October 14, 2015
Like the USA attack, Klinsmann has no answers for what is ailing the national team
By Michael Lewis
Embattled U.S. national coach Jurgen Klinsmann has had problems inspiring his team.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
HARRISON, N.J. -- Like his team's lackluster attack, Jurgen Klinsmann is struggling to find answers and solutions.
After the USA's must-not-see 1-0 loss to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena Tuesday night, Klinsmann put on another display of deflecting questions from the media.
He blames everybody but himself.
Let us count the ways:
* After the Americans lost to Jamaica in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, he blamed the loss on the officiating.
* When a silent USA side fell to Panama in a shootout in the third-place game, he claimed had a hangover from the Jamaican defeat.
* And when another underachieving squad lost yet again Tuesday, Klinsmann had all sorts of excuses, saying the affects of the crushing 3-2 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup Saturday hadn't worn off yet.
Now, I might just be a wee bit off base here, but isn't up to a coach to find a way to lift the spirits of a team? Isn't that what he or she gets paid for. Klinsmann wasn't necessarily brought in for his tactical acumen, but supposedly for his reputation and positive-thinking.
Now, I don't buy his excuses and I wonder if the team doesn't buy what he is saying because the players just did not look like they wanted to play Tuesday night.
No excuse for that.
The streaks have just been astounding as the team has reached new lows for the first time in years, sometimes in decades:
* This is the first time the USA dropped three consecutive matches at home. You will have to go back to 1997 for the last time that occurred.
* The USA is 1-4-1 in its last six games -- all at home. It's lone winning decision was a 2-1 result over Peru.
* And a stat you probably have read on this website before: the USA has a four-game home winless streak against CONCACAF teams, which has not been achieved in 50 years. That's two generations ago and something, quite frankly, we thought we would never see again, especially for a confederation power.
That should be a red alert that something is wrong, very wrong.
When a player runs out of ideas, answers and solution, it is time to replace him.
If a coach doesn't have the answers to overcome the worst run in U.S. Soccer's modern times, perhaps it is time to find someone who can.
Of course, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is married to Klinsmann, reaffirming the federation's vows to Klinsmann, who also was given the title of technical director, through the 2018 World Cup (if the USA gets there).
If Gulati and the federation cuts ties with the German World Cup winner, we don't know how messy the divorce will be, but it certainly will be a costly one (Klinsmann earned almost $2.5 million in his first contract; heaven knows how much of a raise he received in this one).
Ironically, as it turns out, the best tonic for the USA could be World Cup qualifying, which begins exactly a month from today, on Nov. 13.
That's right, World Cup qualifying.
The degree of difficulty of getting out of Group C is not that difficult, against the likes of Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will never be confused with an international juggernaut in world football.
It has never qualified for the World Cup.
It has never reached the CONCACAF hexagonal.
Heck, it has participated in only one Gold Cup, and that was in 1996.
This year's team reached the semifinal round by besting Guyana, playing to a 6-6 deadlock in its home-and-home series (moving on thanks to the away rule) and besting Aruba, which will never be confused with a world power, in another series, 4-1.
So, if the USA pulverizes its Caribbean foe in its opening WCQ in St. Louis next month, it will not be time to rejoice or claim that all the teams' problems have been solved.
They still will be there. And, there is a likely chance they could be on display during the hexagonal in 2016 and 2017 against the confederations's big boys -- Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and probably Guatemala (again), and perhaps Panama, Jamaica or Haiti, which played the Americans so well in the Gold Cup.
Perhaps by then Klinsmann will find the right answers. Of course, he still has to be in charge.