuries that knock people out of contention. However I’ll take a shot at who I think our top 31 players will be by the time camp is called for the 2018 WC.
      Goal Keepers: 1) Guzan, 2) Howard, 3) Hamid, 4) Yarbrough
      Defense: 5) Yedlin, 6) Brooks, 7) Alvarado, 8) Fabian, 9) Chandler, 10) Besler,
      11) Cameron, 12) Shea, 13) Garza, 14) Maizga,
      Midfield: 15) Bradley, 16) Williams, 17) Nagbe, 18) Lleget, 19) Diskerud, 20) Moralas,
      21) Trapp, 22) Finlay, 23) Gyau
      Forwards: 24) Jozy, 25) Johannsson, 26) Zardes, 27) Morris, 28) Wood, 29) Kiesewetter 30) Rubin, 31) Siebatcheu

      Those who likely just miss the cut: Kitchen, Wooten, Bedoya, Gonzalez, Birnbaum, Payne, Agudelo

      • While I do like Bedoya….(actually wanted him on the squad in 2010)….and have him listed as just missing the cut, I truly believe that if the midfielders I listed above are healthy they will beat him out.

    • T&T are the only opponents that should give us trouble. US fans should still expect 2 wins, but I would imagine worst case scenario is the US still comes in 2nd in the group at 4-2-0.

    • There obviously needs to be some turnover, but Mexico has changed their team around early in the cycle, and we went a little too long with the older core, so that made the difference. We will have to make our adjustments on the fly.

      I think we have the talent, though we have some problem areas, the real question is identity. If we are going to be either an attacking or defending team. Depending how you answer that there are different players to call upon. One may or may not be stronger populated than the other. But the problem I see is there is a default set of older people we rely upon to play counter soccer in big games, and the bunch of attackers we have groomed to play a slicker style are not trained to play that crunch style or used when it’s deployed.

      So we need to either find a younger set of crunchers and stick with counter play, or we need to commit to offense and bring out the speedsters and finesse guys. At that point we can more fully tactically exploit the people on hand.

      You can do that with a new or old coach, playing offense or defense. But we need to decide what we are doing in the big picture. Then you find people to fit that style. If we are going to play crunch soccer you need just a few bench finesse or speed people whose forte is attack. What we really need then is people with a motor who play defense well. If we want to attack, OK, get all these technical guys back out, Nguyen, etc., and quit farting around with 3 DM lineups that squeeze them all off the field.

      • You presuppose that we have enough quality players to fill out a roster of all of one style. I’m not sure we have enough of the speed and finesse players .

    • Americans, especially on this site, have a tendency to over react and be impatient. I was watching Steve Croft’s interview with the President last night and he was questioning the President about his ISIS strategy. Obama said, “Well, I said it would take a long time.” Croft responded, “It’s been a year” as if a year is a long time. National team progress is best measured on the basis of World Cups, or a 4 year cycle.


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