Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. years

By Ridge Mahoney
After retiring as a player in 1998, Jurgen Klinsmann moved to Southern California -- an area he had visited many times while on vacation -- to live and start a family with his American wife, Debbie.

He played for a PDL club team, Orange County Blue Star, in 2003 under a pseudonym named after his hometown in Germany, Jay Goppingen. His real name was linked to several coaching jobs, both in Europe and MLS, but not until his native country came calling did he make the jump.
July 2004 -- Klinsmann is named coach of the German national team, which two years after finishing runner-up at the 2002 World Cup failed to advance out of group play at the European Championship. Poor results and the international retirement of several veteran players casts a deep cloud over a team that in less than two years will host the World Cup.

April, 2006 -- After rotating goalkeepers Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehman, Klinsmann relegates Kahn to the bench. The controversial decision is one of several rough patches during Klinsmann’s tenure, as was his commuting from California to coach the team. He does move to Germany months before the World Cup amid domestic pessimism regarding the team’s chances.

July, 2006 –- A good World Cup showing at the World Cup ends in the semifinals, a 2-0 loss to eventual champion Italy in extra time. Germany beats Portugal to claim third place and a huge crowd attends a parade in Berlin to honor the team.

A week later, he declines an offer from the German soccer federation (DFB) to extend his contract and speculation increases regarding his candidacy to replace USA head coach Bruce Arena, who stepped down after the World Cup.

December, 2006 – After negotiations with Klinsmann broke down just days before a hiring announcement was to be held, U.S. Soccer hires Bob Bradley, who had been serving as interim head coach in place of Arena.

July, 2008 –- Klinsmann is hired by Bayern Munich, for which he played two seasons, scored 31 goals and helped win a UEFA Cup (1996) and Bundesliga title (1997). He implements new ideas about training, fitness, and nutrition and rocks the traditional Bayern system that had won three of the last four Bundesliga titles.

April, 2009 -- During a brief, turbulent and unsuccessful stint he brings in Landon Donovan on loan and is fired after Bayern is eliminated from the Champions League quarterfinals while sitting in third place in the Bundesliga. Bayern eventually finishes second.

July, 2011 – Klinsmann replaces Bradley, dismissed after the USA is beaten by Mexico, 4-2, in the Gold Cup final after it had lost to Panama in group play. Under Bradley, the USA won the 2007 Gold Cup, placed second in the 2009 Confederations Cup and advanced out of group play at the 2010 World Cup before losing to Ghana in the round of 16.

February, 2012 – USA beats Italy for the first time, 1-0, in Genoa on a goal by Clint Dempsey, who says in a postgame interview, “It’s a friendly.”

August, 2012 – In another friendly, the USA stuns Mexico, again by a 1-0 score, at the Azteca Stadium. Michael Orozco comes off the bench to score and the Americans hold on to win in Mexico for the first time since the nations first played in 1934.

December, 2012 – Donovan announces he’s taking a sabbatical from competitive soccer. Klinsmann and Arena, head coach of the Galaxy, express misgivings but Donovan does not attend the annual January U.S. camp nor the Galaxy's preseason sessions.

February, 2013 – Donovan says he will return in late March, early in the MLS regular season but after the second and third games of the Hexagonal. In its first two games of the year, the USA played a dull 0-0 tie with Canada and lost its first Hexagonal game to Honduras, 2-1. For the Honduras game, Klinsmann drops defender and captain Carlos Bocanegra, who is not called for the next round of qualifiers.

March, 2013 – A few days after Sporting News posts a story quoting unnamed sources speaking about a team roiled by turmoil, the USA beats Costa Rica, 1-0, in a snowstorm at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Americans follow up by holding Mexico to a 0-0 tie at Estadio Azteca to quiet fears raised by the loss in Honduras.

May, 2013 – Klinsmann announces Donovan will not be selected for three Hexagonal games in June. The USA justifies the coach’s decision when it sweeps the three games to jump atop the Hexagonal at 4-1-1 and edge closer to qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

July, 2013 – Klinsmann recalls Donovan for the Gold Cup and he scores five goals, including two in a 3-1 semifinal defeat of Honduras. Brek Shea, who had been the only player selected and fielded by Klinsmann in each of his first eight games in charge, scores the only goal in the final against Panama.

September, 2013 – For the second time in three Hexagonals, the Americans beat Mexico, 2-0, in Columbus to qualify for the World Cup. Donovan and Eddie Johnson score the goals to nail down a spot with two games to spare.

October, 2013 – Graham Zusi scores in back-to-back victories against Jamaica and Panama that clinch top spot in the Hexagonal. His late goal that downs Panama, 3-2, saves Mexico, which otherwise would have been eliminated. The Mexicans finish fourth and beat New Zealand in a two-game playoff to qualify for the World Cup.

December, 2013 – Klinsmann says the USA aims to “surprise some people” after being placed in a World Cup group with Ghana, Portugal, and tournament co-favorite Germany. His contract is controversially extended by U.S. Soccer through 2018 and the job of technical director is tacked on.

May, 2014 – The biggest surprise of the World Cup training camp is Donovan’s exclusion from the final 23. He is passed over in favor of Chris Wondolowski, Brad Davis, Aron Johannsson, Zusi, and youngster Julian Green. Klinsmann says, “I just see some other players slightly ahead of him.”

June, 2014 – In their opening game, the Americans beat Ghana, 2-1, and despite surrendering a last-minute equalizer to Portugal before losing to Germany, advance out of Group G. In the round of 16, Tim Howard fends off Belgium with 12 saves and Wondolowski skies a sitter before Belgium scores twice in extra time. Green hits a spectacular volley and Dempsey nearly scores in the second overtime of a 2-1 defeat.

October, 2014 -- Klinsmann takes a few potshots at MLS, criticizing the quality of play and decisions by players such as Dempsey and Michael Bradley to leave European leagues for MLS. League commissioner Don Garber objects and also slams Klinsmann for leaving Donovan off the World Cup team.

December, 2014 –- After helping the Galaxy win its third title in four seasons and the sixth of his MLS career, Donovan retires.

April, 2015 – The Americans beat Mexico, 2-0, in a friendly on a goal by Jordan Morris, who had drawn Klinsmann’s notice playing for Stanford University in a pre-World Cup scrimmage the year before. He stays in school rather than turning pro and leads Stanford to its first Division I men’s soccer title, and after a brief visit to Werder Bremen arranged by Klinsmann and assistant coach Andi Herzog, signs a pro contract with his hometown team, Seattle.

June 2015 – A poor showing at the Gold Cup leaves the USA fourth after losing a semifinal to Jamaica and the third-place match (on penalty kicks) to Panama. The result necessitates a playoff with Mexico, the tournament champion, for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, which Klinsmann had stated was the team’s primary objective for the year.

October, 2015 – Mexico wins the playoff, 3-2, at the Rose Bowl in extra time with Brad Guzan in goal in place of Howard, who had taken a sabbatical from the national team – though he continued playing for Everton – earlier in the year.

January, 2016 – A more relaxed atmosphere ensues at the annual January camp after Klinsmann had consulted with several veteran players about excessive training sessions and mandatory meals, among other things.

February, 2016 –- Klinsmann predicts the USA will reach the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario, a special edition of the competition staged in the United States with six Concacaf teams joining the 10 Conmebol members.

March, 2016 – The semifinal round of 2018 World Cup qualifying starts off badly with a 2-0 loss in Guatemala, but the Americans pound out a 4-0 win in the return leg four days later.

June, 2016 -- The USA fulfills Klinsmann’s prediction by beating Ecuador, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Argentina pummels the USA, 4-0, in the semis. The tournament performance is deemed a success though both Colombia, in the opener, and Argentina clearly outclassed the U.S.

September, 2016 --  Qualification for the Hexagonal is duly achieved by routing St. Vincent & the Grenadines, 6-0, and Trinidad & Tobago, 4-0. Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan, passed over for most of Klinsmann’s tenure, scores in both games.

November, 2016 -- A run of four straight 2-0 qualifying wins against Mexico in Columbus ends in a 2-1 loss. After being overrun playing a seldom-used 3-5-2 formation, the Americans rally in a 4-4-2 but still are stung in the 89th minute by a Rafa Marquez header off a corner kick. Four days later, they fall apart in the second half of a humiliating 4-0 loss in Costa Rica. Six days after that defeat, U.S. Soccer announces it has relieved Klinsmann of his duties as head coach and technical director.
7 comments about "Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. years".
  1. beautiful game, November 22, 2016 at 10:27 a.m.

    FACT: USSF failed to conduct a thorough due diligence investigation of JK's coaching career before he was hired.

  2. Bob Ashpole, November 22, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.

    I don't think that is a fair comment IW. Calling it a mistake of judgment is one thing, but hiring JK was no rushed decision by USSF. Unless you know someone on the inside, sorting fact from fiction in the press and "tell all" books is difficult.

  3. Ric Fonseca replied, November 22, 2016 at 2:58 p.m.

    Nob, I agree with you re: IW's comment. Having been pretty ingrained and knowledgeable with US Soccer, going back to the early '70s, the tenures of the various US Soccer Presidents and Exec Dir, especially Hank S, to make such an off the cuff remark, is very disingenuous. US Soccer front office personnel play it very close to their chest and can almost be said that whatever is said and done that needs to be kept "quiet" is very sacrosanct in Soccer House worthy of a "pater confesitor" who is sworn not to break the vow of silence.

  4. Ric Fonseca, November 22, 2016 at 2:59 p.m.

    Ooops, that first word was supposed to have been: "Bob..."

  5. James Madison, November 22, 2016 at 6 p.m.

    An apathetic 4-0 loss to Costa Rico after a JK confident prediction of a win was the clincher. However, the fundamental problem remains not the MNT coach, but our wrong-headed development program.

  6. Henry Carbo, November 22, 2016 at 9:20 p.m.

    What development program the USA has? I guess Arena is going to make one up this late in the game.

  7. Matt Martin , November 24, 2016 at 1:07 a.m.

    Okay Ridge - you (with editors?) caught the mistake - Germany was runner up in 2002...yeah you forgot about The Original Ronaldo, Ronaldinho & Company...anyway, it's time for change and I'm happy for the moment. We still have a lot to do, not just in qualifying!

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