It’s the old break-up adage, “It’s not you, it’s me.” For Jürgen Klinsmann, it could not be more true.
In the aftermath of Klinsmann’s USMNT falling to hated rivals Mexico in the blistering SoCal heat, the country seems to have suffered the final straw of Klinsmann’s reign. All over social media, American fans lamented the decision to play Brad Guzan in goal, failed tactics in midfield and a weak defense. While it’s easy to play the Monday morning manager, they’re not entirely wrong.
Tim Howard, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, who heroically rescued the US against Portugal and denied the star-studded Belgium for 90 minutes in the World Cup, was available on the bench as Guzan let in a poor early goal.
Difficult as it is to swallow, Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Mexico, the Gold Cup losses to Jamaica and Panama and recent friendly loss to Brazil, are not reason enough to fire the German, but that is exactly what the powers that be will have to do. The United States do not take losing lightly.
Look no further than the response to the basketball team’s disgraceful third place finish in the 2004 Athens Olympics for an example of how this country regards anything but victory. In MOST countries, a bronze medal means a hero’s welcome, sometimes even a ticker-tape parade down Main Street. Americans have a word for the guy who finishes second, loser.
The concept of a friendly is foreign here. What seems to be lost on most fans is that the purpose of such matches is to blood young players, test new strategies and find out who best works with whom. Wins are meaningless, losses are meaningless, draws, that’s right, meaningless. Not here. America celebrates those wins against Poland and Germany as fervently as they mourn the loss to Denmark.
There is no foresight, and that is why Klinsmann needs to go Mario Gotze, Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, all integral to Germany’s World Cup success and all products of Klinsmann’s youth system. A system he has implemented in the United States with an eye to 2018 and the Russia World Cup. Most fans probably don’t know the names Gedion Zelalem, Luis Gil, Matt Miazga or Rubio Rubin but those young players represent the first real generation of Klinsmann’s program. The best case scenario would see Klinsmann agree to step down as manager but continue to oversee the grass-roots part of the American soccer, imagine what he can do with two or three more generations of players.
Unfortunately, the current climate of US soccer is not understanding enough to allow him to continue as the man in charge of the senior team. The sport has come a long way to become a major player for the attentions of the American public, but still has more to travel. The only way it will continue to gain popularity is with a string of meaningless wins and the occasional Cup victory playing an open and attractive style and coached by someone who says all the right things to placate a comparably ignorant (but improving) fanbase.
Klinsmann isn’t that guy and this relationship isn’t working out. Sorry, Jurgen, it’s not you it’s us.