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SBI Question of the Day: How do you rate the Klinsmann era?

Jurgen Klinsmann Sunil Gulati USMNT 84

The Jurgen Klinsmann era came to an end after more than five years as U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati relieved the German of his duties as head coach and technical director of the U.S. Men’s National Team on Monday.

Klinsmann was hired in July 2011 as Bob Bradley’s successor and coached in 98 games, the second-most in USMNT history behind Bruce Arena. There were some highs like the 2013 Gold Cup triumph and a semifinal appearance in the Copa America Centenario this past summer. Guiding the U.S. through the group of death at the 2014 World Cup and into the round of 16 was also a solid achievement.

However, there were quite a few low points. The fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup was the USMNT’s worst result at the tournament since 2000. Guatemala became the lowest-ranked team to defeat the U.S. earlier this year in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, plus the U.S. had never lost its first two matches of the Hexagonal phase until this cycle.

Klinsmann also brought in several dual nationals like John Brooks. He gave Bobby Wood a chance to shine and Jordan Morris burst onto the scene after the German tactician capped him in 2014.

With all of this in mind, how would you rate the Klinsmann era? Have your say in Monday’s SBI Question of the Day and explain your choice in the comments below.

[polldaddy poll=9586590]


  1. JK was the ideal TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, just not a great MANAGER .. .. His seeming reliance on MICHAEL BRADLEY and not having a true #10, kept USMNT right where they are now .. ..

    As a TECHINICAL DIRECTOR, he was unmatched and gave the USA access to an amazing amount of talent .. .. His persistence on farming-out young talent to EUROPE will pay huge dividends in the future ~ CHRISTIAN P. is just the first strike in that mine .. .. Too bad we wasn’t allowed to stay on in that role .. .. too bad .. ..

      • why? seriously, please explain why he has earned even that consideration? To me his biggest issue after tactical and leadership, the top two, was he did not understand the American soccer culture and player and looked down on it and us, and for what? Ives had a good article on about the state JK has left things in

  2. How about rating the Gulati Era? Interest is at an all-time high but USSF is tied to major issues in the men’s, women’s and youth sides.

    Re: Klinnsmann, it was up and down. The lows probably equalled the highs but it was interesting and expanded the horizons of US Soccer. Clint Dempsey really carried the team.

  3. I don’t think Bob Bradley should have been fired… he maximized the available talent…. I don’t think Jurgen did that…. huge mistake to leave LD off the 2014 roster…. I mean who honestly believes Brad Davis or Zusi starting on the wing was a better option than LD.

    It was absurd.

    • Nostalgia kicking in there. Bradley had our best players of the last decade in their prime. The cupboard is incredibly barren right now, and development of players isn’t the responsibility of the national team manager.

      I have no idea why people continue, every now and again, to recreate reality by asserting Donovan’s omission wasn’t warranted or justified while conveniently ignoring all of the factors that went into making that decision (Donovan nearly being entirely responsible for it, too).

      • klinsmann had better players than bradley, for longer than bradley had (in jones’s case).

        and people keep bringing up donovan’s omission because it was controversial, where both sides had reasonable arguments. just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they’re “recreating reality”, although i guess that makes your argument easier.

        one could just as easily say you’re ignoring reality with your statement that donovan was “nearly entirely responsible for [the omission]”, as it’s demonstrably false: it was entirely klinsmann’s decision, and he made the call.

    • because it wasn’t warranted. Klinsmann invited LD back, LD studded out at the Gold Cup and in the dos a cero win over Mexico in Columbus by scoring a goal and assisting on the other. All after being invited back by Klinsmann. The only revisionist history is from those who refuse to sack up and own that BS decision by Klinsmann and instead keep looking to justify it

  4. playing a counterattacking style, when it’s the best option, is not regression…where does that idea come from? Regression is losing our first two games in the Hex. Regression is the Gold Cup performance. Regression is playing 3 in the back and chunking up the dos a cero dominance at Columbus. Regression is the team’s Costa Rica performance. True, verifiable, observable regression. Regression is a lot of things, but playing tactically intelligent soccer, like playing a counterattacking style when it’s appropriate, is not.

  5. In all the years he had, he never settled on his preferred starting 11 or the formation he wanted to play. I know we want a different style of play, but you need to have a backup as well. How we play is dictated by the players we have. If something isn’t working, there should be something to revert to, to get the needed points.

    • IMO his “best” XI was always too old and he knew it but couldn’t find anyone else to step up and he has said as much. Someone needs to step up or WC 2018 is going to be geriatric.

  6. I voted average, but it was actually below average. The things that are usually automatic for us, reaching Gold Cup Final all the time & World Cup qualifying, they have been bad at, under him. Yeah, we have had a few big wins, in friendlies, but nothing where it counts.

    He did do a good job bringing in some of the dual citizenship players though. Anybody else would have been fired before now. But like somebody said, the national team coach doesn’t come under fire by the media here, because soccer isn’t a top sport in this country, like other places.

    If it’s Bruce to replace him, who’s going to coach my LA Galaxy?

    • That era of “gimme” qualifying is over. CONCACAF is better. CR and Mex are ranked higher than the US. Jamaica and T&T are better. Honduras is better. JK played against the best CONCACF that we have probably ever seen and easily qualified in 2014.

  7. Voted good. Lots i dont like lately sticking with veterans clearly losing form such as MB and JJ. However, i remember the empty bucket years of BB and route one tactics of Arena. Klinsmann was the first US manager who made a point of working out of the back on the ground and then thru the midfield. We worked and put emphasis on controlling and maintaining possession rather than playing a park the bus and counter attack style. It didnt always work but we at least tried. I hope we dont regress to the previous bunker and counter style but i fear we will.

    • I don’t think that is Arena’s preference. People seem to fail to recognize or don’t want to admit that our tactics have been dictated by our player pool and the relative lack of skill of US players compared to most other countries. We are now starting to produce the players who can play out from the back and at times we show excellent passing (second half vs. Mexico is a good recent example), bujt we are still not anywhere close to Mexico or other good international teams in that regard. It doesn’t matter who the coach is, there is still that limitation. We are also limited by the fact that JJ and Bradley can’t seem to hack it anymore in the midfield and we don’t have any good replacements.

      • I hear ya Gary. Respect your posts a lot here but i do fear an Alan Gordon type call up for March qualifiers and a heavier reliance on set pieces to score goals. I hope my fears are unfounded.

        Converting to a possession oriented team was always going to have growing pains especially when you get bossed in the midfield the way JJ and MB have.

        During those Arena and BB years i hated watching us surrender possession for long stretches of the match and relying on outstanding goalkeeping to keep us in the match. Concacaf has caught up and giving up that much possession will kill us.

        I hear what your saying about playing the style that best fits what type of players you have available but managers have their tendencies and habits. Tony Pulis and Big Sam are not going to play a ticky taka one touch possession 4-3-3. Arse Wenger and Pep would never play with more than one DM or CBs who cant play out of the back.

      • do you think playing a 3 man back line vs. Mexico with Gonzo as the CB was a tactic dictated by personnel? come on Gary. expecting Gonzo to man mark in those matchups vs. Mexico with no help from a partner at CB was not dictated by personnel…if that were the case, no way Gonzo would have been asked to play that role! I’d say it’s the opposite…tactics have been forced onto players ill equipped to execute them far too often, like against Mexico a couple of weeks ago

      • Here again is the million dollar question that is baffling all of soccer/football from the board room to the living room….

        Everyone agrees that Barcelona has made the game of possession, fluid and movement oriented soccer the “gold standard” – players switching in and out of position. Pep then took this to Bayern with the same results and tactics.

        Now everyone clamors for this style without acknowledging that Bayern and Barcelona are all-star teams and replicating this at the national team level has been hard even for the best of them.

        Klinsmann comes in and says I want to do this – fluid possession oriented attacking soccer. But as we have pointed out the player pool in the US especially isn’t going to work for that in the foreseeable future. The average USMNT player is technically speaking not very good and you see it time and time again for years the midfield gets pressed and the passes go errant, touches are bad, spacing is bad, no one shows for the ball, movement is poor…blah blah….

        So Klinsmann can’t really win. Klinsmann can say – you can play beautiful soccer and lose (which we would and did except against the weakest of foes…we don’t have the talent to pass through a bunkered CONCACAF team) or we can play route 1 bunker ball, rely on speed and strength and try to eek out results. He loses beautifully (like Wenger) and people say you aren’t progressing – we want to win. He plays bunker Bob ball and that is not progression either.

        What is the common theme? The PLAYERS.

        I put his overall as good. His win % alone would say probably above average (him and Arena has essentially the same win %). But how he has handled things in public has been very poor. Technically/recruiting/development/structurally probably very good.

        We have to admit, like it was pointed last night the USMNT has only 1 player getting reliable minutes in the EPL and that is Gooch at Sunderland. We have no “veterans” I mean our core group (Jozy, Bradley, Jones, Clint, Bedoya etc…) playing in technically good leagues, regardless of where they are – Europe or otherwise. But thanks, a bit, to Klinsmann, we have a wave of young talent trying to break through they just aren’t there yet.

        My 2 cents…

    • .Agree with this. Hated the Bradley era and I actually supported JK although with rapidly lessening enthusiasm until the 3-5-2 at the beginning of the Mexico game which was the final straw for me. Widened but not necessarily deepened player pool. Too much tinkering. A little more ego than I would have liked to see. I actually do like a lot of the Germaricans although not overly fond of Chandler. Good identifier and recruiter of talent. I appreciated the World Cup which I think was a great deal tougher group than 2010 and we almost stole a victory from Belgium (although we were outplayed). I voted “good” but I think parting company with a thank you is reasonable at this point.

  8. I waffled between average and bad and ended up at the latter. His long-term, big-picture plan is no more solidified now than it was when he started. His strategies have ranged from normal to completely baffling (such as his incessant need to move players out of their best positions in search of that magic bullet), and the results are not there to support them (had the results been there, “baffling” would become “genius”.) The 2015 Gold Cup was not a strong showing, and the team has struggled in places it never has before. To be honest, I think the performance at Copa America this year was a stunning aberration and not at all of the level this team is actually on.

    • Earlier this year one of the regulars here, and I apologize for not remembering who since it was a very good point, noted how we had a good core of players like Donovan, Dempsey, Beasley, Howard, Boca, Gooch, Cherundolo etc. when Klinsmann took over. But we had little behind them except for Jozy, who is now in the prime of his career. We have some very promising players coming in the 18-22 age group, but there is this big hole in the player pool. So, where you should have a team with a fair amount of guys in their mid to late 20’s ideally, we have some old guys and promising new guys for the most part. This causes problems when putting together a roster and a lineup and preparing for an event in 2 or 3 years. Add in player availability problems due to injuries and it becomes a difficult puzzle to fit together.

  9. The countless times I wanted to throw my remote through my monitor when the USMNT lineup was announced are now a regularity of the past. Under JK we’ve added some exciting prospects, but they seem to have for the most part been poorly used. My eyes are wide open to seeing what Bruce does with our primary player pool. Must offer this however. We must come with a different option in the pipes than Brad Guzan! A guy that went from his 20’s to his 40’s in seemingly a blink of the eye. If TH is not fit, Bruce needs desperately to give a couple of our hot shot up and comers a legitimate shot! As a LAGal’s fan, I’ve appreciated Bruce over his long haul there..

    • Please elaborate on “poorly used.” I thought he was well on his way to getting wood, brooks, and pulisic in their best spots. Yedlin too, who in the wc wasn’t ready for defense.

  10. I voted average. I see how many might vote “bad”. But those of you voting “Good” I don’t see how you can? Even looking at it from just a US Soccer only perspective, there was nothing there that you could say “he was clearly an improvement over Bradley and Arena”. The only good thing you can give him credit for is that he used his German celebrity to recruit German dual-nationals successfully. But even that had been done plenty before (Bradley got Jones, etc).

    He was clearly the most annoying manager I can remember from my time following the national team.

      • Well we are talking about a poll that only has 174 total votes as of now. So yes “many” is relative and subjective.

        But what I meant is I can understand why people would vote either average or bad. But voting Good or Great is ridiculous. Voting terrible is also ridiculous. Atleast in my opinion.

      • I’ve never heard 15% (at the time of our comments) being referred to as “many”, but to each their own.

      • I don’t think that is necessarily true because you could say that winning Gold Cup is almost expected, so doing what is expected does not balance finishing 4th out to average. Also, if Klinsmann were leaving the team in a decent spot, I would say his tenure was average — because there were a handful of positive moments. But leaving in crisis mode (after struggling with three out of four World Cup qualifying rounds) is not average.

    • Finally beat Ghana in a World Cup, and did so on a goal scored because JK made a timely sub of a player he recruited. Got out of the Group without needing a last second US goal or third game result from another team. Was total sitter away from advancing to the quarter-finals (sorry to bring this up) against a tough Belgium side who we held scoreless past 90 minutes. These World Cup results matter more than anything else. There have been some good away friendly results, which don’t really matter except that we’ve never achieved them before under different managers. Also beat two South American sides in a meaningful tournament. I’d give credit to Klinsmann for advancing Yedlin to Europe, for finding Jordan Morris, for finding Green (who made Bayern’s first team, which is not something US fans are used to seeing), and for recognizing Pulisic’s potential right away. The negatives are plainly there, especially more recently, and JK like all US managers is limited by his player pool, which remains frustratingly weak compared to top teams. So “Good” is fair.

      • Bruce Arena himself said that the only important things are 1. qualifying for the World Cup and 2. how well you do there. In 2013 the US had its highest total ever in qualifying and then we did better than the vast majority of experts expected int he World Cup.There are a lot of other points I could bring up, but they have been brought up before and it never changes people’s minds which are already made up. And that’s pretty much everyone.

      • “Was total sitter away from advancing to the quarter-finals (sorry to bring this up) against a tough Belgium side who we held scoreless past 90 minutes. These World Cup results matter more than anything else.”

        Adam M. we were a “total sitter away” from a major embarrassment. The score-line wasn’t gut wrenching only because one man stood up against Belgium, not Klinsmann’s coaching expertise. Tim Howard made record number of Saves in that World Cup. As a matter of fact, he finished with 16 saves, the most in a World Cup game since FIFA started keeping track in 2002. Think about it, if your goalkeeper made HISTORY with16 saves IN ONE GAME, where was the back-line or midfield???

        I strongly believe if Tim Howard didn’t hurt himself (I’m sorry to say) Klinsmann would still have his Job, because even with the midfield clueless and back-line in disarray, the score line would not have been that bad and Us soccer would have been able to stomached the loss as usual. If Klinsmann had Brad Guzan in goal for that game against Belgium it would have been the worst defeat / biggest blowout in world cup history as no team has been beaten more than 10-1…. lol, Klinsmann would have been long gone

    • In terms of results in official competitions, semis on Copa Centinario and won a very difficult group in Brazil. I also saw some progress in terms of the possession game. There were also negative results and negative trends in play, such as leaking goals, lackluster play (in the past, unthinkable for USMNT). Still, overall, I confidently voted “good” even though the firing may be the right thing to do if he lost the ear of the players.

    • Bruin, let’s not forget he was also Technical Director. I have worked for US Soccer for a long time and still do in some capacity. The role of Technical Director is as important as the head coach of the full team. We cannot judge our progress just on results from the full team. We need to consider how many players we produce (like Christian P) who play with top clubs as a big part of our progress. From that measuring stick, JK failed miserably. It was not his job to develop those players but as Technical Director it was his job to put a plan into place and give us vision on how to do this. I know what goes on inside the decision making process for player development in US Soccer and JK was an empty suit.

    • I voted good. Here’s why:
      Note: He didn’t do all of this, but it occurred during his time, and partly due to his influence, in my opinion.
      1) Now the USMNT is expected to play out of the back. The last two games, everyone has ripped Omar for just lumping it forward. We now have a pool of defenders that know that playing out of trouble is the minimum, with the goal to be aggressive offensive. Bocanegra, Oneywu, Berhalter, etc not so much.
      2) There is a belief now that we can go into Europe, Mexico City, etc and get a result. I know they were only friendlies. But even those had not occurred prior to this era. Again, I am not completely giving JK credit for this, but it has occurred on his watch.
      3) There is new talent coming through the pipeline. There is an idea throughout the program, not implemented well yet, but an idea, that the US wants to go forward. No more bunker ball. I know Belgium, Germany, etc.. But in the idea is there. Under Bob and Bruce the team was very pragmatic. Whatever it takes to win. The down side is we have also lost some of our grittiness. We don’t have the “whatever it takes to win” mentality anymore. So its good and bad.

      • agreed. it might seem odd, as i never thought he should’ve been manager in the first place, but i also voted “Good”, since we’re rating the “Klinsmann era”, not klinsmann himself. for these reasons:

        – contrary to what some klinsmann apologists would have you believe, our player pool is the best it’s ever been (love when people posture frankie heyduk as some golden age hero of u.s. soccer).

        – we have more class “technical” players than ever before (as opposed to kick-and-run). our possible styles of play are evolving.

        – the general public is paying more attention to the national team, and soccer in general.

        but i also think that those things, by and large, were going to happen anyway. in the future, if we’re going to break the bank (at least for the ussf) on a manager, it should be one who might actually turn bronze into silver, if not sh!t into gold.

    • Most major media in the US pretty much ignore US soccer. It’s changing, but the US team can have an important game and ESPN is just as likely be focusing on some developments in the NFL even in the off season. I tried to find something this afternoon on ESPN about this and there was Steven Smith blathering about something in the NFL. Same with most major newspapers. Only the dedicated fan sites really give the sport much attention. It’s changing, but there’s a long way to go before it’s given even as much attention as hockey.


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