First of all, throw out of any equation to rate Jurgen Klinsmann's job performance the USA’s 6-1 win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines, which was captained by a coast guard officer and started a fisherman at forward.
Trinidad & Tobago does start a midfielder who plays fourth-tier soccer in England, but is still a respectable foe. The Soca Warriors have been to a World Cup (in 2006) and they tied Mexico twice this year.
In Port of Spain, the USA wrapped up a year in which it flopped at the Gold Cup, got completely dominated by Mexico in the Concacaf Cup, and fell to Costa Rica at home in a friendly. Klinsmann, who in four and a half years has failed to produce a U.S. national team any better than what we’ve had before, wasn’t going to make that right with one game.
But we still looked for any signs that Klinsmann might be capable of reviving this squad. Maybe we’d get a sense that these players wanted to prove the coach’s critics wrong. Or a spirited display that implied a rebound from the performances over the last few months.
It turned out to be a 0-0 tie. The U.S. players toiled joylessly for 90 minutes while T&T played so tamely in the second half -- the Soca Warriors, having won at Guatemala on Friday, appeared quite satisfied with one point -- that a tie should not be deemed “all right,” as Klinsmann said afterward.
For anyone to feel confident that keeping faith in Klinsmann is the right course, something exciting needed to come from his team. Instead, this performance deserved the most dreaded of descriptions for a soccer game: boring.
One could nit-pick about Klinsmann’s approach. Leaving Clint Dempsey, the team’s leading scorer with a long history of vital goals, at home while Gyasi Zardes blows chances. Not starting Bobby Wood, the guy who this year scored against Germany, the Netherlands and Mexico, and the equalizer against St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
But most importantly, the display didn’t reveal any signs that this is a team on the upswing.
When a team is stuck in a rut like the USA is in, the chances of the current coach pulling it out must be weighed against the effect a new coach will have on the team. To be considered is that simply changing the coach can have a positive effect because it creates a different atmosphere.
Also to be considered is the worst case scenario: That the players have lost faith in the coach and aren't responding to his methods.
Because we’ve gone long enough without evidence that Klinsmann can raise the national team to a level higher than his predecessors reached -- we know that a coaching change is the lower-risk option than the status quo. That the national team could use a fresh start for 2016.