Jurgen Klinsmann has been relieved of duties as Technical Director and Coach of the men’s US soccer team. He’s been replaced by Bruce Arena, former MLS coach of the LA Galaxy. This Arena’s second time leading the US men in a charge for World Cup qualifying. Arena is the all-time most successful coach of the US amassing a record of 71-30-29 and led the Americans to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup; the farthest team US has ever achieved in the modern era. Arena bring a champions pedigree including 5 NCAA titles at the helm for the University of Virginia, 2 titles in MLS with DC United and another 3 with LA Galaxy. He brings experience and stability to a team that needs it.
Jurgen had some fantastic measurable accomplishments in his tenure:
- Reaching Copa America 2015 Semi-finals
- Surviving the 2014 World Cup Group of Death
- USA beating Mexico in Mexico City 2012 Friendly
- Beating Netherland and Germany back-to-back 2015 Friendlies
- Beating Italy in Italy 2012 Friendly
Unfortunately, while great accomplishments most of them were the results of friendlies and both of his tournament accomplishments ended in disappointments listed below.
Why did he have to go? The problem wasn’t what he or this team was capable of, but continued wasted opportunities. He showed signs of life in the Copa America and getting out of the group stage in the World Cup, but never really developed the US team into anything more than it had been before he took over.
Here’s a few key recent low lights:
- First loss to Mexico on US soil in World Cup qualifying
- Loss 4-0 to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying
- Loss to Mexico to once again fail to make it to the Gold Cup, a game Jurgen listed as a crucial opportunity for the US and something very important to him
- Finishing in 4th place in the Gold Cup was a huge disappointment and embarrassment
- Not getting a shot off in the Semi-final against Argentina in the Copa America
- Losing to Guatamala in the 2014 World Cup qualifying
There are some deeper disappointments too that truly cost Klinsmann his job, less measurable ones:
- In the Mexico qualify loss Klinsmann started a new formation and it appeared it required Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones begging for a formation change which almost got the US back in the game for Jurgen to move to the formation.
- In the Costa Rica game it appeared he had lost the locker room, and we saw some of the worst soccer played by this team to date.
- Leaving a legend like Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster especially in a crushing defeat to Belgium that just felt like a game that Donovan could have impacted.
- Jurgen’s continuing to play Chris Wondolowski, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman well past their best days without developing younger replacements for the future. He often complained about the lack of player pool, that he had promised to improve.
- Continuing to play bizarre roster and formations, playing players out of position and generally not seeming to have a plan or direction for the tactics of US soccer.
- Jurgen would never own the fault and always blamed players or other circumstances for losses.
Overall, Jurgen did some great things to move US forward. He put the US team more on the World’s radar, he made some changes in the youth system and helped to increase the game’s popularity here and abroad. Credit is due to Klinsmann for many of the young player discoveries abroad and their interest in playing for the US team.
When he was consistent with his lineup like he did in the Copa America he showed us what his team could be capable of. Unfortunately, when it came to crunch time or after he seemingly became bored he would return to his mad scientist form and relying on unproven older players. He would launch his “searching for Bobby Fischer” game plans which really weren’t moving us forward and seemed to confuse players. The results were often the same. He hadn’t apparently learned from many of the things that made him shown signs of success. I do also want to recognize that he moved on with class.
Ultimately, Klinsmann was not able to accomplish what he had promised to deliver. There’s a great article here, that dives even deeper into the failures. The style of soccer the US plays hasn’t really changed and looked often chaotic and disorganized. The next generation of US players may have arrived, but it’ll be Coach Arena’s job now to develop and integrate them into the starting line up. Arena was a safe, all be it not exciting, selection and he should be able to quickly connect with the players and get us back on track in qualifying for Russia 2018.