Commentary

For Klinsmann, There is No Margin for Error

By the time you read this, the U.S. men’s national team will have most likely completed its opening 2018 World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, winning handily.

If that hasn’t happened, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann should be fired immediately. In fact, he should be fired immediately if the game is even the slightest bit in doubt beyond the first half. 

Why? Well, for one thing, it gets a lot tougher from here. For example: the team heads to Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday, which is itself no pushover -- just ask archrival Mexico, which failed to beat T&T in its last two meetings -- especially at home.

Thankfully, the USA  has been dealt a kind draw in its first phase of World Cup qualifying, as it should come out on top in home-and-away games against Guatemala next year, and then in its remaining games thereafter, against T&T at home, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines away.

Having said that, in an interview with Goal.com, USA legend Landon Donovan has absolutely hit the nail on the head by calling out Klinsmann for his team selection for these first two qualifiers. For example, on leaving out former USA captain Clint Dempsey, Donovan says: "If I'm the manager, I want Clint to be part of what we're doing -- period, end of story. Maybe if it's a friendly game that's different and you can start to look at other players but in a World Cup qualifier, there's no room for error. This round of qualifying on paper isn't as difficult as the final round of qualifying but there are only six games. If you throw away a game or two games you might not even advance to the next round.”

Later in the interview, Donovan criticizes the USA coach for the team’s recent run of one win from six games in all competitions, saying: "I think there's just been a little too much mixing and matching of players and positions. Our players are definitely good enough and they know they're good enough but I think they need to be put in positions to succeed and then have some time to jell together."

Indeed, Landon, Klinsmann’s endless tinkering with the squad -- once seen as a positive for the program -- has, at this point, gotten out of hand. Clint Dempsey is, by a very great distance, the USA’s best and most consistent goalscorer. Never mind that he’s now 32 and that U.S. Soccer badly needs to find someone to replace him going forward. It would have been fine to call up one or even two inexperienced forwards, but not including the Texan is, simply put, the wrong move; World Cup qualifying is not a dress rehearsal. 

And this is where Off The Post takes issue with the way the German goes about his business: by not picking the likes of Dempsey and going instead with new blood in the first two qualifiers, Klinsmann is once again exhibiting an uncomfortable lack of humility before what is a Concacaf region that has visibly improved since the last time his USA squad faced a World Cup qualifying match that actually mattered -- way back in the summer of 2013.

Then again, maybe he sees something in this team that the rest of the country doesn’t? Unfortunately, that too often seems to be the case with Klinsmann. Take, for example, his comments about the 3-2 overtime loss to Mexico in the Concacaf Cup: "I agree with the fact that we didn't get the results that we wanted, but I don't agree with the fact that the performances were not the ones we wanted to see," said Klinsmann said Thursday. "I think we had a very, very good game actually against Mexico…but we came out on the short end. We lost it. That's the bottom line." What does that mean exactly—that they were unlucky? In soccer, it’s hard to concede three goals in any game and come out on top -- regardless of the fact that two of the goals were conceded in extra-time.

With that being said, Off The Post fully expects the U.S. should to come through these next two games with, at minimum, a win and a draw; anything less should signal the end of the German’s time in charge of the U.S. national team. (U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati for his part expects that the USA will qualify and Klinsmann will be the coach.) U.S. Soccer cannot toy with the prospect of its team not qualifying for Russia 2018, and there are plenty of candidates capable of replacing him, namely, current LA Galaxy and former USA coach Bruce Arena, who has already suggested that he would be open to coaching the national team again if asked. In OTP’s opinion -- and indeed, the opinion of many others he’s spoken to -- the American is tactically a better coach than Klinsmann; he is certainly more experienced.

18 comments about "For Klinsmann, There is No Margin for Error ".
  1. Dan Phillips, November 13, 2015 at 7:02 p.m.

    Klinsmann needs to be fired. And Jozy Altidore should be benched.

  2. F. Kirk Malloy, November 13, 2015 at 9:16 p.m.

    Is this the analysis of a paid writer? Exclusively results-driven dribble. If JK wins handily all is well, if he doesn't he should be fired. He lost to Mexico so therefore it was bad. That's it? You're paid for this? Please tell me it's an internship or blogger (ie, free), in which case well worth the money. Really, it's embarrassing from a compensated analyst, if that's what you are.

  3. Daniel Clifton, November 13, 2015 at 9:35 p.m.

    For Klinsmann to say the US played a really good game against Mexico in the last game is delusional. If he thinks that was a good game, he is out of his mind. That is one reason I think it is time to get rid of him. I think they will not be able to beat T and T in this next game.

  4. Joe Linzner, November 13, 2015 at 9:59 p.m.

    This writer is certainly not a person that understands soccer in any way. Certainly not the influence a coach ahs on a game. There is a built in tendency in our players mind to fade into a bunker and boot game whenever they get even lightly pressed. A coach's influence ends at the touch line after kickoff. No amount of screaming from the side line helps. Today against SV&G it was an easy game and we cap tied some youngsters and others showed flashes of talent. Donovan should shut his yapp. Dempsey was rested and not needed. BS observations and much ado about nothing. Wasted some reading time as well as answering.

  5. James Froehlich, November 13, 2015 at 11:31 p.m.

    Joe L -- please don't consider your time wasted. I loved your response! Really tired of the short-sighted know-it-alls!

  6. Gary Wien, November 14, 2015 at 3:46 a.m.

    No, they've been in him since the MLS remarks. They go silent when there's a good win - and there some of the team's best wins have been under Klins. But they come out with venom with each loss. They don't report, they simply have an agenda. It's sad. They care more about getting him fired than the team having success.

  7. Dennis Mueller, November 14, 2015 at 9:57 a.m.

    All a national team coach can do is select players to play the kind of soccer he wants. If the players can't play the way he wants either the coach is poor at selecting players, or the coach is so clueless as to try to play soccer in a manner the players he chooses are not capable of. Either way, the coach bears responsibility for figuring it out. Klinsmann has repeatedly failed at that.

    That said, a national team coach that wins is very seldom fired, simply because getting results is what it is all about at the international team level. So while winning ugly or just barely may not be what fans or adminstrators want, losing to weaker teams or frequent rivals in games that matter is not easily forgiven.

  8. Richard Brown replied, November 16, 2015 at 8:29 a.m.

    Dennis how are you doing. It's Mrsoccer Richie Are you still with Princeton soccer?

  9. Allan Lindh, November 14, 2015 at 11:42 a.m.

    We're currently ranked 33rd in world? If Arena is really available, go for it. Enuf is enuf.

  10. Ric Fonseca, November 14, 2015 at 1:26 p.m.

    After reading this article I was left wondering just what the authors creds are, did he play before, officiated any game at any level, just has a journalism degree from podunk univ, or what? On the other hand, the comments above, by F. Kirk, Joe L, Joe F, and All American are spot on, as I vividly remember seeing Garber on TV when JK "dossed" the MLS and called it for what it is. But one thing for sure, that even JK did not mention fully, or at least don't remember him saying, and that is that Mexico played their cojones at the Rose Bowl, and so what if they did it in extra time! So what if we had won also in OT? Anyone say kudos to Mexico? OK, granted we're talking USA, and I appreciate it, but to have the author say that Bruce Arena is waiting on the wings with baited breadth, now that is delusional. Ultimately Dennis Muller comment makes 1000% sense, so thank you Dennis! Bruce Arena is far too busy being Gen Mgr and Head coach, y'all think he'd give that up, having his toast buttered on both sides? Nope, goodness sakes alive, he lost to Sigi Schmid, who out coached Arena, who had all that expensive talent.!

  11. Raymundo Ramirez, November 14, 2015 at 9:07 p.m.

    @ Ric Fonseca, I gave kudos to Mexico on a Garber article the day after the US lost to Mexico, only to have that comment criticized by you the same way you critique everyone else's comments. No worries though, you asked a question, and I answered. As far as Bruce Arena, people forget that during his tenure as USMNT coach he had a very good core of players: Brad Fiedal and Kasey Keller in their primes, Claudio Reyna who had a great career in Europe, Brian McBride who had a good career in England as well, a speedy, healthy, young and hungry Landon Donovan, Beasley,Cherendolu and Tony Sannah who had success in Germany, etc. We do not have difference makers like those right now. Klinsman is stuck with a group of players who at this moment are not at the caliber that Bruce's players were when they made that quarter final run in 2002. Every team has a dry spell (look at the Netherlands now), ours is happening at this moment.

  12. Andrew Kear, November 15, 2015 at 4:30 a.m.

    We really had it good with Arena and Bradley. I will never forgot the 2002 World Cup run.

  13. Richard Brown replied, November 16, 2015 at 8:48 a.m.

    Arena had a ton of good players on his national team. Plus they were all fast and they could counter.

    Does Jurgen ever use a counter on purpose?

  14. Ric Fonseca, November 15, 2015 at 9:26 p.m.

    @Raymundo, muchas gracias. I'd "forgotten" your comment. But wait, if I were to criticize everyone's comments, I'd be writing so much that I'd not have for much of anything else. But one thing that I AM adamant about is that why is it that we must - better put - why many always want to go back to the Arena-Bradley era? That was then, this is now, the reality of the situation is staring us dab smack in the face, so wouldn't it make more sense if we all put our eggs in one basket and be more positive, or put a more positive spin on the current situation we're in?

  15. Raymundo Ramirez replied, November 15, 2015 at 11:12 p.m.

    Yes sir, Mr. Fonseca. I agree.

  16. Andrew Kear, November 17, 2015 at 5:04 p.m.

    I have no idea if the US won today. However, for the first time since the early nineties I am afraid to look at the score. These are not pleasant times to be a fan of the USMNT. In the past I would not of even bothered to look at the score assuming the US most likely would have won against a team like T&T. In this new era of Klinsmann the USMNT can lose to anyone including Panama.

  17. Richard Brown, November 17, 2015 at 6:33 p.m.

    We are not getting better with Klinnesman we do need a change. He actually has job security no coach should have that. He needs to be put under more pressure to win. Especially with the Mexican national team rivalry.

  18. Andrew Kear, November 17, 2015 at 10:39 p.m.

    The US must learn to win in spite off Klinsmann. It is obvious he is not going to be fired anytime soon. His absurd game strategy will have to be tolerated, even if it costs the U.S. a few games a year.

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