Did Klinsmann Save his Job?

The United States faces off with Ecuador on Thursday night in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. Many expected America to be here, but not against this opponent. Peru messed up what should have been a meeting between the U.S. and Brazil, with some help from Costa Rica.

America is favored to beat Ecuador now and advance to the semifinal round. All of that would be great and it makes you wonder if Jurgen Klinsmann has taken himself off the hot seat.

Jurgen Klinsmann
America is 2-1 under Klinsmann heading into the Copa America quarterfinals. (Wikimedia Commons)

Klinsmann has had some mixed results in 2016 and continues to alienate players from MLS. Many felt that a poor showing in this tournament would see him packing his bags. We saw what failing to get out of group play can do to a manager of a very successful team (see Brazil). It was certainly in the realm of possibility that Klinsmann would be unemployed if his team failed to advance.

Even with the U.S. qualifying for the knockout stage, I don’t think Klinsmann has completely gotten himself out of hot water. The United States beat Paraguay and Costa Rica. The game against Los Ticos was spectacular and the Paraguay match was solid. However, they also lost in a rough offensive showing against Columbia. Now, the latter is the number three team in the world at the moment. Overall, this is a good slate of results for the Red, White and Blue.

But the U.S. hasn’t beat anyone they weren’t supposed to. Costa Rica was a toss up and Paraguay was a game America was expected to win. Columbia would have been a major victory. Those two wins were good results but nothing out of the ordinary. Really, the USMNT was lucky to win the pool.

A win over Ecuador would be significant, as they are currently ranked 13th in the world. A semifinal victory could be a huge sign of progress for this team. The US will likely play either Argentina, Chile or Mexico. Defeating one of those three teams would be a significant benchmark in the preparation for the 2018 World Cup.

Jurgen_Klinsmann
America is ranked 31st in the world at the moment. (Wikimedia Commons)

Realistically, the United States has no chance of winning this tournament. They lack to the defensive discipline and offensive fire power to upset potentially three top 20 ranked teams in the world back to back to back.

So while the U.S. won the pool and enter the knockout stage with high hopes, realize that nothing significant has happened yet. They won the pool mainly due to Costa Rica stunning Columbia in the groups’ final game. Everything the Americans have done to this point they were supposed to do.

If they lose to Ecuador, this is an average tournament for the USA. If they beat Ecuador, Klinsmann and his group has a positive result to take from this tournament going forward. Anything past that would be phenomenal progress for the United States. Klinsmann is trending in the direction of safety but I don’t think he has made it quite yet.

Advertisements

US 40-man roster for Copa America analyzed

By Jack Venezia

Jurgen Klinsmann
Klinsmann has won the second most matches as manager of the US in team history behind only Bruce Arena. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday night US Men’s National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann named 40 players to his provisional roster for the Copa America this summer. Copa America will be hosted in the United States. High level international teams such as Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina will be playing in Copa America along with the US. This summer will be the halfway point between the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, making this Copa America competition a benchmark for the USMNT’s progress (or lack thereof).

Here is the roster:

GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (15): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)

MIDFIELDERS (12): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (8): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund),Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Keepers
This is the exact group I expected to be selected. There was some doubt as to whether Will Yarabrough would steal a spot from the aging Nick Rimando, but that does not seem to be the case. As for the final roster, Howard and Guzan are locks, after that is anyone’s guess.

Defense
All of the selections at centerback make sense; we shall see who makes the final roster though. I am excited for the futures of Birnbaum and Miazga. At the leftback position, I take issue with bringing on Timmy Chandler and not Brek Shea. Chandler has never been consistent for the national team and Brek Shea has been killing it for Orlando since returning from injury. Plus, Brek Shea has been called up by Jurgen multiple times in the past which makes this even more baffling. Lastly, Eric Lichaj comes out of nowhere to join this roster. He has not been called up in quite some time.

Midfield
All of the regulars are here, which bodes well for the team’s chances in the tournament, i.e. no one crucial is injured or in an awful run of form. It is nice to see Perry Kitchen called up as many have been saying he should be the defensive midfield heir to Kyle Beckerman’s throne. He likely won this spot over Will Trapp, who has not been playing well with Columbus in MLS. Also interesting to see Nagbe listed among this group since these all seem to be central midfielders. Hopefully this means we will see Nagbe play in his preferred role rather than being pushed out to the wing as he has been in the past.

 

Clint_Dempsey
Dempsey has a chance to pass DeMarcus Beasly for fifth-most caps wearing a US uniform. (Wikimedia Commons)

Forwards
It looks like Jurgen has listed the wingers (Finlay, Pulisic, and others at times) with the forwards, which leads me to believe the US will play a 4-3-3. Pulisic’s inclusion is exciting as he has been getting minutes and goals for German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund as a teenager. Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood have also been hot scorers recently. The real question is, who plays the center forward position of that 4-3-3, Jozy or Clint? Dempsey has been playing on the wing occasionally for Seattle, but with varying amounts of success.

It is worth noting that training camp starts on May 16 for the USMNT. US Soccer must submit the final 23-player roster no later than May 20. On May 22, 25 and 28 the 23-man roster will play three warm up games against Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Bolivia, respectively. Copa America opens on June 3 with the US playing Columbia.

The pressure is on for Klinsmann to find some success in this tournament. After failing to win the Gold Cup last summer and a poor run in World Cup Qualifying. This is going to be a much tougher test, but the US should come away with a couple positive results.

Is Klinsmann’s time up?

It wasn’t pretty. Actually it was pretty ugly. But now we have had two days to let the dust settle and dicuss what should happen next. If you missed USA vs. Mexico, here is a brief recap:

The US losing to Mexico obviously stings but the ramifications definitely run deeper than just disappointment. This was a big test for Jurgen Klinsmann, which he failed.

Jurgen KlinsmannKlinsmann has been under fire since last week when US soccer legend Landon Donovan expressed that he believed the German manager should be canned if the US lost to El Tri. That has to be taken with a grain of salt, because it is no secret that Donovan and Klinsmann have never been on the same page.

Donovan’s provocations are probably a bit premature but the path for Klinsmann to leave is clear. He has burned a lot of bridges in his time as the US national team manager.

However, Klinsmann has thick skin and made it clear that he doesn’t care what the critics say. In a New York Times article, he is quoted, “Everybody can express his opinion, and not everybody likes you, and that’s totally fine. I’m not here to be liked. I’m trying to do a good job.”

That should let you know that Klinsmann hasn’t lost his focus. As much as he is abrasive with his words and often times questionable in his decision making, he is the right man for the job. At least until 2018. He is clearly dedicated to improving this American squad and he is trying to make do with the best of what he has.

Jurgen_KlinsmannPeople questioned his decision to play Brad Guzan over Tim Howard on Saturday but the reality is that the situation was a lose-lose for him. Had he played Howard and he had struggled, then everyone would have wondered why Guzan, who has played for the last several months in Howard’s place, did not get the nod. Choosing Guzan made sense though. He had been playing consistently for the last few months for the US. Howard would probably be a little rusty coming off an extended absence with the national team and that was not a chance that Klinsmann could afford to take in such a pivotal game.

Many want Klinsmann gone because they feel he is out of touch with the fans and he just isn’t a very likable guy. America is in the midst of a rough stretch right now with the loss to Jamaica in the Gold Cup and now missing out on the Confederations Cup with the loss to Mexico.

That shouldn’t erase everything that Klinsmann has done up to this point. Klinsmann is still the most successful national team manager in the US to date. He is only one win behind Bob Bradley all time and his winning percentage is the best ever by any one to coach more than five games. He could easily surpass Bradley by the end of this year with games remaining against Costa Rica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago left on the schedule.

Bobby Wood
Wood scored the winners in friendlies against Germany and Holland this year.

It might not be the popular decision but it is the right one. The US needs to let Jurgen Klinsmann run this team through the 2018 World Cup and then they can reevaluate. Firing Klinsmann now just would not accomplish what US fans want.

Klinsmann actually has found a couple of youngsters that could be crucial players in the near future. Bobby Wood once again showed he was ready to play in his most recent appearance. He scored the equalizer in extra time against Mexico on Saturday and he is starting to become a reliable source of goals. In 2015, Wood has five caps and has scored in three of them.

Ventura Alvarado
Alvarado made the decision to play for the US over Mexico. He was initially eligible to play for either team.

Ventura Alvarado is another of those young players that brought into the fold. He deserves even more credit here. Alvarado was not a part of the US youth system but Klinsmann managed to flesh him out and in 2015, Alvarado has 12 caps. He had none prior to 2015. Neither of them have been transcendent but they are players that Klinsmann has been found of that seem to be paying off so far.

There is some potential here for the US to get better but in order for that to happen there must be some consistency. I don’t always agree with Klinsmann’s selections or philosophy as a manager, but until further notice, he should be the man running the show for America.

Wearing out his welcome?

Love for soccer in the US is probably the highest it has ever been. Most of that started the relative success of the men’s national team in the last few years. Not exclusively but the 2014 World Cup certainly sparked a lot of interest. With the women taking home the coveted trophy this year and earning their very own ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heros, US soccer is certainly a lot more credible than it was 10 years ago.

Jurgen KlinsmannOn the men’s side, the architect of the rise has been Jurgen Klinsmann, the international manager. He is already making a case for greatest US manager of all time. His competition isn’t very stout with his only true adversaries being Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley. The fact that those two are the only real competition is a testament to the slow rise of US soccer over the last 15 years. Klinsmann promises to outshine both of his predecessors though with already 40 wins to his name, only 3 behind Bradley for second all time. He also has the highest winning percentage of any manager to have coach more than five matches. Needless to say, Klinsmann is have close to unparalleled success.

Some of his more recent victories have been stunning as well. Earlier this year, Klinsmann led the US to its first ever win over the Netherlands, who finished third at the World Cup just a summer ago, followed by an unbelievable victory in Germany, who won the 2014 Cup. Both matches were international friendlies but significant all the same. Klinmann has reached a handful of other milestones as well, including the most wins by a US team in a calendar year with 16.

The likelihood is that Klinsmann goes down in history as the best manager in US soccer history. That is if he can stay around long enough to do so. Winning games usually causes people to look the other way but Klinsmann hasn’t proven to be a heart warming figure. He has made sure that everyone knows he is doing things his way and that his judgement is above all others. It started in the months leading up to the World Cup when Klinsmann left US legend Landon Donovan off of his 23-man squad. It continued throughout the summer when he made it clear that he felt his players should be playing in Europe rather than in the US. It has persisted further with him frequently questioning his players abilities, most recently being Josie Altidore and his fitness.

I’m not saying that Klinsmann was wrong in any of his decisions or actions (although I still think Donovan should’ve played last year), However, it could only be a matter of time before things start going south for the former German footballer. Klinsmann continues to alienate people in US soccer from MLS commissioner Don Garber to his own players. The success is wonderful but if he ever starts to slip, it would be likely that Klinsmann is on a short leash.

Jim_HarbaughThe situation seems very similar to one out in the Bay Area just a year ago in the American version of football. Jim Harbaugh never made the popular decision in San Francisco as the head coach of the 49ers, but he seemed to be making the right ones. His team appeared in three straight NFC title games and even won one of them to advance to the Super Bowl. However, Harbaugh reportedly push his players to the breaking point and constantly wore on the management with his unfriendly tendencies. Ultimately, Harbaugh had a sub par year in 2014 finishing with a .500 record and missing the playoffs. For most coaches who had a winning percentage of over 73 in the previous three years, that would be nothing. For Harbaugh, it turned out to be reason enough for management to force him out, as the two sides mutually parted ways.

You have to wonder a little bit if Klinsmann is headed for the same fate. There haven’t been quite so many rumblings when it comes to complaints about Klinsmann but he has made some public statements criticizing MLS and several of his players. It is no doubt that several of those comments have not sat well with those who were targeted. Klinsmann seems to have that same wearing effect that Harbaugh did in San Francisco. I don’t think Klinsmann needs to change his tune and start praising players who lack talent or hailing MLS as the greatest league in the world because it simply isn’t true. However, it might benefit Klinsmann if he started to keep some of his more critical thoughts to himself.

Tab RamosIt will be some time before Klinsmann is replaced, as the US Soccer Federation seems committed to him leading the team in the 2018 World Cup. Klinsmann’s eventual replacement already seems to be waiting in the wings. It is not a sure thing but Tab Ramos will likely be tabbed as the next USMNT manager following Klinsmann’s tenure. He has already become an assistant on Klinsmann’s staff. Ramos already coaches the men’s U-20 national squad so he would be more than familiar with the next generation of US soccer players. The USSF could easily look elsewhere to replace Klinsmann, as they did when they hired Klinsmann himself. However, as Klinsmann continues to burn bridges, it seems only a matter of time before Ramos fills his shoes.

New home for 2022 World Cup should be obvious

The FBI took down FIFA, the US Men’s team shocked the Netherlands in an international friendly and US Women’s team landed in Canada for the 2015 World Cup. It’s been a good week for soccer in the United States. It could get even better than that too if the FBI finds that the bid allocations that FIFA gave for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were under the circumstances of a bribe or payoff. That would likely mean that both of the World Cups would be reallocated. 

Russia_2018_World_CupWhere exactly the tournaments would be reassigned is still up for debate. A reasonable case can be made for England hosting the 2018 edition because the preparation required is minimal. Sure scheduling might take a little while but the reality is that England is the soccer hub of the world at the domestic level. Britain has 12 stadiums that have a seating capacity of at least 38,000. It also has the historic Wembley Stadium, which would be an excellent site for a World Cup final if you ask me and seats 90,000 fans. The seating capacity is pretty comparable to what Brazil had last summer as well. On top of all of that, England hasn’t hosted a World Cup since 1966.

The reassigning of the 2022 edition is a little trickier. There were several nations that were in the mix and shockingly Qatar was selected. Beyond any tampering that might have gone on with the voting, Qatar shouldn’t be hosting the World Cup anyway. Summer temperatures can reach a startling 120 degrees Fahrenheit and in preparations for the tournament roughly 1,200 migrant workers have died. That number is sure to climb higher as well as we are seven years away from kickoff.

So it makes only too much sense to change the site of the 2022 World Cup. The question that remains is where would it be moved to. The logical answer here would be the nation that finished second in the voting, which was the US.

World Cup StampOn a lot of different levels, a move to America makes sense. From a monetary standpoint, the US would be the best option. The 1994 tournament held in the United States still ranks as the most lucrative one in history. You have to wonder a bit why FIFA would avoid returning to the US in favor of Qatar. Sure, FIFA officials might have been bribed but America would have generated infinitely more revenue for FIFA than Qatar could ever dream of.

There are plenty of critics who claim that soccer is not a big deal in the United States. However, the 1994 World Cup remains the most heavily attended tournament ever. Over the course of all 52 games played that year, the USA brought in over 3.5 million fans. The US still has the highest attendance average as well at roughly 69,000 fans per game. For some reference, the average attendance of a World Cup match if you remove the numbers from the year the US hosted is around 43,250 and the average in Brazil last year was only 53,600.

Preparations for the US wouldn’t be overly difficult either. They have more than enough stadiums to compensate all of the games that need to be played. I went through and found the top 12 stadiums that America could use as host fields. The Citrus Bowl, the Rose Bowl, Ohio Stadium, Bank of America Stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, LP Field, Sanford Stadium, University of Phoenix Stadium, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Cotton Bowl, Arrowhead Stadium and Soldier Field would all work well for hosting the 64-game schedule.

1280px-The_U.S._Embassy_in_Pretoria_Glows_at_NightThat would bring World Cup matches all over the country and let everyone enjoy the action. Florida, California, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Missouri and Illinois would all have the opportunity to host a game. All of the fields use grass as the playing surface as well so there can be no complaints about the awful conditions of playing on FieldTurf. Travel might be slightly difficult but as long as there is as little coast-to-coast movement as possible, it should work out fine.

It also leaves a few options available for where the final could be played. It could once again return to the Rose Bowl, which is where it was played in 1994, or it could be hosted in Ohio Stadium, home of the Ohio State Buckeyes. What makes Ohio Stadium appealing is its capacity of 102,000 fans. The smallest stadium I selected was Soldier Field and that still has a capacity of 61,500. Based on the average attendance back in ’94, I don’t think there should be an issue with filling these stadiums.

At this point, it seems to be a matter of when not if regarding changes of location. FIFA is in turmoil right now and if the new brain trust that takes over has any hope of avoiding corruption being tagged to their name, they will start fresh. I might be a little bit biased in wanting the USA to be chosen as the 2022 host but the selection would make a ton of sense. It would be another step forward for the growth of soccer stateside. Hopefully, the US gets the chance to make it happen.