Commentary

U.S, result against Mexico won't change issues swirling about Klinsmann's tenure

By Ridge Mahoney
(@ridgemax)

When former international Landon Donovan raised the issue of accountability, the segment of U.S. fans whose limits of patience and sympathy were exhausted by his benign displays and long sabbatical cited disgruntlement about being chopped off the 2014 World Cup team as motivation for remarks that a loss to Mexico should trigger his dismissal. Donovan is just one of many former U.S. internationals to express their opinions about Klinsmann’s methods and track record, yet he’s on solid ground to say that in many other countries, similar results would prompt termination.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati has gone on record to say a loss to Mexico won’t prompt the firing of Klinsmann. Many members of the soccer press corps have surmised that Gulati will stick to his guns, unless the U.S loses badly. Should one game, no matter how monumental, be the determinant of whether a new leader is chosen and a new course laid out?

In this case, “unless” is B.S. Regardless of what transpires on Saturday, either the U.S. is in on the right path under Klinsmann or it’s not. He won the 2013 Gold Cup and lost in the 2015 semifinals to Jamaica, which subsequently lost in the final to Mexico and thus set up this unprecedented match between the bitterest of rivals.

If Klinsmann’s work at the 2014 World Cup is confirmation, he’s earned the job long-term and what transpires in the Rose Bowl shouldn’t be sufficient cause to re-evaluate his tenure. An overhyped showdown against Mexico doesn’t change the fact that Klinsmann hasn’t lost to El Tri in six meetings, and is the only coach in U.S. history to win a game – a friendly, it must be said – and garner a tie at the Azteca in qualifying play.

So all the experts and pundits declaring that Gulati won’t fire Klinsmann unless maybe, possibly the U.S. falters badly at the Rose Bowl are heaping an importance on this one game that Gulati does not recognize. However, nowhere have I seen a fan or ex-player or pundit offer up the scenario of Klinsmann resigning in the aftermath of an embarrassing defeat.

Again, this is not a function of just one game but rather the big picture, which Klinsmann has vast authority to control because he is technical director as well as head coach of the national team. He picked Andi Herzog to coach the U-23/Olympic team, which goes for its own vital objective a few hours before the senior team tangles with Mexico. What if the U-23s sweep to their fourth straight victory and qualify for the 2016 Olympic soccer tournament and Mexico prevails in the Rose Bowl? Does Klinsmann’s eye for talent, which has drawn Jordan Morris and Julian Green and Aron Johannsson and other young players in the fold supersede a few bad results?

Donovan is only partly right in claiming that similar circumstances in other countries would prompt a firing. It’s not unheard of head coaches under extreme pressure to resign. In the case of Klinsmann, he could back out and relieve Gulati of the difficult task of firing him, and stay on his technical director so his value as a spotter of talent and globally known figurehead could be utilized by U.S. Soccer.

Such a move -- assuming Klinsmann would agree to it, which is by no means assured -- would require U.S. Soccer to find a national team head coach compatible with the methods and philosophies of Klinsmann and also well-versed in the business of winning games. So this solution may not be feasible given the unique conditions under which Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer are operating. Klinsmann won't want to step down even if a case can be made that his greatest value is overseeing player evaluation and development and not managing the team.

Before Klinsmann was hired in the summer of 2011, media exposure and coverage of the national team and U.S. Soccer’s programs had already started a dramatic upswing. That process has accelerated during his tenure, and thus, his quirky methods and the team’s streaky performances have been examined and scrutinized at unprecedented levels. Overtraining and tactical naivety are among the criticisms leveled at his work.

Yet whether or not outsiders understand the processes by which Klinsmann operates is largely irrelevant. All that matters is how the team plays and the results it accrues, and like so many aspects of the Klinsmann era, those stats are rooted in ambiguity and contradiction. The same team that beat the Netherlands and Germany in Europe can’t beat Jamaica at home in the Gold Cup? Unprecedented friendly victories in Italy and Mexico don’t mean anything in competitive tournaments? Players who performed well in the 2013 Hexagonal and 2014 World Cup are dropped in their prime? Are players who come back from Europe regressing in MLS and if so what can be done about it? 

Saturday is probably the biggest day in the history of U.S. Soccer, yet the same issues will still be on the horizon when the sun peaks over it Sunday morning.

19 comments about "U.S, result against Mexico won't change issues swirling about Klinsmann's tenure".
  1. Gus Keri, October 10, 2015 at 8:13 a.m.


    Which one is going to be stronger, CCONCACAF's onspiracy theory or Donovan's curse? CONCACAF's conspiracy is based on making this Big-money-generating game happen by helping Mexico win the Gold cup and then letting the USA wins this match as a reward to helping Mexico on many occasions like during the Gold Cup win and in reaching the World Cup 2014. Donovan's curse is based on the troubled relationship between him and Klinsmann that had reached peak at the world cup. This curse had even reached Klinsmann's son who, as a goalkeeper of the US U-19, was on the end of 8-1 smashing defeat by the German U-19. And we all remember the famous tweet by the son after Donovan exclusion form the World Cup. Let see which one wins.

  2. Glenn Auve, October 10, 2015 at 10:37 a.m.

    I think you are giving Klinsi too much credit for the World Cup, and not enough criticism for what might have been in that tournament. Granted he didn't miss Wondo's sitter that would have advanced us past Belgium. But his methods and his bizarre line up choices hold the team back.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, October 10, 2015 at 2:42 p.m.

    But JK Did Pick WondoLoserki over Donovan...And that was why Wondo was sitting on the 6, instead of Landon...Anyone think Landon would have missed that shot...We at the Dynamo, saw him CHOKE those Sitters YEAR AFTER YEAR...That was why Kinnear Shipped him off to San Jose...Another Reason JK should be Fired..."UnEducated" about his own Players History

  4. Terry Ellis, October 10, 2015 at 11:18 a.m.

    Only in Soccer would people be talking about firing someone over one lost game! Certainly would not happen in American Football or baseball where winning half your games is a pretty good season! And it hasn't even happened yet. As for his lineup tinkering, it would seem to me he is looking for a combination that will work with the palyers he has at his disposal and without a Ronaldo, Messi, etc.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, October 10, 2015 at 2:49 p.m.

    This is the Pinnacle of YEARS of Ineptitude...Not just One Game...Where you been, since we almost didn't make it out of CONCAcaCrApF Bracket and there was Player Rebellion...Having said that..HE Wins; He Stays...He Loses; FIRE HIM.!!!

  6. Doug Lister, October 10, 2015 at 11:22 a.m.

    what exactly is Klinsmann's title these days? Who gave him that title? Is it really that bad to lose to Mexico? They have a strong team with more of their first teamers starting in Europe than we do and if you use the Concacaf Champion's league as a measuring stick they're league is stronger evidenced by the fact that they keep winning the thing, beating up on our league. However, lose to Honduras today and miss qualifying for the Olympics for the second straight time, then he should go. If he's supposed to be building this program that is designed to compete for the biggest trophies on the game's biggest stage, then his u23 team ought to be at least 2nd best in the region.

  7. R2 Dad replied, October 10, 2015 at 1:07 p.m.

    while it appears andi herzog is doing a credible job with the U23s (10-4 wo a draw), the real measure is How Many Players Make It To the Full USMNT? The U23s can win tournaments across the globe but unless they are a pipeline for the mens team US Soccer is failing. So again, it's all about development.

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, October 10, 2015 at 2:50 p.m.

    Agreed

  9. Greg Milton, October 10, 2015 at 2:02 p.m.

    Landon is being his typical passive aggressive self. His statement assigns blame to the head coach for certain losses. Granted if a Coach benched a world class player like Messi as ego/power trip snd the team went on to loose game after game. Certainly that coach would be fired. However the USA doesn't have a single world class player. Dempsey is the best we have. He would not make Barca Real Madrid at all. He would ride the bench at any of the top teams. That said, the USA is supposed to get whipped by Brazil as wedon't have the talent. The line up will not matter. Mexico has more talent than us too. That's not JK's fault. At least he pulled Morris into the team. And has let a large pool of players get a chance. The point is that it didn't work. Jk is the one who cannot ctrl the ball or look hopelessly out matched to push fwd like soo many of the US players do. LD is being a whiner bc JK thought he was a chump. JK was right about him and that makes him a smart coach in my book.

  10. Santiago 1314 replied, October 10, 2015 at 2:57 p.m.

    USA 2..Mexico 1.../// It's not all about talent. ."No se Puede" Mexico will Choke, Just like they always do against "AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM"...

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, October 10, 2015 at 10:40 p.m.

    "If a coach benched a world class player like Messi...." Duh? Apparently you don't think benching a world class keeper like Howard is enough. I very much dislike thinking that Howard was picked just so JK could watch him sit the bench. Time will tell.

  12. Karl Schreiber, October 10, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.

    Just a couple of brief comments: Klinsmann does not play the game; it is played by players who IMHO are just not up to top international standards, and that included Donovan who’s ghost still wanders through the S.A. articles and posts by his aficionados. Watching top European league matches, it has become clear to me that Klinsmann is (at least) right with the emphasis on physical fitness, not to mention match fitness. Our players are not fast enough, not quick enough, and don’t have endurance for 90 minutes. I leave the assessment of other elements to the experts, but with the exception of two goalkeepers, we don’t have anybody who competes at the top international level and – again – Donovan never did. Aaron Johansson at Bremen has not convinced me at this point. One cardinal mistake of Klinsmann is inviting Altidore to camp time and again and then actually putting him on the field.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, October 10, 2015 at 10:42 p.m.

    You have to be kidding me. USA has had several world class keepers by anyone's measure.

  14. Zoe Willet, October 10, 2015 at 4:14 p.m.

    1)I would like to see a definition of "world class player". This has been floating around on the web recently.
    Jurgen has expressed the opinion that players are more valuable who play in the top European leagues; well, we have Howard, Guzan, Dempsey, Altidore, Johansson, Bedoya, Bradley, Jones, the defender who plays in the Premier league whose name escapes me for the moment, and more in Germany, who play/have played 'over there'.
    2)I am really tired of Landon, Landon! "Passive-aggressive" is right! And may I add, "puerile"?
    3)I am also tired of people ragging on Jozy and Jurgen every five minutes- find something new to talk about!
    4) Finally, I really hope the kids win today and we beat or tie Mexico tonight- and let me remind y'all that we consistently win/tie against Mexico.
    5) So there! Bye!

  15. David V, October 10, 2015 at 11:44 p.m.

    Fire Klinnsmann!... Jozy Altidore=garbage

  16. cisco martinez, October 11, 2015 at 6:26 p.m.

    Fire klinsmann and hire a better coach, Bruce arena is a better coach. He coach the U.S.to the quarterfinals, he know about developing youth talent, and la galaxy is consistently on top of the MLS. I was upset when he got fired in 2006 because we played well against Italy and got screwed by the referee against Ghana, against Czech Rep we lost to a better team. His results with the national team have been the best since 1930.

  17. BJ Genovese, October 12, 2015 at 10:30 a.m.

    Apparently JK thinks that Josie Altidore could have just as easily place a ball into the back of the goal just as Mexico if given the chance... Josie must be one hell of a practice player...

  18. BJ Genovese replied, October 12, 2015 at 10:31 a.m.

    im referencing his comments to the press regarding the Mexico third goal.

  19. Joe Linzner, October 13, 2015 at 1:10 p.m.

    right on East Coast, the bottom is where the problem lies. Unless the guy is at least 6' tall no amount of talent will get him noticed and the acadamies are jokes in that all they want is the money to stay solvent...... the entire youth program beginning with AYSO where participation is the goal if you can afford to join. Forget about teaching them soccer and rewarding talent not showing up would go a long way to a better result on top.

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