Like many, Jurgen Klinsmann was left stunned by what happened in Trinidad & Tobago last summer. In his eyes, it was a “shock and a disaster”.
Now, several months later, Klinsmann has taken some time to reflect on a tenure that still remains much-discussed in American soccer circles and, from afar, the former U.S. Men’s National Team boss offered some insight into what he believes should be next for the USMNT.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Klinsmann says the team was “on track” to make the World Cup despite losing to Costa Rica and Mexico in the opening games of the Hexagonal round. The former USMNT boss says the team would have responded to those two defeats and, ultimately, gotten the job done.
He didn’t get the chance, as Klinsmann was dismissed in favor of Bruce Arena as the U.S. went into a different direction that ultimately ended with no Russia 2018.
“You build a new skeleton between World Cups and we hadn’t built the skeleton yet,” Klinsmann told SI. “When we lost two games, we were still building the skeleton. Sorry we lost two games! Then [the Federation] became emotional. … But they made their decision, so no problem.”
“They have their reasons, they are your bosses so you have to accept that,” he says. “It was an amazing ride. Were there some bumps in the process? Absolutely, some losses. Absolutely. But it didn’t take me long [to move on] because I knew why certain things happened. … You analyze it, discuss it and move on. One door closes and three more open.”
In hindsight, Klinsmann says he would have stepped away in 2014 had he known his leash was so short. He fully expected to close out the 2018 cycle, but wasn’t given the chance after the two difficult results.
Now, watching from afar, Klinsmann is mulling over his options. The manager told SI that, if he were to jump back into the national team scene, he would want to do so at a country with a chance of winning the World Cup. Klinsmann says he has “turned down opportunities where it would have just been getting out of the group stage, because if I [coach another national team], I want to put my stamp on it”.
As for the U.S., Klinsmann says it “will not be easy” to reach that level. The German-born manager says you need a “spine of seven to eight other players on the level of [midfielder Christian] Pulisic playing at high-caliber clubs in Europe”, and, while that is entirely possible given the current group, a lot will need to fall the USMNT’s way for what he calls “Generation Pulisic”.
“You cannot put a deadline on it,” he said. “People think if you do this and then this, then we win the next World Cup? No, it doesn’t work that way, because the other countries are also advancing.”
Klinsmann, though, has no regrets when it comes to his tenure, even if it didn’t end the way he’d hoped.
“If I want to get the most out of [the national team], to help it make future steps, if I want them to go to another level as a program and a federation? Then I would do everything the same way.”
“Always later you know it better.”