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On USMNT: Klinsmann, USMNT reach breaking point against Costa Rica

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

Tuesday night was a new low for the U.S. Men’s National Team. It was embarrassing and demoralizing, but the worst part of the lopsided loss to Costa Rica was how easy it was to see it coming.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. The players were, for lack of a better word, awful. There was no heart, no desire, no pride, as Los Ticos poured in goal after goal in a 4-0 rout. Questions have to be asked of each and every player on that field and what exactly they expect from one another when they wear a national team jersey.

However, much of the blame will fall squarely on Jurgen Klinsmann, who has seemingly finally reached his breaking point as USMNT manager.

Regardless of how you feel about the man or his abilities, you cannot deny that, at some point, Klinsmann was the right man for the job. Throughout Klinsmann’s tenure, there have been a series of highs. There have been wins over Germany and the Netherlands. There was a memorable run through the 2014 World Cup that was, even for the most optimistic of fans, on par with expectations. There was a Copa America run against some of South America’s top teams, even if it ended in rough fashion at the hands of Argentina.

At one point, Klinsmann was the coach the USMNT needed. Not anymore.

Tuesday night’s match showed exactly that. The players quit on their coach, and it’s as simple as that. It’s tough to play in Costa Rica, we all know that, but it’s not 4-0 tough. It’s not so difficult that a solid Costa Rica side is made to look like Lionel Messi and Argentina. It’s not so difficult that a USMNT team can be excused from putting forth any sort of effort for both themselves or their coach.

For years, Klinsmann has deflected the accountability. He can’t anymore. The tactical disaster that was Friday’s match against Mexico? His fault. The ridiculous decision to keep jamming Michael Bradley and a less-than-fit Jermaine Jones together and outside of their comfort zones? His fault. The fact that players couldn’t even be bothered to hustle back and prevent goals three and four from flying past a helpless Brad Guzan? His fault.

It’s simply time, and a performance like Tuesday’s show that it can’t be denied anymore. When tactics, effort and results are all lacking, there’s only one thing to do: move on, and find someone else who can improve them.

Long-term the USMNT would face a process. MLS frontrunners like Oscar Pareja and Jesse Marsch have never taken charge on the international level. Big name foreign coaches would need to adjust to a USMNT pool with just four months between Tuesday’s beatdown and the return of Hexagonal play. Short-term, there are familiar options like Bruce Arena hanging around to lead the way, but there’s really no go-to answer on how to replace Klinsmann outright at this very moment.

Is that enough justification for him to stay? Is Klinsmann simply the best available right now? Would moving on do more harm than good to a team in the midst of an already disappointing Hexagonal? That’s for Sunil Gulati to decide, and I’m sure he’ll spend the next few weeks pondering those questions ad nauseum.

There’s an old saying that you can’t fire a whole roster, and it’s particularly true on the international level. The players are the players; they are who they are. When things go wrong, the players can only shoulder so much blame, especially when every single one of them is conveniently in better form for club than country at this very moment.

You can, however, fire a coach, and that’s a fact that U.S. Soccer is going to have to confront sooner rather than later.


      • Ok, so if you are looking to results against top teams like in that tweet, I have only this to say: you will want Bunker Bob back, or you want to play Bora ball. Its ridiculous to compare losing when trying to actually play soccer vs. parking the bus against top teams… sure we lost to top team and by more goals… that’s what happens when you aren’t as good and you open yourself up. Other than Colombia this summer (perhaps the happiest I have been as a US fan in terms of watching the US play actual soccer) name a time when the US came out against a top 5 opponent and tried to play. Name me once. Brazil confed cup final? I’ll put that up there, probably above Colombia. Name me one other time. Germany 02 we were bunker and counter… Italy 06 we were bunkered the whole game… in 10 we didn’t play any difficult teams… 98? 94? 90? If you think Its worth a shot to drop JK because someone else can do better with our talent… then lets name that guy and have a debate about him. But I think its tough. No one can fix effort. No one can fix the inability of a player to run. No one can fix a player’s brain farts, injuries, etc.

        Bielsa? maybe. Arena? maybe (he has gotten better with MLS, though I wonder sometimes) The dutchman? meh, probably not. He is just as German as JK. Rongen? nope. Bradley? Maybe in another 3-4 years. Conte? perhaps (but not available). Sigi Schmidt? don’t know enough about him. Ancelotti? Lippi? Mancini whenever he eventually gets fired from Man City? They could probably do it. Any of them want to? who else. that seems like the list to me. Who does better than JK? I don’t know. they all have baggage. They all have question marks.

      • Thank you soooooooo much AMPhibian for the uploads!!!!
        You see Turkmenbashy, I don’t know what games you were watching but the USMNT was never GREAT under the 6 years and expert tutelage of Jürgen Klinsmann (Born: July 30, 1964 (age 52), Göppingen, Germany)….lol

      • Summer 2013 US wins 12 matches in a row average score 3.25-.92 (5 clean sheets 6 games with 4 or more goals)

        Sept. 13, 2013 USA 2 Mexico 0

        June 16, 2014 USA 2 Ghana 1

        June 22, 2014 USA 2 Portugal 2 (two years later that team is European champs and we had them beat until the last seconds)

        June 5 -10 2015 USA beat Netherlands and Germany (I know they are friendlies, but both come from behind wins on the road in Europe something no other American manager was able to do)

        Summer 2016 Three wins over Top 25 opponents in a three week span also beat Paraguay and go toe to toe with Colombia in the 3rd place match

        Time to move on, but to act like nothing good has happened the last five years is ludicrous.

      • Guys, even if it is time to move on (I’m not convinced) who from that list (and I left out Hiddink) would you hire?

      • Thanks Johnny… Just want to add that summer 2016, we took it to Ecuador(was first place in Cnmebol, now third and still above Argentina), Paraguay (just beat Argentina in October), and Costa Rica (who just thumped us). Colombia we didn’t bunker and counter… and in that first game there was a mysterious hand-ball against Yedlin early, but we went toe-to-toe… no bunker. We lost twice… so obviously not at that level… but a damn sight better than I have seen from any other coach. World cup… Ghana and Portugal were excellent performances… and even the loss to Germany, it sounds awful, looks awful… but then you realize that that German team did the same to France (FRANCE that just made the Euro finals) and then beat BRAZIL with 7 goals… not too shabby the way we played. I think we HAVE looked great at times. We have also looked like this at times. Name a country that hasn’t? Italy looked like shit during the last world cup. Spain is looking like shit. Argentina is worried about qualification…

        Bizzy, who do you want as coach (I gave a list) and why do you think they will do better? And I don’t want to hear bullshit like he has lost the locker-room unless you have evidence beyond a crappy performance to justify that statement.

    • Amphib there is a nice rebuttal to this guys tweet on starsandstripesfc. It takes a more truthful or maybe realistic look at things.

      • Thanks for the Rec. Don’t mistake my posting these to mean that I take them as my bible or anything, It was meant in reply to the post directly above mine that I failed to put in a reply. Lubeck compared wanting to move on from JK as dumb as the 49ers moving on from Harbaugh. I was just wanting to show that JK has far from the relatively flawless record that Jimmy Harbaugh did. I don’t think JK is the worst US coach ever, but he didn’t take us to the next level like the example coach above, besides maybe in our player pool, and we actually got worse in a few important aspects of the game.

        I know good things happened, and wasn’t trying to pretend otherwise, although to act like we played beautiful soccer against all these big teams seems very rose colored to me, with the odd exception like the Colombia game.

  1. Player for player, position for position, US lost to CR because they were outplayed by superior players. What does that have to do with Klinsmann? Everything? Nothing? Or somewhere in between? One thing we do know here in San Francisco, fire your coach for some immense stupidity (aka Jim Harbaugh)? Fine! But as John Madden says you’d better have some clear, concise idea on which person that you’re going to hire is going to make it better.

    • they lost because they were outplayed. They totally sucked. but CR doesn’t have better players. Our 4-0 drubbing of them in Copa shows that.

  2. BI-EL-SA!

    Look what he did developing Chile a decade ago. They were dead last in COMEBOL before he took over in the mid-oughts. Countless top-flight managers count him as their mentor.

    He’s good at identifying and cultivating young talent. He’s also an accomplished tactician–something which Klinsmann clearly ain’t. And though I don’t believe he speaks English, that could be easily handled with translators/ technology.

    • I’m not sure he wants to manage anymore he walked out on Marsielle after one game in 2015 and quit Lazio after two days. He’s also being sued by Lazio so he might be looking for more money from his next gig than we can afford.

      Bielsa’s 3-3-3-1


      • True, he may not want to manage anymore; then again, if you look at his coaching history, dude does relish a challenge. And at this point, the US would be a mighty challenge for him.

        That 3-3-3-1 (or 3-3-4 as it’s also known) is something he’s been credited with for better or worse, but the man has worked with all formations, and unlike Klinsmann, has proven himself adaptable in shifting tactically.

        Damn sure don’t agree with your mock-up. Think we’ve seen enough of the Bradley/ Jones tandem for several lifetimes. It’s time to move on. At the very least, Jones needs to go, maybe Bradley as well.

      • Yeah, I was just throwing out guys on the current roster. I’m not sure how people on SBI would respond when they found out the forwards weren’t practicing with the midfielders and the defenders weren’t practicing with the goalkeepers, etc…. We must have cohesion don’t you know.

  3. Have you all not seen how Klinsmann has fallen out of favor really fast in the last coaching jobs at Germany and Bayern both? Common sense from those two blunders should have opened up Sunnils eyes. Also, Low was the only reason they made it to the semis in the 2006 World Cup.I also have been calling for Sunnil Gulati to be replaced. We will not grow or get any better with him as a president. Does anyone have a soccer resume for Sunnil? Just because he is smart enough to teach classes at an Ivy League, does not mean he is smart enough to get the USA backs from against the wall.

    • He was Deputy Commissioner of MLS when it started, served as President of Kraft Soccer Properties when it owned New England and San Jose. Vice-President of USSF for six years. Alan Rothenberg called him “the single most important person in the development of US soccer.”

  4. The experimental formation for a tough HOME game in the Hex was silly. You try that stuff in a throwaway game.

    There is a downward line of crap results in meaningful contests going back to Gold Cup. We had a relatively soft semi round group and still had some glitches. Go back to Gold Cup, Haiti close win, tie Panama, loss Jamaica. Confed playoff, loss Mexico. Two losses to start Hex. If you throw out Copa America, not pretty. Even if you count Copa America, loss Colombia, loss Argentina, both obliterated. It’s not all gloom and doom but not a pretty picture.

    There is a personnel problem right up the spine of the team, which is a quick way to lose games. If Guzan plays instead of Howard, I am unimpressed. CB in front of that, Omar was a joke, Brooks had a nightmare second game. CDM, they basically got too old and JK wasted his chance to audition replacements. Bradley was poor both games, Jones not dominant, not enough broken up plays, not the intensity level and tackles I expect at this round of quali. F, Jozy can’t hold the ball, is not the target man he looks like and doesn’t produce enough as the game quality increases. Disappeared this time last cycle. Disappeared last world cup injured. And there is no Dempsey and JK wants Wood more wide. So right up the spine it’s kind of trash.

    Compare that to the wings, FJ, Pulisic, Chandler, Wood, etc.

    • JK has not elevated the team quality as sold, but more importantly at this juncture in quali seems to have lost the plot on even cynically getting results. To me part of where you get the struggle up the spine was the pro-continuity decision to play to win last summer. So our tested alternatives are, F, Dempsey, health, CDM, god knows what, CB, god knows what, GK, god knows what. In the middle of a Hex when change is plainly needed.

    • Lost to Panama*. We lost to them on PKs after tying them. Also, if Kitchen had not have played so bad against New Zealand, he could have been a potential replacement and partnered with Danny Williams or Alfredo Morales.

  5. Someone on Twitter pointed out that Klinsmann has always been better suited to and looked more toward the big picture of the National Team program. In fact, if I recall, that was part of the reasoning for hiring him – better integrate and develop the players through the system.

    And it shows. Here we are in the last stage of World Cup qualifying, and this team is all over the map. One game they look decent, and the next they look like they’ve never met each other let alone played together. They are so wildly inconsistent from game to game and even from half to half.

    And boy, does Klinsmann like to tinker with players and lineups. Is that part of the team’s problem, that they don’t know what they’ll be playing from one game to the next? Perhaps. All coaches tinker, but as you approaching meaningful games, it’s time to solidify your course of action. The time to tinker is in camp and friendlies, not the freaking first hex game against Mexico!

    I’ve waffled on this, and I’ve generally been in the “give him a chance” camp. But he’s had his one chance, two chances, four chances. The advantage in making a change now is that there’s three months until the next qualifiers, which gives a new coach time to get things on their way to being sorted.

    Klinsmann must go.

  6. When SBI says it time it really is. If SUnil won’t pull his plug then maybe Sunil’s plug needs to be pulled too. In fact thats a good idea. Drain the swamp.

    So JK pulls Pulisic … the only player that looked like anything. That made me change the channel

    Fire JK NOW

  7. There is an American game, which is active, physical, relentless, team-oriented. JK has never settled on a solid team, style or formation, because he believes victory is achieved through his personal intervention, endlessly tinkering with players and formation. The result is on full display: A USMNT of disheartened, uninspired collection of quitters. His fault entirely.

  8. Oh boy! Friendly wins after using six subs matter! To the insecure Euro worshippers it does.
    Worst statistical performance in the WC. Even the 90 team filled with college kids did more. He made Bora ball look like Barca! Copa America? At home with a clean run to the semis. The only two real good teams we played toyed with us. We got outplayed by Paraguay, who had more clear chances, and Ecuador missed two sitters in the last 5 minutes or that would have been different.
    He was never right…..he was always poor. The longer the unqualified stay in charge the more exposed they become. He was living off the Bradley backbone. His destruction of our youth program, Olympic team has been epic. What a bunch of naive suckers. He still isn’t the problem anymore. It’s the overmatched, unqualified Gulati.

  9. “you cannot deny that, at some point, Klinsmann was the right man for the job.” Uh? Many, rightly, have always denied that and continue to deny that.

    • +1000! Really? I’ll deny it now like I denied it when he was hired. For years before he was hired, many USMNT fans were clamoring for JK to come in and save the program. Where are those fans now?

    • seriously. JUST WATCH ME DENY IT, RYAN. (i mean, as long as we’re talking about manager, not technical director. i don’t think klinsmann would ever agree to it, but i’d like for him to stay on as td as we move to another manager.)

    • Too be fair many will still think he did fine.

      I think overall what did the US really accomplish? Win the Hex with Mexico as a disaster last round? Few other things, nothing that will really stand out though. Like leading Confed Cup final, or getting to blown-handball game against Germany ( I am getting every ounce out of the accomplishments ).

      For me the right man for the job will be someone that gets something done that I will talk about in 20 years. Doesn’t seem to be him, unless you count on path to fail to qualify……

  10. “There have been wins over Germany and the Netherlands.”
    Can we please stop bringing this up? They were effing friendlies, against teams that didn’t care half as much as we did.

  11. I think it’s gotta be Arena for right now. I like Pareja and Marsch and would be comfortable with either in the 2018-2022 cycle but…not now. Not in the middle of a qualifying run already gone bad and just two years before Russia. Now we’ve gotta get points, we’ve gotta resurrect the team, and we’ve gotta not gamble, and the only truly proven product we really have is Arena.

    We know Arena can match foreign managers tactically because he’s done it.

    We know Arena can lead veteran players – including a lot of guys on the roster – because he’s done it.

    We know Arena can develop and integrate young players – including at least a couple players on the current USMNT – because he’s done it.

    We know Arena can put a cohesive, slick-passing team on the field because he’s done it.

    Arena has always been America’s most-accomplished domestic manager and he’s in a very good transition point with LA Galaxy. I always figured at some point Arena was going to lead the USMNT again and this definitely seems like the time.

    • I have always liked Bruce but don’t jive with his comments regarding foreign players. How do you reconcile a statement like that with our current roster?

      • He said that in 2013, actually. Here in late 2016, the guys that he would have to choose from are pretty much Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Julian Green, John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, or Aron Johanssen (who was born in the USA) and a handful of other fringe guys like Danny Williams or Alfredo Morales or Jerome Keisewetter…I just don’t see him cutting any of the core guys except maybe Chandler because Chandler has been a no-kidding disaster for the USMNT and repaid Klinsmann’s trust in him – and very vocal critique of Deandre Yedlin – by loafing and having a direct impact on Costa Rica’s first two goals. This deep in the cycle, though, I don’t think anybody doubts the heart or dedication or “Americanism” of most of those guys. Jermaine Jones is practically a national hero these days and probably the most-popular player on the team with the American public – and he should be. Would Arena cut him? I very strongly doubt it.

        I could also see Bruce bringing in guys like Benny Feilhaber and Robbie Rogers in from the cold and I think that could help us, a lot.

        It’s just hard to see Bruce hitting the Eject button and jettisoning our dual-nationals in some knee-jerk nationalistic reflex. Coaches are pragmatists first; they’ll always use the talent they have available. He’d probably lean towards bringing in a lot of MLS’ers in the future over obscure dual-nationals who may or may not be “true” Americans in the eyes of the more nationalistic but at this point that’s a question for down the road. We need to to survive the current cycle we’re in and Arena offers us the best chance to do that.

    • Absolutely not.

      If we’re going to take a step backwards, you might as well give the reins to a “prospect” manager you feel that can grow into the position at the international level.

      Based on the past 24 months, I’d say the game is passing Arena by…and that’s even managing in MLS. Arena’s decision-making, transfer signings and general roster moves indicate he’s losing it in his old age.

      Bob Bradley may be available in a month or so. I’d much rather see that recycled than a man older than the act of recycling.

      • “Bob Bradley may be available in a month or so.”

        holy sh!t how did i not think of that. BUNKERBALL 2: ELECTRIC BOBBALOO

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