So it happened. This guy nutted up and sent Jurgen Klinsmann packing.
I know, I know, I’m at least as shocked as you. This leads to a lotttttttttt of questions though: Was it the right call? Are we poppin’ bottles? Um, now what??
Luckily your boy Sam is here to provide you with some answers…
(1) Was it the right call?
Yes. I discussed my opinion on this at some length in the most recent weekend preview, so feel free to read it HERE, but essentially Jurgen’s failures as a coach – on full display in the recent losses to Mexico and Costa Rica – (and not to be confused with his performance as technical director, a position for which he seems much better suited) warranted the decision to go in another direction.
(2) Are we poppin’ bottles?
Yes and no. I am glad that Gulati pulled the trigger but frankly shocked – not so much that he concluded JK had to go, but with how quickly the decision was made. The USMNT does not play another game until March, and won’t even be getting together to train again until January, so I figured a decision would come another 6-8 weeks down the road. Making the call right now, however, was the best thing possible for the program as it gives Klinsmann’s replacement (we’ll get to this) the maximum amount of time to try and get the house in order before the games against Honduras (H) and Panama (A) in March, and Trinidad & Tobago (H) in June, after which it is imperative that the USMNT is standing on an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM of 6 points in the Hex, and ideally more.
There will be a lot of people who celebrate Klinsmann’s firing. I am not one of those people. I may not have sounded like it in some of my blogs but I like Klinsmann and think he did a very good job of pushing soccer in America forward.
Did he do a spectacular job? Hellllllllllllllllllllllllll NO. As bad as the recent ass-whooping by Costa Rica was, it was (in my opinion) hardly the worst loss of the Klinsmann era. Losing to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semis was the single most painful loss for my money, especially since it was then compounded by losing to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup (essentially playoff to make it to next year’s Confederations Cup). But there were plenty of highlights as well, such as advancing from the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and making it to this summer’s Copa America semifinal (before an injury-weakened squad got embarrassed by Messi & Co.). Most importantly, I think JK leaves US Soccer in a better place than when he started, with a player pool that has never been deeper or more talented, which is why my feelings on his departure are basically to say “I appreciate what you have done, now thank you byebye.”
Incidentally, nobody seems to be talking about it but I couldn’t help but think that Klinsmann was proactively trying to get terminated with the way he doubled down on his whole “anybody criticizing me just doesn’t understand soccer” comments last week. No national team coach has been given anywhere near as much leeway as Klinsmann has gotten over the past five years, so going out of his way to burn bridges with US fans yet again strikes me as JK’s way of daring Gulati to fire him. Basically, either JK seriously miscalculated the situation or, more plausibly, Klinsmann was ready to check out, wanted to pick up his fat buyout check and has some other job prospects all lined up and ready to go.
(3) Um, now what?
All the whispers at the moment are pointing to Bruce Arena, who coached the USMNT through two World Cup cycles from 1998 to 2006 (and current head coach of the LA Galaxy), who would bring a no-nonsense approach that could be good for the team – at least in the short term.
One thing to keep in mind with Arena is how outspoken he has been about wanting to field players who were born inside the US, which would certainly be a departure from the recent influx of Jurgen’s Germans. Not saying it’s good or bad, but it’d certainly be different. No word yet on whether Abby Wambach will be considered for the assistant coach in charge of xenophobia.
Arena would do a good job of getting the most out of the players we got by implementing some next-level coaching strategies like playing them in the positions they are most comfortable with (speaking of poppin bottles, somebody should make sure Michael Bradley didn’t die of excitement this afternoon), though thinking long term it’s hard not to be more excited about some of the younger guys that oddsmakers think are also among the top candidates (notice the heavy MLS influence):
• Gregg Berhalter of the Columbus Crew, who I already disqualified for that extra g
• Dominic Kinnear of San Jose
• Peter Vermes of Sporting KC
• Jesse Marsch of NY Red Bulls
• Oscar Pareja of FC Dallas
• Caleb Porter of Portland
• Bob Bradley of Swansea, who ain’t going anywhere
• Steve Cherundolo, who is an assistant manager at Hannover 96 in Germany
People who are somehow missing from the short list of candidates but should be on it:
• Miguel Herrera
• Me, because if this year is all about giving idiots waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much power that they have no idea what to do with, then I am definitely the jackass for the job
People who are creaming their shorts thinking they might have a shot who absolutely do not have a shot:
• Eric Wynalda
BOTTOM LINE: Klinsmann left US Soccer in a better place than he found it, and we are still in a good position to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. So let’s get a new coach sooner rather than later and get this train back on the tracks…
There you have it. Champions League is back TOMORROW. Get pumped.