There are several high-pressured positions in the vast world of sports; however, few are surrounded by more scrutiny than that of the Head Coach of the US Men’s National Soccer Team. Jurgen Klinsmann was the highly sought after man from Germany that the U.S. had to wait for but eventually got, back in 2011.
This past summer Jurgen and the Yanks saw the highest of highs (beating the #1 and #3 teams in the world in Germany and the Netherlands) simultaneously with the lowest of lows (a penalty-kick defeat to Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup 3rd place game). Things only got worse a few weeks ago when the US suffered an agonizing 3-2 overtime defeat to their arch-rival Mexico eliminating any hope of them qualifying for the Confederations Cup in 2017.
Moreover the youth National teams have not faired much better recently. The U17 Men’s National Team did not record a single win in their three games in the U17 World Cup this October in Chile (2-0 loss to Nigeria, 4-1 loss to Chile and a 2-2 draw to Croatia). The U20 Team is winless in their last three contests, including an 8-1 drubbing in Germany.
And yet many think Klinsmann’s job is safe. Sunil Gulati, the President of the US Soccer Federation, hired him and extended his contract through 2018 after his performance in the 2014 World Cup. He is the highest paid coach in U.S. soccer coaching history by a wide margin. His salary is rumored to have surpassed the $3 million mark after getting a hefty raise following the 2014 World Cup.
In looking at the US Men’s National Team’s body of work over the last 6 years it’s hard to argue with their consistent presence. Only 9 countries have been to 4 out of the last 6 World Cup knockout rounds, and only 8 have been to 3 out of the last 4 knockout rounds… the US are in both of these groups. The US can also boast being one of only 7 countries to qualify for each of the last 7 World Cups. A third place 1999 Confederations Cup finish, a 2nd place 2009 Confederations Cup placing and several Gold Cups, it is actually relatively easy to argue that the US is in that upper tier of countries.
But it is difficult to say much more than that … as the US still has yet to cross that threshold into the elite that Americans have come to expect from their national teams. You still cannot mention US soccer in the same breath as Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain. And until that day comes, the position Jurgen Klinsmann holds as Head Coach of the US Men’s National Soccer Team will continue to be a tumultuous one.
Combine the summer’s Gold Cup debacle with their most recent 3-2 loss to Mexico, and a second straight failure in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, and it’s clear that Klinsmann is in the most tumultuous part of his four-year era.