Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S Soccer Federation, announced today the termination of Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach of the U.S Men’s soccer team after a five year period.
When appointed in 2011, Klinsmann came in promising to take U.S men’s soccer to a different level amongst the World’s best. A manager with both coaching and playing experience at the highest level mixed with the best generation of players the country had ever had, led to high expectations for the team.
As we fast forward to November 21st, 2016. More than five years with the Klinsmann project and we’ve yet to seen the “promised land”. Aside from the record-breaking 2013, the U.S has failed to take that leap forward and join the group of the World’s elite. The 2014 World Cup was remarkable and nerve-wrecking but the cold hard reality is that it just simply wasn’t enough. Klinsmann had promised to take the United States into the semifinals of the World Cup or even play like they deserved to be amongst the World’s top 4 teams. As the team was eliminated by Belgium in the Round of 16, it was evident that the goal had not been reached.
The clear problem with Klinsmann was always the inconsistency. He would rarely repeat the same starting XI despite the outcome of the game, and wouldn’t think twice about making risky moves before big games. For example, leaving out captain Carlos Bocanegra before a big World Cup qualifier in Honduras and playing a CB duo of Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron instead despite the fact that they had never played together. Or leaving out the country’s most iconic player ever before a decisive 2014 World Cup. Or the final straw: coming out with a never-before-tried 3-5-2 against Mexico in a home qualifier. The players would often complain about Klinsmann’s inconsistency and his risk taking that would often complicate the games. Luckily for the German, CONCACAF qualifiers aren’t exactly the most difficult in the World and the U.S could afford 3-4 slip ups and still qualify without much effort.
It seemed as if Klinsmann could never find the right combination between veterans and youngsters to truly make this team work. It’s been said before that in recent years, the U.S has had many young players come up and make their case to start for their country. Players like DeAndre Yedlin, Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic, John Brooks and Julian Green are all players for the future but not all of them have had the minutes they deserve. DeAndre Yedlin for example has yet to establish himself as a prominent starter and has jumped around from Right Back to Right Wing time to time. John Brooks has been part of the Center Back musical chair game that Klinsmann has been running lately. A dominant, reliable and young central defender who has to wait around for his turn at times.
Moving on is never an easy thing to do, especially in sports. But we can not escape the reality, players like Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey are playing their last games with the National Team. Even “younger” players like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have certainly been playing far from their best level with the National team. It’s sad to say but the “Golden” generation is coming to a close. However, a new and possibly better generation is coming up and they’re screaming for a chance to shine.
Whoever is appointed as new head coach of the U.S National must figure out what Klinsmann could never establish. He must come in and build the team around the younger players who are ready to lead the team. Bobby Wood is emerging as a talented and clutch striker while Pulisic can run the midfield. If they’re able to build a solid game plan around these younger players and surround them with just the right veteran leadership, this team could really take off.
Five years of Klinsmann are done and although his time with the team wasn’t all negative memories, the time has come to stop wishing and praying for Klinsmann’s promised plan to be delivered. It’s time to start from scratch and rebuild this team with fresh, young faces and with a solid game plan for the future. Unless the team goes into a 2013-Mexico-like meltdown, they should qualify to the World Cup fairly easy. After that, they have just under two years to truly get the ball rolling and make an impact in Russia 2018.