Humiliating. Deflating. Disappointing. Embarrassing. All of these feelings came about during the USA’s 4-0 clobbering in Costa Rica Tuesday night in 2018 World Cup qualifying. The US has never won a qualifier in Costa Rica, so the losing result is not necessarily the issue. The poor play, lack of preparation and an inability to adapt to the opposing team’s tactics have become all too common.
It is time for US Soccer to move on from Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach.
Klinsmann has tinkered with the US line-up and formation seemingly every game. His decision to play a three-man backline against Mexico this past Friday destroyed any chance of a productive result. The field that evening in Columbus was only 75 yards wide, narrow by many standards. Spreading your midfield wide brings little advantage when there is nowhere for them to go.
The response was clear from the players as well. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones had a heated conversation with Klinsmann on the sidelines. Bradley went on to say after the 2-1 loss that “you have to have clear ideas” in terms of how the US should approach Mexico. If your squad’s captain does not have a clear idea of what is taking place, something is not right.
Recent results do not show many positive signs. A fourth-place finish at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a loss to Mexico for the right to go to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and struggles throughout World Cup qualifying highlight these problems. The previous round featured a loss to Guatemala, whom the US had been unbeaten against since 1988. Tuesday’s defeat to Costa Rica was the USMNT’s worst qualifying loss since 1957. USA has never lost the opening two matches in the final round of World Cup qualifying in its current format until now.
On top of all this, Jurgen Klinsmann is the technical director of US Soccer along with being the head coach. America’s U-23 side has failed to qualify for the past two editions of the Summer Olympics, missing out on crucial events that can aid in youth development. If Klinsmann is not getting results on the field with the first team and the youth squads are not where they should be, where is the progress?
Former national team managers Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena and Bora Milutinovic all brought the US just as far as Klinsmann did in World Cup play. Fans of the USMNT were promised a more proactive and innovative style when the German took over in 2011, and that promise is yet to be fulfilled.
The writing was always on the wall for Klinsmann as a manager. A legendary striker on the field, his creativity and preparation do not often translate to the sidelines. Many point to the brilliant work of his assistant Joachim Low for helping to lead Germany to third place at the 2006 World Cup. Germany winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil only affirms Low’s true impact on the side once he took over as manager.
Klinsmann could not last a full year when he took over Bayern Munich in the summer of 2008 and was fired before the season concluded. It was during this spell that Landon Donovan was brought into the Bayern side on loan and first crossed paths with Klinsmann. Germany and Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm was vocal in his assessment of Klinsmann’s managerial abilities during this time in his autobiography, noting that it was primarily up to the players to design their tactics.
Whether from within the United States or abroad, the time is now for a new manager of the USMNT. The next qualifiers are in late March and enough months are available for a change at the top. Despite its best efforts, the US Soccer Federation has failed with the Jurgen Klinsmann Experiment.