That headline was used for a column of mine after World Cup 2014. When Klinsmann led the USA to absolutely nothing -- just another World Cup elimination. I’ve added the “Again.”
Looking back, the only achievement of the 2014 team was a personal one, Tim Howard’s World Cup record of 10,000 saves, or whatever it was. A positive stat for Howard, but an abysmal one for Klinsmann’s team.
There was also the indisputable fact that the soccer played by the USA ranged from pathetic through forgettable and all the way up to just about acceptable.
So here we are again. A 2-3 loss to Mexico, and goodbye Confederations Cup. Plus another trite performance from Klinsmann’s team. No style, no flow, no real soccer. No nothing. In fact the USA’s soccer, for most of this game, bordered on the unwatchable.
Klinsmann, after the game, asserted that his players gave it everything, that they showed fighting spirit in coming back from a goal down, twice.
Oh please, enough. Klinsmann was not -- I trust -- hired to reveal to us that Americans are highly competitive, that they have a strong never-say-die spirit, that they don’t like losing. That was all solidly established long before Klinsmann appeared on the scene. So one pleasing thing that Klinsmann could do right now is to stop behaving as though he has imbued American soccer players with positive traits that they never before possessed.
Listening to Klinsmann’s press conference after the Mexico game was embarrassing. Not simply -- or even mainly -- because of his vapid answers, but because of the timid questions that came from the press.
Has Klinsmann ever faced a hostile press conference, I wonder? Here we had a situation where Klinsmann had just screwed up badly -- lost a vital game. In any of the world’s major soccer countries, that would have meant at least an extremely uncomfortable session for the coach. It might have meant him losing his job. Not here. Klinsmann smiled his way through this gentle tea party and emerged unscathed.
We ought to have learned something from these absurd little chit-chats by now. That Klinsmann intimidates the media. Not in his manner, which is always low-key, polite and smiling. It is his international reputation that cows people. Why should that be? His reputation as a player can hardly be disputed, but his career as a coach is far from blemish-free.
Even world-class personalities -- maybe especially them -- need to be challenged and questioned. Klinsmann is allowed to do what he likes. In a disgraceful display of personal vindictiveness he was, last year, allowed to leave the USA’s best player, Landon Donovan, off the World Cup team. He is allowed to bring in his pal Andi Herzog to coach the Olympic team, a job that should have been given to an American. And he is allowed to scour the world for players with tenuous claims to citizenship, the passport Americans, and to use them instead of developing home-grown American talent.
And for what? Klinsmann has accomplished nothing of any great moment during his four years in charge. In World Cup terms -- and that is usually the yardstick by which a national team coach is measured -- he’s done no better than Bob Bradley did, and not as well as Bruce Arena.
USSF president Sunil Gulati seems to find all of that acceptable. Well, I don’t. Four years is a long time for a national team coach to keep his job -- even if he’s winning. But Klinsmann is not winning, he is achieving nothing. He has an overpaid job, with next to no pressure. In fact -- at least in the soccer world -- the mother of all sinecures.
If there is a plausible, even a semi-plausible, soccer argument for retaining Klinsmann, I’ve yet to hear it.