I’ve never been more embarrassed to be a U.S. Soccer supporter than I am right now. I avoided writing this post last night so I could do it with a clear mind and not overreact. 12 hours after the U.S. were humiliated 4-0 in Costa Rica I’m no less angry or upset than I was after the final whistle.
I’ve been a diehard U.S. Soccer supporter for roughly 15 years. I’ve seen a lot of matches in that time frame. More than a lot of supporters, not as many as some. But, I feel I have a pretty good grasp of recent USMNT history. I cannot remember a more deflating and disheartening performance in the time I’ve followed this program.
Sure, there have been bad performances and poor results, but never have I seen a U.S. Soccer team actually quit playing on the field. That’s exactly what this team did around the 65th minute on Tuesday night. They couldn’t be bothered to run or even try anymore. The proverbial white towel was thrown and that was that.
Full disclosure: I was once a big Klinsmann believer. I defended the hell out of him to those in the media who would constantly criticize him, even to a fault. The argument that everyone who writes about American soccer is naturally opposed to or flat out hate Klinsmann is silly. There comes a time when you have to call something exactly what it is. Klinsmann’s time as USMNT head coach has ticked out.
Whether or not Sunil Gulati feels the same way or not remains to be seen. Last night was all the proof we needed. The players are done playing for him. History shows us that the USMNT can easily still qualify for the 2018 World Cup despite their poor beginning to the Hex. Mexico went through some of the same turmoil last cycle.
However, if Klinsmann continues on a manager, I’m seriously worried about those qualification chances. One or two slip-ups at home and it could be game over for this cycle. Is it worth the risk keeping him on in hopes he magically turns the player’s attitudes around?
At this point, changing managers would be the smart and sensible thing to do for U.S. Soccer. I have no idea if Bruce Arena is the answer to this short-term problem. I do know that it would have to be an improvement over the current situation. Arena garners respect from any player he manages. There’s no team in a million years that would quit playing for him. The same cannot be said for Klinsmann as last night proves.
The tug-o-war of blame between Klinsmann and the players will go on. Jurgen apologists will blame the latter, while everyone else will say that the manager is responsible for the players. The fact is, that in 15 years of watching this program, nothing like a team visibly giving up on the field has ever happened. Klinsmann has to be held responsible for that.
One of the manager’s roles is to motivate his players. We’ve already established that Jurgen isn’t a tactical genius. He was supposed to be a player’s manager, one who can motivate and encourage. After last night, it doesn’t appear he’s much of a genius at that either. So, what exactly is he good at?
If a change is going to be made, it has to be now. Not in four months when the situation is even more dire than it is now because we’ve dropped more points that we were expecting because the players don’t want to play for the manager anymore.