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Klinsmann: USMNT in “very sad” state right now

Jurgen Klinsmann knows a few things about the U.S. Men’s National Team, its successes, its failures, and its leadership. He was in charge of the team for five years, after all, and the former manager spoke to ESPN about the state of the team and he feels the team is in a “very sad” state at the moment.

“So what happened now the last two or three years is very sad,” Klinsmann said. “It’s really sad because the team belonged [in] Russia. They belonged in the World Cup. The qualification was pretty much done and then it happened, the big disaster in Trinidad which no one could ever have imagined.

“So this threw back the whole national team program for many years because now there is a lack of belief, there is a lack of enthusiasm, there is a lack of leadership. So it’s a very difficult job now that Gregg Berhalter has on his hands to rebuild an entire program when we were actually in a good place.”

Klinsmann left the USMNT in a rather sad state himself after a few years of relative success. He took over the USMNT in July 2011, he led the side through a difficult World Cup group in 2014 before losing to Belgium in extra time in the round of 16. He followed that up with a run to the semifinals of the 2015 Copa America Centenario. He also had famous friendly victories overseas against Germany and the Netherlands before it all collapsed during qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

He was fired in November 2016 after losing to Mexico and Costa Rica early in in the final stages of qualifying as his team lost faith in him. Bruce Arena came in and couldn’t dig out of that early hole and guide his squad to qualification and the United States missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

After spending a few years away from coaching, Klinsmann took over as the head coach of Hertha Berlin in Germany late in November. Since he was hired, the team has won twice, drawn twice, and lost once in five games.

Klinsmann always had lofty goals for his program. He famously said the USMNT should reach the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup after their relative success in 2014. Even now, more than three years after his departure, he feels he could have led the team on a deep run in the World Cup had he been retained.

“As I said, I’d take that team in Russia to the final eight, maybe even the final four because there was a building block there and there was a plan for it and the plan got interrupted and it got even more interrupted when the U.S. didn’t qualify for Russia.”

Not everything Klinsmann said in the interview as negative, though. He had praise for many of the American players having success at the club level in Europe right now and he takes credit for jump starting their careers. He had particularly uplifting things to say about Christian Pulisic, who is playing well in his first season at Chelsea after a great run at Borussia Dortmund.

“I think he’s doing very well right now, I think he is growing as a person,” Klinsmann said about Pulisic. “You have to think about the fact that at a very young age he moved to Dortmund. Yes the family was with him, but you are in a different country, with a different language and a different climate.”

Klinsmann hopes that people can be patient as Pulisic develops since he’s still only 22 years old and he also hopes that the USMNT can turn around their misfortunes.

“So hopefully they get it back on track and I keep my fingers crossed for Gregg that he gets all the support he needs to get it on the right track.”


  1. For the flack Klinsman got, Arena amd Berghalter have the combined footballing intelligence and tactical acumen of a squirrel.
    USMNT remains a laughing stock, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. And where are we now? As much as I wanted Klinsmann gone, it was not for a coach like we have now. I do not think JK would have qualified. I also dont think GB will either. We are going NOWHERE with the players GB is rountiney is capping and I see no sign that it will change anytime soon. We are not fielding good enough players and I dont think the ones called are good enough. I dont mean all those called… but I do mean his little group of favs.

    JK had lost the team… GB has lost some…. a few more losses and he’ll lose more. I just hope US Soccer doesnt wait too long to pull GBs plug and am very interested to see what, if anything role, McHead has. He can’t be blinded to the mess GB is making

  3. The player pool matters. I remember watching the send-off match for WC-2006 in Hartford, which the US won over (I think) Morocco. The question was if the other team shut down McBride, who would score for the US. Dempsey did score a single goal in Germany, but that was it for the US 3 and out. Arena knew McBride needed help up top, but could not find a player able could do that for more than a brief flash or two (Ed Johnson).

  4. I see where Klinsmann junior got his negative mouth. Senior was an average coach, he did no better than either Bradley or Arena. You can argue that on the world stage that both of those got better results.

    Of course, the real issue is that the US player pool that should have stepped up to take the roles from those who had them in 2010 and 2014 never really materialized. That failure was not really JK’s fault, he did try to bring in new players, it is just they by and large they were not as good as the aging players he had at his disposal-

    I think JK is wrong in the sense that many 18 to 24 year-olds do have the quality to replace and improve on the players JK used in 2015-2017 and even those from 2014. In that sense, things look bright. I am not sure GB is the best coach choice, but it does look like he will have the horses to compete in a year or 2.

    In short, this is just another of JK’s ploys to say “Look at me”. That was fine when he was a great player for Germany and a lot of fun to watch, it is now pretty sad.

  5. There is good news with some very promising talent beginning to emerge- but that is a product of MLS / its academies are slowly beginning to bear fruit. Actually that is GREAT news. Unfortunately- whatever one thinks about JK’s tenure- he is absolutely correct about US Soccer. And- the rot is at the head of the toothless snake- 100% at the very upper rungs of this directionless inbred organization. Missing the WC was a disaster and truly bites but- what followed was / and still is much much worse-THE most flaccid, pathetic response to a setback one could imagine. “Stuff” inevitably happens… it is how you respond that demonstrates character and how you learn and improve. An opportunity at wholesale change and growth and extra time in a WC cycle to make changes has been utterly wasted. Nothing has been learned and the organization has actually degraded. Hopefully the young kids get to good places to develop and Berhalter finds his way.

  6. A lot of good comments here. I still think the biggest problem over the last 5 or so years is the lack of quality international players. I do not subscribe to the belief that our talent pool is better than ever, I actually think its the other way around. Remembering that Bob Bradley team that lost the 2011 gold cup final mentioned below for instance had a starting lineup of very good internationals, almost all of whom would walk into the current USMNT starting 11 if they were in their primes.

    United States lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; Eric Lichaj, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Steve Cherundolo; Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, Alejandro Bedoya; Clint Dempsey.

    What we have currently are a couple of solid role players like Yedlin and Brooks, who might have started that 2011 game, and one star, Pulisic. One Pulisic is less than Dempsey plus Donovan. I love McKennie, but he has to be much more consistent to equal a Jermaine Jones. I hope some of the young talent breaking through 1st division teams (Sargent, Adams, McKennie) can eventually become USMNT stars but right now they are still developing, and they weren’t around for the 2018 disasters.

    • Clarence Goodson couldn’t hold John Brooks jock strap. Trying to compare players back in their prime with many players who aren’t there yet isn’t really fair.

  7. Yes Klinsmann failed, yes Bruce Arena failed, yes USMNT didn’t qualify for the World Cup…..but USSoccer is responsible for selecting a coach…..and the coach is responsible for selecting the players, and our failure is a result of poor player selection and being resistant to change. As much as we all like to say the US pool lacks the talent we need , we have more talent than Costa Rica, T&T, Canada, Jamaica and Panama combined. They use our soccer system (MLS AND USL) to develop their players, and cause us all sorts of problems, yet even though we have the same leagues with a majority of the talent and players abroad to choose from, we are just fixated on talentless regulars, poster boys of US Soccer, that we refuse to exclude from the team. They have no raw talent or abilities, cannot dribble passed a soul when lanes are blocked off, they do not have any one that they COMBINE well with on the pitch and they do not have any natural attributes to give them an advantage in any way shape or form (speed, vision, quickness, endurance)

    USMNT IS in lost right now in terms of identity,strategy, player transitioning, team design and our focus. With all the talent we have overseas and in our league, that has grown so much over the years, WE STILL SEEM TO HAVE THESE “SAME ‘OL” PLAYERS ON THE TEAM, which shows that the problem still exists – poor player selection and being very resistant to change . These players still being called up failed and were not outstanding even when they were in their prime…..can you imagine what they would do now that they are “washed out’ ghosts of their former selves?

    Yup……USMNT is in “very sad” state right now

  8. Personally, I actually find it refreshing and cool to see so many thoughtful posts about the JK era without a single mention of a certain player’s omission from the 2014 World Cup squad. (Sorry if I just farted in the elevator….)

  9. I have never been a supporter of holding onto coaches for more than 1 World Cup Cycle. Our last 3 coaches all had Very, Very poor 2nd cycles in charge of the USMNT.
    Arena’s 2nd Cycle (2006) was, until 2018’s failure, one of the lowest points in the last 30 years for the USMNT. Bradley did well in 2010, but was canned after the team had a nightmare performance against Mexico in the Gold Cup. JK did well in 2014 and had some historic wins (finally defeating Ghana), before loosing the locker-room and being replaced by Arena.
    In all 3 cases their failures can be attributed to their inability (Unwillingness) to move away from their favorite players who were either never good enough or were beyond their sell by date. In each of their 2nd cycles in charge our coaches held onto the following players…
    Arena had: Eddie Lewis, Brian Ching, Chris Albright, John O’Brian, Olsen, etc…
    Bradley had: Onyewu, Bornstein, Goodson, etc…
    Klinsmann had: Jones, Bradley, Beckerman, Evans, Wondolowski, Zusi

    After each cycle there should have been significant turn-over of the player pool, but in each case the coaches held onto players too long. And now with Berhaulter we’re seeing a lot of the same players carrying over from Arena’s failed attempt to right the ship after JK was released.

    We are obviously stuck with Berhaulter until the Hex. But hopefully USSF has finally learned from history and will replace him right after 2022 regardless of our performance.

    • Generally speaking, I certainly agree with your assessment that performance following the NT coach’s first cycle does not usually support keeping them around for another term. This is all the more apparent globally — many examples of a country keeping a coach around for a cycle to many and very few of a team actually improving (Otto Rehaggel’s remarkable run with Greece after failing to qualify for 2002 is the only one that springs to mind).
      Still, I have to say I think you’ve twisted the narrative a bit with regard to Bradley’s firing. The 2011 Gold Cup final may have ended disappointingly, but it was hardly a disastrous performance. I was at the Rose Bowl for that game, and Bradley had gotten everything just right…. we were 2-0 up and cruising– were it not for Cherundolo’s early injury, I’d bet money it would’ve stayed that way. Sure, Bradley’s adjustments were poor, but this really would not get any coach fired on its own. It was a legendary final that we happened to lose.
      According to most accounts (Wahl, NYT, etc.) Gulati had been openly flirting with Klinsmann for years. He had simply been waiting for Bradley to give him a reason (which Bradley stubbornly refused to do by repeatedly overperforming in competitive tournaments). The loss was “good enough” and the change was made. But the performance in the final wasn’t the reason, just the excuse.
      I personally though the JK era was just fine. Glad it happened. Glad it ended. Mostly, I’d say I agree that a few years is enough for any set of ideas at the NT level.

      • Another thing that I think is relevant. A lot of times coaches kept with certain players because we didn’t have very good replacements. It’s not like we are a top nation where you can go to a second stringer and have no drop off in quality. Our team in the past has been kind of jerry rigged. As with the Bradley loss to Mexico, something like 3 goals were scored against Bornstein as he was terribly over matched. However, with the injury to Cherundolo, Bradley had no one better than Bornstein. Likewise, people kept saying that
        Bradley was out of position under Klinsmann, but they could never provide a better player to replace him. As for Klinsmann’s hire, you are correct. It was a pretty open secret that Gulati wanted Klinsmann. They had tried to get him before they hired Bradley, but Klinsmann wanted more control than USSF was prepared to give him. Once they were ready to accept his demand, then it was pretty much just a matter of time until they hired him.

  10. Say what you want about any of the USMNT coaches who share blame for not making the World Cup. The sad state of affairs starts at the top and stays at the top. Would have, could have, it’s all hindsight so it doesn’t matter the thing is that here we are two years later and we are still in a very sad state. This federation is mismanaged from the top down. I will give it to Klinnsmann at least tried to change the system and never fell in line with what the federation wanted and he had some results in the beginning because he did have a plan but he was never a game manager and his mixed messages grew old. The Federation is a mess with questions as to who is taking over vacancy at every level from CEO to coaches. I believe the reason that we have unfilled jobs at youth coaching level isn’t because they don’t want to move to Chicago (which is a crazy ask and justifiable not to take a job) but it’s because GGG system is being pushed by the federation at all levels. Coaches don’t want to be forced into playing a system they know won’t work. I think Ricky was forced to try to play that system in the u17 World Cup and it failed. They looked good in qualifying, losing to Mexico only on extra time goal and Mexico made it to the final four. So blame coaches for losing the locker room, for bring back older players, for playing too many MLS players and for not playing a system that works but all of this falls on the mismanagement for the federation which looks like it’s run by bunch of fools. I am sure whom ever gets the CEO job will get it because he fits with what Carlos, Jay and the others want to try to do. Which will set this country back a decade if it fails. and i haven’t seen anything that says it won’t. Look at the Italian federation and the Netherlands after they didn’t make the World Cup. Things look a little different over there. I could go on and on but i think you get the point.

  11. There is no reason to believe the players would have qualified under Klinsmann. Of course, in hindsight firing him did not help, but the same players lost qualifiers under two different coaches.

  12. Excuse me, but we lost at home to Mexico which was the best team in the hex and then we lost at Costa Rica where we always lose! The problem was the mutiny of a select few – MB and Howard. He was an enigma. Not much tactics wise, but his substitutions were almost always spot on.

    • As far as Klinsmann’s tactics, he kind of messed around in friendlies and the like, but in the World Cup I thought he was excellent. The Dempsey goal against Ghana reportedly came directly off the training ground, a practiced maneuver. The reason we didn’t beat Portugal was because the players didn’t listen to him (or couldn’t hear him) at the end of the game. The close loss to Germany was pretty remarkable given how much better Germany was and part of the reason for that was playing Omar Gonzalez at CB in a bunker defense and he had the game of his life. We advanced because of that since Portugal lost worse than we did to Germany.

  13. With klinnsman we would have had a 50% chance of qualifying for 2018. It literally could have gone either way. We had two terrible games one vs Costa Rica at home and the freakishly bad Trinidad and Tobago game. The team was doing horrible it had no style of play and no spirit we depended way too much on dempsey and our coach wasn’t a good strategist. In my opinion US Soccer dropped the ball by not getting in contact with a replacement sooner and not making the firing of klinnsman after losing to Mexico at home. Dream on klinnsy.

    • The bad loss to CR at home was under Arena. Also, Arena only got a draw at Panama when 4 years earlier the US won at Panama, even though we were in the WC without a result. The only bad loss in the Hex under Klinsmann was the 2-1 to Mexico because Brooks lost his mark on a corner kick even though he had been specifically warned.

      • So we are blaming Bruce Arena now…..who only had MONTHS to prepare a lifeless team and perform DAMAGE CONTROL on a group of players, with a talentless midfield, that were already under performing????
        “Under Klinsmann’s USMNT tenure on, November 2016, the US opened the final World Cup qualification round with a 2-1 defeat from Mexico that preceded a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Costa Rica on home soil.”…..hence he was fired

        Fourth round: BACK TO BACK GAMES
        USA 0 vs T&T 0 – (11/17/15) TIE
        USA 0 vs Guatemala 2 (03/25/16) LOSS
        Coach: Klinsmann
        Bradley present for 90 mins

        Fifth round: BACK TO BACK GAMES
        USA 1 vs Mexico 2 (11/11/16) LOSS
        USA 0 vs Costa Rica 4 (11/15/16) LOSS
        Coach: Klinsmann FIRED
        Bradley present for 90 mins

        USA 6 vs HONDURAS 0 (03/24/17) WIN
        USA 1 vs PANAMA 1 (03/28/17) TIE
        USA 2 vs T&T 0 (06/08/17) WIN
        USA 1 VS MEXICO 1 (06/11/17) TIE
        USA 0 VS COSTA RICA 2 (09/01/17) LOSS
        USA 1 VS HONDURAS 1 (09/05/17) TIE
        USA 4 VS PANAMA 0 (10/06/17) WIN
        USA 1 VS T&T 2 (10/10/17) LOSS

        Hindsight is 20/20…..but please lets not blame ARENA for the shortcomings of the USMNT when he only had months to work with

  14. The thing about Klinsmann is a lot of people wanted him out (including myself) and then he left……and then the “soul” of the USMNT went with him. After his departure we have been on a massive downward spiral ever since; and we seem to be getting worse somehow (with a better player pool!!!). One thing I respected about him is the way he valued player development and fighting for playing time overseas with the best in the world. His only down fall was valuing Michael Bradley’s impeccable leadership and not taking into consideration his lack of talent and abilities. Klinsmann and Arena failed when we could never control the midfield or score goals up top and players with the most appearances currently on the USMNT are to blame for that. And it looks like Berhalter is on the fence as well

    hindsight is always 20/20…….

  15. Revolted??? From my understing with a few articles that proved it, it was the berhalter’s with the help of michael Bradley that worked hard to get him out as fast as possible. I remember dempsey telling MB, “I dident do this to your father, I’m not doing this now”. Point is we have been waiting for a change in guard for 20 years, but the smae old people want to be in charge forever.

  16. No comments from the peanut gallery shut up Klinsmann and Rob. Your sons form is in a sad state right now. Cannot even break into a Bundesliga 1 team haha

  17. With Jurgen, we would have qualified. No way he relies so much on the old guard, veteran players. Would have already called in young guys for the final qualifying like Mckennie and Adams who wouldn’t have gotten bossed in the midfield by the likes of T&T. And now way he ignores all the german and Euro based players (like Cameron) in favor of OG. Overall, Jurgen was good and really did try and shake-up the federation for the better. But keeping him for a second cycle was probably a mistake. Most times Nats programs do this, they end up losing a bit of the lockerroom and players stop responding in the same way. Germany might have been the exception under Low, but even that has shown recently to be problematic.

    • You are just as delusional as Klinsmann. The spiral started when we got knocked out of the Gold Cup by ?? and then proceeded to lose the third place game to ??. Furthermore we went on to lose for the first time ever in WCQ at Mafri Stadium to Mexico. The loss in Costa Rica was a further embarrassment and one the program couldnt allow JK to come back from, and understandibly so!

      From what i remember there were injuries to a number of players that tipped Arenas hand to make other choices. Chandler was injures(go figure), John Brooks missed a few games(no surprising). Weaton had yet to be playing consistently so that period was too early for him to be called in, and i believe Tyler Adams suffered an injury as well at some point during Arena 2.0(i could be wrong though). At the ned of the day Arena waa never going to usher in too many youth players because of the hole the team was in in qualifying, which makes sense. It’s unfortunate the old guard decided to have a let down in the ultimate game, but in himdsight i domt think we should have done anything different, the team just needed to play better and with more heart!

      • i forgot to mention the injury to Lleget as well, after he had found his footing with the USMNT finally….you mention Geoff Cameron but he was a cancer in that locker room during Arena 2.0, right or wrong, and considering people want ushered in this youth movement it makes sense not to lean on him anymore. Omar Gonzalez got called in for the GC, and thats been about it for him so that conversation is a non starter

    • IMO, the reason we lost to T&T was not because of player selection, tactics or anything at all like that. T&T didn’t even have their best player and were playing guys who were USL quality or worse. The problem was the US figured all they had to do was show up. I remember seeing articles and a video before the game, right after a huge rainstorm had flooded the field, and the US players were just clowning around and you could tell they weren’t taking it seriously. Reports are that Arena and his staff figured we had it locked up, too. That, I think is the difference. If you will remember, in the previous cycle the US had to win a game to qualify for the Hex and we were playing a minnow in the middle of a downpour and managed to pull it out thanks to Eddie Johnson. Klinsmann knew better than to take those games for granted. I remember how he remarked that Germany almost lost to, I think, the Faroe Islands during a qualifying and that would have kept them out of the WC. As they say, you always play until the whistle, and the US didn’t do that in T&T. Poor defense also had a hand in it, of course, since Arena was an idiot for playing OG instead of Cameron.

  18. “We would have gone SO far under my leadership!” says the guy who’s players literally revolted under his command.

    You started this downslide Jurgen.


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