Top Stories

On USMNT: Following end of Klinsmann era, focus turns towards USMNT players

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

For the past year or so, Jurgen Klinsmann has been the U.S. Men’s National Team’s focal point. Call it cult of personality or whatever you like, but the USMNT narrative has long been driven by what Klinsmann was or wasn’t doing.

Now, with Klinsmann gone, the topic shifts. Klinsmann will no longer be a talking point, as the debate and discussion that has long surrounded him is finally finished. Rather, the focus now turns squarely towards a group of players that might look mighty different when January hits. New or familiar, young or old, the members of the new-look USMNT have a lot to prove.

Klinsmann’s departure will reportedly pave the way for the return of Bruce Arena, a coach more than familiar with both the task at hand and a majority of the players that will be around to help complete it. Arena has seen a majority of these players up close throughout his MLS tenure and will need little to no adjustment period when it comes to organizing a national team.

What Arena does bring is a blank slate, both good and bad. Klinsmann’s dismissal provides the chance for several to step up and claim bigger roles with the national team. For others, it’s a wake-up call, as it removes the security blanket that came with Klinsmann’s time in charge.

Speaking to the former, one can expect that several players could join the USMNT pool. MLS stars like Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Keegan Rosenberry and Sebastian Lletget could be among the players to earn looks in the coming months. Meanwhile, players like Benny Feilhaber and Dax McCarty may return to the fold after seeing their club contributions ignored as they fell out of the player pool. There are no guarantees, especially given the Hexagonal hole, but one would expect the player pool to receive a shocking shakeup in the next few months no matter who the coach is.

With every addition, though, there has to be a subtraction. Klinsmann favorites like Jermaine Jones, Michael Orozco and Chris Wondolowski will need to raise their level, or risk losing their spot in the USMNT pecking order. Any new coach brings real change, and each and every member of the USMNT has to be put on notice.

The players were largely held blameless for the most recent Hexagonal debacles, but that will certainly change in the coming year or so. No one will blame Arena if the U.S. lays yet another egg in the next round of World Cup qualifying. Arena’s credentials are without question, his status in the U.S. soccer hierarchy all but assured.

The blame will fall squarely to a group of players that are suddenly under a very big microscope now that the biggest fish has been fried. Any failures now fall on the player pool, one that is almost certainly significantly farther ahead than when Arena last managed the USMNT. The talent is unquestionably there as the U.S. battles through the Hex. The excuses that have been made during Klinsmann’s tenure? Those left with him.

The move provides a welcome change. The USMNT can finally move out from under the cloud of doubt that came with one of the more tumultuous periods in recent memory. The confusion, discussion and uncertainty is now gone, as the U.S. is officially set to go in a new direction.

That direction will now be dictated by a group of players, whoever they may be, as the U.S. pushes on through what is now a difficult trudge towards Russia 2018.



  1. I dont think anybody knows wht Arena will do. Im sure he’s watched all the games on TV and sees what everybody else but Klinsmann saw. For sure he has to have a Jan camp and for sure, anybody that wants to make the next roster needs to be there

  2. Arena might have different ideas but this is my best 23 as I see it at the moment. It’s not much different than Klinsmann’s group but a change to a new manager can make all the difference.

    GKs: Howard, Guzan, Horvath;
    Fullbacks: Johnson, Yedlin, Chandler, Acosta/Villafana/Lichaj/Rodgers;
    CBs: Brooks, Cameron, Besler, Birnbaum;
    CMs: Bradley ©, Williams, Kljestan, Nagbe;
    Wings: Pulisic, Donovan, Lletget, Zardes;
    Forwards: Altidore, Wood, Morris, Green

    My biggest snub is Jermaine Jones, but I do think he is currently one of the better center mids in the pool, which is quite sad as a mid-30 year old. But he won’t be in Russia so it’s important to explore other options.

    Just on the outside: Carter-Vickers, Hedges, Gonzales, Ream, Kitchen, Feilhaber, Agudelo, Dempsey (not sure what his status is), Gooch, Arriola, Zusi, Bedoya.

  3. Yes the players haven’t been performing well, but I side with those telling the story that JK was big on fitness and motivation, but not so big on tactics and technical instruction as those are the criticism that followed him from Die Mannschaft and Bayern. So, if this team has been lacking in clear roles, consistency, and player preparation, then I think it’s fair to give all players a pass until they’ve had a camp to show what they can do under different conditions. If they underwhelm after that I’ll be with those sharpening their knives for the like of MB and JA.

    Personally, I’m very bullish on seeing how the following 23 would perform in the next camp/match. (4-4-2 with players in their stated preferred positions)

    Pulisic——-Kljestan———F. Johnson

    bench: Morris, Green, Nagbe, Bedoya, Williams, Yedlin, Acosta, Besler, Carter-Vickers, Rosenberry, Bingham, Steffan

    immediate questions:

    1. are there currently exiled/fringe players than can now push their way back into the conversation? (e.g. Yedlin, Nagbe, Feilhaber, Acosta, Nguyen, Zimmerman, Hedges, Villafana, Rosenberry)

    2. will there be JK project players that will be “sacrificed” despite their potential
    (e.g. Green immediately comes to mind)

    3. Will Arena have Galaxy players that he will bring in to establish his “way” that might push out other players (e.g. Lleget, Robbie Rogers, even Landon Donovan)

    4. Will Arena be overly pragmatic in qualifying (which might favor role players like Bedoya and Zusi) or might he actually try to score some style points as well? I actually think the potential is there for this player pool to play very exciting soocer…

    5. Will the real number 1 please stand up? I am still behind the idea of Guzan as the heir apparent, but needs a trade to a club where he will get match minutes.

    • You also forgot Zardes and Arena likes him. Right now Arena has one job and one job only–qualify for the World Cup. Nothing else matters.

      • wasn’t that JK’s job too…and the Olympics? Failure across the board with JK. Did you read Ives’ article on about JK leaving the team worse off than when he got it? good read

  4. yup no excuses now. The midfield has been atrocious, and I blame Michael ‘Mr. Turnover’ Bradley for that. His level of play at the international level is at odds with his club play. I personally liked the fact that Klinsmann was pushing Bradley out of his comfort zone, urging him forward, but I guess that was too much for him (and others), and is why they decided to give up against Costa Rica. Pathetic if you ask me, especially when you’re representing your country. USMNT should not cater to players who ‘give up’, even when the coach is questionable. But now Klinsi is gone, so be it. You like playing deeper, Bradley? Fine, you’ll get your chance with Arena I’m sure. But in my book your character, and the teams, still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Always a USA fan here, but this entire debacle rubs me the wrong way.

    • does anybody have bradley’s recent passing stats for the national team? i missed the first half of the mexico debacle–which i’m told is when he was at his worst–but i thought he was maybe our best player in the second half, and i certainly didn’t think he was one of our worst in costa rica.

      i’m wondering if his passing numbers are as bad as people think they are.

  5. Here’s my two cents.

    Gulati is really bad and really should go. BUT… this article is spot-on. Manchester United want to keep blaming their mediocrity on Ed Woodward. Real Madrid keep blaming poor results and bloated signings on Florentino Perez. Chelsea did the same thing with Roman Abromovic until Conte started winning games. Liverpool and Swansea are two other clubs that hate their American owners. I could go on and on. As far as national teams, well England, Scotland, France, and Argentina top that list at the moment.

    Is there any club or federation anywhere that has an ideal situation? There is always blame to go around. It would be great to hire someone better than Gulati, but, at the end of the day, the players on the pitch have to make it happen. And they should.

  6. Not sure why the author thinks Jones has to raise his level but Michael Bradley doesn’t. If anything, Jones has been the more reliable contributor when healthy.

  7. On USMNT: Following end of Klinsmann era, focus turns towards USMNT players Gulati.

    It’s a safe assumption most of us the players aren’t what they should be and haven’t developed as they needed to. That’s an indictment on our system, and there’s one man left standing who’s been in charge of the vision of the entire program (or lack thereof) and hiring/firing.

    I’m still wondering when the “Technical Director” void is going to be discussed by media or the federation. I’ve yet to see anything.

    • That’s because Greg berhaulters brother is in charge, and they want us to play like a nation that has won zero world cups, but always looks pretty doing so.

      • and what is your analysis of JK putting Gonzo in a 3 man backline vs. Mexico? classis classic JK setting his players up to fail. he was the master at that. Just look at how he has misused MB for years! Many more examples. JK also the master of using tactics in friendlies we could NEVER use in a game, wasting friendlies instead of developing tactical cohesion and teamwork. These are coaching 101 things that he sucked at. Will Arena get players into better spots, into better belief in themselves and each other? I don’t know, I effing hope so because the dumpster fire he inherited is ablaze and of JK’s making. That Costa Rica debacle was as bad a US performance in a quali I’ve seen, and the loss in Columbus squarely on the shoulders of Klinnsman and his tactical blundering. He should have been fired a year ago

Leave a Comment