by: Garret Heinrich (@GarretHeinrich)
I need to state first that I’ve been very, very, VERY forgiving of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as the United States Men’s National Team head man. My defense was always that he took the job looking at the 2018 World Cup as the best chance for the USMNT to make a splash in World Soccer.
Everything he was doing was for the 2018 World Cup.
It’s why I didn’t cry when he dismissed Landon Donovan from the 2014 squad. Donovan wasn’t going to help the team past 2014, no reason to keep him there. While it hurt to see Donovan leave on such nasty terms, I defended it as a move to the future. Despite still having Clint Dempsey, Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones, Chris Wondolowski, DaMarcus Beasley all over the age of 30 on the roster (obviously Dempsey, Jones and Beasley needed to be on the team, there was no one else ready to play those positions). There was obviously some tension between to the two and still is.
It’s why I didn’t freak out about a Gold Cup loss to Jamiaca, for the first time ever. I palyed the “let’s worry about qualifing for 2018, the Gold Cup doesn’t matter.
It’s why I passed on criticism of the loss to Mexico in the Confederations Cup playoff. We don’t need the Confederations Cup, it will just create more travel and training issue for the World Cup squad (I was obviously trying to cope with the pain in a terrible way that isn’t healthy at all).
It’s why I defended the solid Copa America run to the Semi Finals, despite being shown utterly and completely how soccer is supposed to be played by Argentina. We made the Semi-Finals in a tournament with some of the best countries in the world he’s turning it around. We’re finally the team he’s been getting us ready to be!
It’s why I laughed at the loss to Guatamala in World Cup Qualifying. We’re still going to make the Hex. Just shows how well CONCACAF is competing right now. It actually makes us better.
I didn’t love everything Klinsmann has done. I didn’t defend everything either. Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wondolowski should have never been on the 2014 World Cup team. They are a product of playing in the MLS and having good skill for a slow league. Neither of those players ever play well against teams with speed and should have been out of the player pool as soon as Klinsmann took over in 2011 just like Jonathan Bornstein (maybe the best move Klinsmann has ever made).
I feel like some players have not been given a fair shot at the squad, Darlington Nagbe, Matt Hedges are two that come immediately to mind.
His formation shifts have been misguided at best and down right terrible in all honesty.
And part of his strategy has totally worked for the squad. We have a better youth developement as a country than we’ve ever had. We have a deeper talent pool of ready players for the National Team than we’ve ever had. But it doesn’t seem like that many of them are actually seeing the time they need to be a part of this team.
But I always kept faith. It was all for 2018. All for the World Cup. All to make us legit contenders on the world’s biggest stage.
The problem is, it doesn’t look like we are contenders on one of the worst stages. CONCACAF is at best the third best region at soccer in the world? But Asia and Africa are right there if not better overall. And with Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm of the final stage of the World Cup Qualifiers the United States is 0-2, with a minus-5 goal differential.
The loss to Mexico in Columbus was tough. The team did play well. But they looked awful and confused in the 3-5-2, 3-2-2-1-2, 3-4-1-2, whatever you want to call it. The looked capable of beating (and probably could have) Mexico. Michael Bradley, the captain, looked lost the whole game. Jermaine Jones looked slow and off touch. Omar Gonzalez is terrible at defending pretty much everything that is played around his feet. That is three players in the middle that are not in form right now, with the National Team, for whatever reason.
He ran those three guys back out there against Costa Rica, in a place where the USMNT has never won. And they again all looked terrible. Them and the eight other guys out there on the field with them. Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood showed signs, Altidore did some things well, but everyone else was pretty brutal.
Because of the last two losses. Because of all the things that I defended Klinsmann for over the past five years (his longest ever tenure as a head coach, by the way). Because I haven’t seen enough Steve Birnbaum, Matt Miazga, Kellyn Acosta, Lee Nguyen, Jordan Morris, Nagbe, Rubio Rubin, Fafa Picault, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath and a number of other players that seem to at least need a better chance and look from Klinsmann if the team is going to compete not only in 2018 but being in a good position for the next two Gold Cups.
I don’t think the blunders that have fallen Klinsmann in 2015 and 2016 are going to get Klinsmann fired. I think he is the National Team coach through the 2018 World Cup (if the USA makes it. If they fail to make it, he’s fired.) Maybe things will change in the next 18 months. Maybe we’ll see a true youth movement on the USMNT. Maybe all the talent that Klinsmann has helped build, and help bring in (let’s not forget all of the “foreign born” Americans that have helped the talent of the American squad and will continue to do so in the future) will all come together and Klinsmann will unveil a great soccer power in 2018 in Russia. But right now, I’ve had my fill of defending him. I’d be happy to see him gone.
If he is gone, hopefully there will be new blood, who will energize the team, get them playign together and stop some of these embarrassing games we’ve seen.
If he stays, hopefully he finds the right mix of 23 guys who can form a solid eleven on the field and work together and show what a great soccer nation the USA is becoming.
But whatever happens, in March, I’ll put on my red, white, and blue and start chanting along with every song of the American Outlaws, because them, I can always be confident in bringing their A-game.