Daily Archives: July 23, 2015

Jamaica’s Cool Run is America’s Headache

(Fox News)

(Fox News)

Jamaica 2 – USA 1

Jamaica earned a 2-nil lead in the first half with spectacular goals by Darron Mattocks and Giles Barnes. Michael Bradley got a Donovan like-rebound a la USA-Algeria 2010 just minutes into the second half to split the worst lead in soccer. But despite a constant flurry of offensive crosses and shots through the final whistle in the 94th minute, the Jamaicans held on for a monumental upset against the Americans on American soil in the first semifinal of the 2015 Gold Cup. The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) did not play well enough to win. Half of the blame certainly rests with them. For the other half of the equation, let’s cut to the question everyone is asking:

Should Jürgen Klinsmann be fired?

As a recruiter of young, dual-citizenship talent, absolutely not. But as a manager, that’s now 50-50.

Klinsmann has proven to be deftly insightful at putting in super subs, but his painfully cautious approach in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, breakthrough friendly victories against the Netherlands and Germany squads earlier this summer (in Europe, mind you) and the shocking and unacceptable 2015 Gold Cup semifinal loss to severe underdog Jamaica in Atlanta, Georgia and you’ve got a cloudy sky of recent results.

Looking towards the horizon for U.S. Soccer, is cloudy good enough anymore? Is this where the United States wanted to be or should be thirteen years after their impressive run in the 2002 World Cup?

Klinsmann’s contract and influence in U.S. Soccer is huge, but if his team does not win the third place Gold Cup game motivated by pride in wearing the red, white and blue and ultimately qualify for the Confederations Cup by means of a playoff this fall, then yes, he should definitely be fired. Even without these future achievements, his future as the USMNT head coach needs to be acutely examined based on results, roster selections (many on the current roster shouldn’t be on the senior team), formation choices, individual and collective success and improvements and the growing cohesiveness of his best starting 11.

While there may not be a blockbuster coach waiting in the wings at the moment, rest assured because when a top-level coach has a roster filled with athleticism and immense, impressionable potential like the United States, someone’s ego will ignite and a pen will be held by a famed manager to sign a contract to guide the USMNT.

Pep Guardiola has expressed interest in one day coaching the USMNT. In fact, reports revealed he was very interested in managing Brazil last summer. National teams are clearly on his mind as a potential challenge in the short-term. And with all the talented youth, waiting to be molded by a defining formation and style, the United States could provide a uniquely perfect situation and challenge for Pep or another big name coach.

Regarding the lineup, widespread competition is good, but part of the manager’s job description is to determine the best players and the best fit. The valuable chemistry of reacting and not thinking in high-pressure situations due to familiarity is too high a commodity to throw away just for curiosity’s sake.

The current roster and tactics are not good enough.

The back line continues to be abysmal and its goalkeeper is just not up to the task of being world-class. Tim Howard is rumored to be coming back, but he’s 36. His return would be a band aid (however helpful) on what needs surgery. Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley work well together, except that Diskerud needs to be the creative force (and start) while Bradley hangs back in defense with the occasional and highly-effective surging run. Forward Aron Jóhannsson needs to watch Robin van Persie highlights on a loop and Wil Trapp also needs time on the pitch as a Bradley substitute and student. Attention and playing time also needs to be granted to Ethan Finlay of the Columbus Crew (teammate of Trapp’s), who is the only true outside midfielder producing results from the right flank and is the current MLS leader is assists. Julian Green, despite lack of playing time at an elite club, needs to be unleashed as another outside midfielder. He’s shown flashes of attacking prowess on the left side.

Jürgen Klinsmann does a great job of identifying American talent in Europe, but he needs to start watching (and respecting) MLS more to find the players who are the best fit. Sometimes they show up in stats, sometimes they don’t. The best coaches find these players, design and share a vision for success and inspire his team to produce results in exciting, dynamic fashion.

That team hasn’t arrived yet. Will it?

Coach Klinsmann has put himself in an awkward position of not necessarily confirming that he should be fired immediately, but he also hasn’t proven that he should continue as leader of the USMNT before the 2018 World Cup qualifications begin.

You could say he’s been given a yellow card with a stern warning by America’s soccer fans.