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US Men’s National Team

Jurgen Klinsmann & US Soccer in the Perpetual Hot Seat

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.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was the coveted man for the US Men's National Team head coaching job.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was the coveted man for the US Men’s National Team head coaching job.

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.

The US U17 MNT failed to record a win in the qualifying round of the 2015 U17 World Cup in Chile.
The US U17 MNT failed to record a win in the qualifying round of the 2015 U17 World Cup in Chile.

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.

The US loss to Jamaica in the Semi-Finals of the Gold Cup was the beginning of a very disappointing stretch of results for the US Men's National Team.
The US loss to Jamaica in the Semi-Finals of the Gold Cup was the beginning of a very disappointing stretch of results for the US Men’s National Team.

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.

 

US vs. Netherlands Points to a Bright Future for the Stars & Stripes

Sure it was just a friendly. Sure, the US roster had plenty of new names on it. Sure, the Netherlands held 62% possession and outshot the US 27-19. And yet Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States were able to overcome a 3-1 deficit to beat the Netherlands 4-3 for the very first time in history.

Not only had the US never won in the Netherlands before, but the US had never scored more than a single goal when playing in the Netherlands. Klinsmann put together a group of 22 players for this pair of friendlies against the Netherlands and Wednesday against Germany, that has a mixture of some older veterans and a healthy dose of younger up and coming players. It is a roster that lacks the regular names like Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Alejandro Bedoya or Graham Zussi and was replaced by names like Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes, Danny Williams and Jordan Morris. The lack of National Team regulars further contributed to the improbability of the result this past Friday.

Jurgen Klinsmann has been under enormous pressure as the US Men's National Team Head Coach, and for the most part he has delivered.
Jurgen Klinsmann has been under enormous pressure as the US Men’s National Team Head Coach … for the most part he has delivered.

Since Klinsmann has taken over the reigns as the US Men’s National Team Head Coach in July of 2011, the team has gone 3-3-2 against teams in the world’s top-10, including wins at Italy, at Mexico and now the Netherlands. With the win, the team improves to 2-0-1 in their last three games, going into Wednesday’s matchup against Germany. Furthermore, this win against the Netherlands speaks to the progress in player development amongst some of the rising young stars in the US. With guys like Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones getting well into their 30’s, the performances from such emerging stars like Bobby Wood (22 years old), Gyasi Zardes (23 years old) and Jordan Morris (20 years old) all speak highly towards the future of US Soccer.

Zardes (left), hugs Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (right), scored his first international goal against the Netherlands, as did Bobby Wood and Danny Williams.
Gyasi Zardes (left) hugs Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (right) after scoring his first international goal against the Netherlands. Bobby Wood and Danny Williams also capitalized on their first international goals in the game.

The win over the Netherlands comes in the midst of a successful U20 FIFA World Cup for the Yanks. The US U20 squad has found themselves in the Round of 16, where they’ll take on Columbia on Wednesday after going 2-1 in the group stage. Moreover, the US Women’s National Team will begin play in the Women’s World Cup tonight against Australia. The US Women are among the favorites to win the whole thing. And lastly, the US Men’s National Team will close out an eventful summer for US Soccer with the Gold Cup, as they open up against Honduras on July 7th.

Paul Arriola has helped lead the US U20's to the Round of 16 in the U20 FIFA World Cup.
Paul Arriola has helped lead the US U20’s to the Round of 16 in the U20 FIFA World Cup.

While this US win over the Netherlands should not be blown out of proportion, as it was merely a friendly; it certainly does speak to the potential of the future given the personnel they used to get the result they did. This result further demonstrates US Soccer’s improvement towards achieving their goal of becoming one of game’s leading nations. With the Women’s World Cup, the U20 World Cup and the Gold Cup upon us, US Soccer has an incredible opportunity towards significantly chipping away at that goal.

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