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Klinsmann: U.S. set back several years without World Cup qualification


Former U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke about the state of the national team program in a wide ranging interview with Kicker magazine.

The former U.S. and Germany boss thinks that missing the World Cup will have long lasting effects for the Americans as they try to rebuild off a failure that’s slowed the program’s growth.

“It’s been set back by several years,” Klinsmann said. “That was a huge disappointment. The qualification really was never in doubt, but then the team had a blackout againstTrinidad and Tobago. They only needed a point, were too sure of that and underestimated that final match.”

He still thinks soccer is on the rise, though. He even went so far as to praise MLS and its stability over the last two decades.

“Sure, there are a lot of things to catch up on: the youth academies, in the universities, in linking the pieces,” Klinsmann said. “But MLS is stable after 20 years. It has role-model character. It has a backbone, mostly thanks to¬† Phil Anschutz. He kept things together when they could have fallen apart.

“By now, MLS has caught up in the infrastructure. What happened in U.S. soccer in the past 20 years, it is a bit like a fairy tale. It still needs patience, but the league’s getting stronger with every year.”


  1. i like the comments of kenc and quozzel. yes, maybe this was a blessing in disguise, speeding up the youth movement in our national team? certainly, it’s exciting, isn’t it?

    • Actually he should have been fired, so throw some blame at Gulati also.
      Even so, 11 points in 8 games in Concacrap- nuff said..

      An earlier poster said JK was too afraid to lose his job to put Jermaine Jones out to pasture…
      Without Jones that crew had NO urgency or intensity, & very little never-say-die attitude the last 8 games. Even if he didn’t see the field because he wasn’t 100%, Arena should have had him in camp. That guy’s warrior mentality was sorely missed.
      No one ever points out that the MB criticism went from lukewarm to nuclear once Jones wasn’t around

  2. He did it well,after all,but when he was a coach,did not have several a good players,like
    now,there was a surpass of players,he did not hve,Mack Kensie and othrrs,good like
    Miazga,Pullisic was the only one,the others were to rockies

      • while i don’t agree that the program was set back entirely by Klinsmann, he however set the stage for what was an epic collapse, only to be outdone by Arena, so it is trivial that he would say that qualification was never in doubt until the T&T game. That comment just further confirms how aloof and out of touch JK was/is

    • The failure of the USMNT was 50/50 between JK and Arena. JK failed to transition the player pool after the 2014 WC, instead he held onto too many aging stars (Jones, Howard, Zusi, Bedoya, etc….). He should have pulled in more youth starting with the 2016 Copa America. That tournament would have been a perfect opportunity to integrate Williams/Morales to replace Jones,

      Bruce made the same mistake. He relied on his Veterans (Gonzalez, Zusi, Bedoya, Howard, etc…). He had a prime opportunity to bring in youth during the 2017 Gold Cup….instead he called up a bunch of MLS lifers (Dax, Morrow, Hedges, etc….). Players who were never going to contribute to the USMNT. He should have been calling up players and using like McKennie, John Gonzalez, Miazga, Gooch, Green, etc…. If he had used the youth in the GC, they could have been ready to contribute during the Hex.

      • If Arena had played Cameron instead of Omar Gonzalez, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. That own goal was the difference. Many of us said before that game that he should NOT play OG, who usually has one big lapse in every big game.

      • From Arena’s comments and from news reports at the time Klinsmann was coaching for his job at the Copa America. If he plays guys like Williams and Morales he’s out in 2016 and Arena is in sooner and it changes nothing. Williams had been an important contributor but Reading was awful that season and I believe that was the year he had been in an altercation with his own teammate and he had completely laid an egg in his last nat performance.
        Morales had had injury problems throughout the season and had only played about half the matches for a team that finished 11th but only 4 pts from relegation. You mentioned Bedoya who had just completed a great season in Ligue 1. You are using revisionist history.

        Klinsmann was a contributor, but he’s right in this point you needed 1 pt in Trinidad, that’
        s firmly on Arena. It wasn’t the player pool it was lack of preparation and lack of any urgency shown by Arena and his staff. Players were clearly told “we’ve got this in the bag Mexico and CR aren’t going to lose so just go out there and have a testimonial don’t get hurt the field is terrible have some fun”, even down 2 goals Arena didn’t make any tactical changes until well in the 2nd half and none of those changes addressed the problems that led to the goals. The players weren’t even told they were in danger until Torres scored and it was too late.

        I will defend Arena with these points about the GC, Miazga was called into the GC but he used it as his preseason camp to get into game shape, just wasn’t used much and the others you mentioned were in their teams’ camps attempting to earn a place. McKennie had played 13 minutes of pro soccer before the 2017 GC which is 13 more minutes of pro soccer than Jonathan Gonzalez had played. People had some thought that McKennie might get some minutes this season, but no one was predicting that JGone was going to have the season he had or would even be seeing minutes, he hadn’t even made the U20 WC roster.

    • @Gary, i’d also argue that if Cameron and Brooks didn’t play horribly versus Costa Rica both home and away, we’d have qualified as well! Omar made one mistake, and yes that is all it takes sometimes, but it never comes down to ONE game, and at the end of the day several of our veterans didn’t step up when required in must have matches!

  3. Seems like the obvious answer; then again, qualification would have delayed the inevitable rebuild afterward. And what were the US going to do in Russia? Get to the round of 16? Possibly. How does that improve the team beyond where it’s already been? Sure, it gives some youngsters like CP, and probably WM and others, some experience and that’s always good, but it delays making the hard decisions and removing the old.

    We really won’t know if this failure in qualification actually setback the US a few years, or kickstarted the next stage of development, until the next 4 to 8 years have passed.

    • Yeah. I don’t think we’re going to be guilty of complacency anytime soon.

      The last couple of US squads we’ve put on the field have been young, extremely athletic, and extremely technical. In both cases – Portugal and Paraguay – I saw an opponent that was very much taken aback by just how athletic, quick, and technical the US team they were facing really was and while both were draws I saw the USA largely dominate play against both.

      Made me wince more than a bit, because no way THAT USA team, with just a couple more pieces and a little time together, wouldn’t have just qualified it would have made some serious noise in Russia. But how long would an “acceptable” result in qualifying or in the World Cup itself have delayed the appearance of this newer, far hungrier generation?

      • “None?” “The math tells us?” How about x% have to make it to fill a roster and XI. How about some like McKennie have already played too well to even pretend like they could suck. I grant that in any cycle x% of kids are flushed or go back to being on a pool sheet, and that some of the people everyone wants to talk about will turn out duds. Adu. Gabe A. Green. To some extent Zelalem or Hyndman. But for every chunk of them there is a Pulisic. So I can’t buy some sad sack scenario where no one turns out. The math is not that bad. I even think based on the number of quality kids this might be an uptick in the graph. We’re kind of due, and they look a lot better than the people the past few years.

        If we got four years ahead by 2014 then how did we end up out in 2018. The reality is it’s a rolling development cycle and what has caught us is that early decade bunch of U23 and U20 flops. The team that couldn’t beat ES at home to qualify. This is no longer those kids.

    • I think this is his “high prestige league makes you better” malarkey talking. Other than a few games this summer, what is the difference? What made this team poor was a down ebb in incoming talent, and gaps in the back and central mid. The coming generation looks more fruitful than Nagbe and Acosta and the rest of the last-cycle-crop. The new talent like Pulisic and McKennie is coming. So we will immediately be qualification worthy just for getting better talent, and the question in terms of how good will depend on if we can fill the holes like keeper, some backs, and a new generation of center mids. Development bearing fruit. Nothing to do with whether we made Russia or not. The one thing they miss there is a chance to learn how to win games on the biggest stage, now instead of in 4 years. But I think we are getting in enough young players a la 2002 where they will have plenty of time to learn.

      I feel like the bigger drag on the team right now is the lack of a full time coach for the future who can be assessing talent and implementing a way of playing. We’re going to repeat this whole cycle of trying out players again when the new coach is hired, and he’s going to begin putting in the system half a year later than he could have. THAT is an actual setback costing us some time. The rest, you know, we’d be turning to the same new young players whether we qualified or not. Is McKennie “set back” by not being in Russia, or more likely motivated that his bunch is not going to be in the same recliners 4 years from now.

      • First of all, who’s to say any of the youngsters will still be around four years from now. We are talking only about a handful of them and the math tells us none will ever make any considerable impact with national team. It’s just the way it is. Second of all: Not playing this tournament is never good. NEVER. Those teams that did qualify will be four years further ahead when the next WC rolls around. Experience counts for a lot and we’re not talking Messi and CR7 here, we’re talking about two players that haven’t been able to establish themselves in a second rate team from a second rate league. They need all the experience they can get. Can’t get that sitting at home.

    • He could be referencing growth of the game as whole in the US rather than immediate development of the player pool. Popularity of the sport. fan and youth player enthusiasm all help drive the sport of soccer forward. Nothing does this better than the World Cup.

      • I think he is confusing or getting backwards the cause and effect. You advance because you put together a team of 18-35 year olds worthy of the accomplishment now. The team advances because it is worthy of keeping up. It doesn’t fall behind because it didn’t make it. It’s already there (behind) then. You might lose out on a dual national or two, but generally speaking the roster looks the same after and you just need to work that much harder.

        Now, I think the business side of US Soccer — and the value of future World Cup TV rights — take a “lagging” hit when they don’t qualify and we become a less exciting quantity and less sure to be there. But that’s about money. On the sporting side, do you really think fewer 5 year olds play soccer, or HS select kids quit, because the US doesn’t make it? Or doesn’t win hosting 2026? We’re too mature a soccer country for that.

      • Now, if we go back into missing the world cup for decades, yeah, then players might start choosing other sports or if they have a choice playing for another country. But I don’t think 4 years does that. My impression of the recent recruits is they play like it’s an opportunity. I think it will grow the next 4 years with fresh players and new coaches who hopefully have no commitment to going around in the same selection wheel-spin as their predecessors. So hopefully the backline, keeper, and mids get sorted out instead of duct taped and coped with.

      • IV: Your opinion is shortsighted. Missing the WC does not expand the soccer community or the playing pool. Yes, parents will see the WC and consider signing up their 5 or 6 year old and yes a 13 or 14 year old who has a chance to join an AAU basketball team or a club soccer team may choose basketball because they’re watching the NBA playoffs this summer instead of the World Cup. And the money that you seem to think isn’t important is used to invest in academies and facilities and also attracts more investors to put teams in places like Omaha, Sante Fe, Waco, and Dayton. MLS will never be able to service all of America the footprint is too small. USL/NASL/PDL need to develop their own smaller versions to develop kids that don’t live in the largest cities. That’s the difference from a kid getting quality coaching to a kid just being an athlete that plays soccer. Missing the World Cup doesn’t set us back for the next cycle it sets us back for 2026 and 2030.

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