The word or variations of inconsistent have been used repeatedly by us and many others in describing the reign of current U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. He was coveted for many years, even when Bob Bradley was hired. Finally the United States Soccer Federation got the coach they wanted and expectations were high. Qualifying for the World Cup was a forgone conclusion then, but at this moment in time that is a false statement. With uncertainty and inconsistency, could this be the last couple months of the Klinsmann era?
Perhaps the drama behind that question is a bit built up. If the U.S. fails to move on to the final six in CONCACAF in World Cup qualifying, then there will not be a lot to coach towards in the coming years. The World Cup in Brazil was the ultimate goal and breaking new ground playing with the premier countries is the idea. It would be a convenient time to switch coaches, but at the same time there would not be any reachable goal for a new coach either.
Scoring more than one goal has been a major issue. In the last seven matches, one goal has been the output. Klinsmann has deployed a number of midfielders with a defensive edge. The match in Kingston was a game of no flow and no possession. The latter is what was preached by Klinsmann from the beginning of his tenure. Now his team sits tied with Jamaica and Guatemala in qualifying with pressure mounting. The pressure has shown with the German coach.
He used to smile a lot, but it seems he has gotten more tense as time has gone on. Frank Isola has an observation regarding the pressure Klinsmann feels from the recent win over Jamaica.
Klinsmann’s knows this as well as anyone. That’s why he was a constantly moving on the sidelines, working the officials and barking out orders. His muted celebration after Gomez scored was telling.
If they do advance through the group the United States will have to face Mexico and, most likely, Costa Rica to get into the mix for Brazil 2014. Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan should return from injury and perhaps the midfield will have more of an identity. Perhaps they will find flow to get the ball to a red hot Jozy Altidore.
Of course there is influence outside of World Cup qualifying. Klinsmann has seemed to aid in the development of players by getting them time in premier leagues around the world. Geoff Cameron is one such player. He has his eye on youth development and knows that a good youth system can help strengthen the entire country’s soccer program. However, he has continued to fiddle with formation and starting lineups. The five changes for the match in Columbus paid off, but the pace will have no effect on the strategy for October. At least that is what Klinsmann’s short history has shown us.
Could the matches against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala be the last of Klinsmann’s U.S. career? It is a strange time for U.S. soccer, but the goal is still there for the taking. If Klinsmann sticks with a strategy based on his personnel this question will go away in a hurry.