Next month marks the fifth anniversary of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as USA head coach.
Only one other nation at the 16-team Copa America Centenario had a coach in charge for as long -- Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez, at the helm since 2006.
Of the 24 Euro 2016 teams, only Germany’s Joachim Loew (2006) and Spain’s Vicente del Bosque (2008), winners of the last two World Cups, have been in place longer than Klinsmann.
Indeed, by international standards, half a decade is a long time for a national team coach, and even for the USA. Of the 37 men who preceded Klinsmann, only one served for as long as five years -- Bruce Arena, at the helm from 1998 to 2006.
Klinsmann is under contract through 2018, but U.S. Soccer will be thoroughly evaluating the USA’s Copa Centenario performance, which came a year after the USA’s worst Gold Cup performance in 15 years, the failure to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup with last October’s Concacaf Cup loss to Mexico, and a loss and tie with Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago, respectively, in World Cup qualifying.
On the plus side for Klinsmann, it reached the semifinals and finished fourth place at the Copa Centenario. Its 2-1 quarterfinal win over Ecuador marked its fourth-ever knockout-round win in a non-Concacaf competition after beating Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup (Bob Bradley), Mexico in the 1995 Copa America quarterfinals (Steve Sampson), and Mexico in the 2002 World Cup round of 16 (Bruce Arena).
But the 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third-place game meant it finished the tournament at .500 -- three wins and three losses.
Some stats to ponder:
SHOTS: The USA was outshot 0-14 by Argentina, 7-13 by Ecuador, 5-9 by Paraguay, but outshot Costa Rica, 10-7 in a 4-0 win – the USA’s best performance of the tournament.
In the 1-0 loss to Colombia, each team had 10 shots. In the 2-0 opening loss to Colombia, the USA outshot Colombia, 11-8.
In its last four games, as my colleague Paul Kennedy points out in “By the Numbers: USA at the Copa Centenario,” the USA was outshot, 44-22, and the 7.2 shots per game at the tournament are the fewest of the Klinsmann era in official championships.
POSSESSION: According to Copa Centenario game reports:
49% Colombia 51% (0-1)
USA 33% Argentina 67% (0-4)
USA 46% Ecuador 54% (2-1)
USA 36% Paraguay 64% (1-0)
USA 42% Costa Rica 58% (4-0)
USA 54% Colombia 46% (0-2)
DISCIPLINE: In six games, the USA received 16 yellow cards and three red cards. Four players -- DeAndre Yedlin, Bobby Wood, Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones -- served one-game suspensions, during the tournament. Michael Orozco will be suspended for the USA's next game.
GOALS: In six games, the USA was outscored 7-8 and was shut out in three games. It shut out Costa Rica and Paraguay.
How much do these stats help in assessing Klinsmann?
Of course, the discipline issue is troubling. The USA led the tourney in ejections and only Panama matched the USA in suspensions.
It’s difficult to draw conclusions on the possession stats when they indicate the USA had more of the ball than Colombia in the opener in a game Los Cafeteros were obviously superior and less of the ball while outplaying the Ticos. The possession stat can become skewed after one team is protecting a solid lead.
But the ultimate way to judge a coach is by wins and losses. And at this Copa Centenario, none of the USA wins were upsets and neither were its losses.
Beating teams like Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador is what we expect from a U.S. national team coach, whether it was back when Bradley got paid $450,000 or now when Klinsmann earns more than $3 million annually.
The results at this Copa Centenario were a wash. No better or worse than anyone would have predicted based on the history of the opponents’ records and the talent they’ve produced.
Klinsmann’s inability to lift the USA off the plateau it has been on for decades -- the USA finished fourth-place at a Copa America (on foreign-soil) in 1995 -- is often excused by blaming a lack of U.S. talent. Klinsmann himself frequently chides American players for their deficiencies.
What the stats don’t tell us is what kind of relationship Klinsmann has with his players. Do they have faith in his tactical approach? Are his motivational methods effective? Is Klinsmann -- and his imported staff of former teammate Andi Herzog and former coach Berti Vogts -- getting the best out of the U.S. talent available?
If there’s any doubt, it’s time for a new coach, because one can’t replace the entire talent pool. But one can, as is usually done with national teams, replace the coach if after five years there hasn’t been substantial improvement.