Losses To Mexico And Costa Rica Prove Coach Has Lost Command Of National Team

By Glenn Crooks
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While the Jurgen Klinsmann dissenters have expanded following the U.S. men’s national team’s losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two matches of the Hexagonal, I am offering evidence to indicate that I am not leaping on the wagon to play trumpet with the band.

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Here are the first two paragraphs of a column I wrote for WFAN.com over a year ago – October 16, 2015 – following a loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup:

“By American standards — really by any current principles in professional sports across the globe — Jurgen Klinsmann should have already been removed as the head coach of the United States men’s national team and technical director of U.S. Soccer.

“As I prepared to pen this column, it became increasingly difficult to determine the proper angle to sling those arrows that I had nestled in my quiver. My myriad notes set across the table in no particular order acted as a metaphor to the scattered tactics that represent the U.S. program under Klinsmann.”

After the CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico, the USMNT played a friendly three days later against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena. It was another dismal routine — a 1-0 loss televised by ESPN. Commentator Taylor Twellman, a former USMNT player, was punitive in his postmatch observations.

“I was looking for a response from the players,” Twellman said. “Did you see one player that looked like he was fighting for Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff?”

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Ironically, after losses to the same two sides in the last week with more at stake, the interpretations were disconcertingly similar.

The USMNT players abandoned their coach on Tuesday in Costa Rica.

Approximately 15 minutes after Klinsmann’s postmatch presser following the loss to Mexico in Columbus, starting center back John Brooks received a text from a friend and former teammate. The text relayed a Klinsmann quote, responding to a reporter’s query about poor marking on the game-winning goal.

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“I think it was John Brooks,” remarked Klinsmann.

Brooks was furious and perplexed since a teammate was required to provide zonal assistance in the spot where Rafa Marquez had a free header and scored in the 89th minute. That player was Jozy Altidore.

Brooks’ performance in the subsequent loss to the Los Ticos was abysmal. The nutmegs, the giveaways – if FIFA were investigating the game, they would have interviewed Brooks for his possible role in match-fixing – it was that severe. Brooks was visibly affected by the public blame in Columbus when Klinsmann himself was not certain about the culprits on the Marquez winner.

Klinsmann also subjected his guy, Jermaine Jones, and captain Michael Bradley to harsh critiques. The U.S. coach since 2011 suggested that Jones and Bradley were unable to execute their roles at the beginning of the Mexico match, leading the the sudden transformation from a 3-5-2 shape to a 4-4-2.

Klinsmann admitted that the U.S. had worked on the new shape for less than a week. Normally, a radical change in shape and positions would warrant a trial in a friendly match – not a World Cup qualifier. Klinsmann, per usual, offered no public accountability and proclaimed “we will definitely win” when referring to Tuesday’s shocking loss in Costa Rica.

His players did not respond in kind.

The president of U.S. Soccer, Sunil Gulati, has been an ardent supporter of Klinsmann and has faced criticism in the past regarding the constant “votes of confidence” for the German World Cup legend. However, the knob on the stove has been turned from 6 to high.

If a change is in the forecast, the timing works well. The U.S. does not have another World Cup qualifier until March – sufficient time for a new mentor to galvanize a team that is in obvious disarray. The past conjecture was that Klinsmann’s job was sheltered unless his team failed to qualify for the World Cup ’18 in Russia. Out of the six teams in CONCACAF, the top three will be eligible for ’18 – and a fourth will have a winnable play-in match against the fifth-place squad from Asia. Mexico qualified for the 2014 World Cup with just two wins from 10 matches in the Hex.

The fate of Klinsmann may lie with the players. Gulati will likely seek out the leadership of the current team for its input. When Tom Sermanni was sacked as the women’s national coach, it was clear that Gulati had met with several members of the women’s team, in particular Abby Wambach, to aid in the decision to dismiss the former Australia NT coach.

If Gulati resolves that the USMNT quit on its coach in Costa Rica, it may be the overriding factor leading to his reluctant-yet-proper decision to terminate the sovereignty of Klinsmann.

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