Skip to content

Amid new scrutiny, Klinsmann may already have recipe for survival

Mar 20, 2013, 12:26 AM EDT

Italy US Soccer

The U.S. Soccer world may be in an uproar after Sporting News detailed the divisions within the States’ locker room, but as the story notes, those divisions didn’t just pop-up post-San Pedro Sula. The loss to Honduras has become a flash point for criticism, but it has done little to change what’s going on with the team. There have always been doubts, there have always been non-believers, and for Jurgen Klinsmann, there have always been huge challenges to change a culture that’s proving more stubborn than expected.

As another veteran of the circuit detailed, all is not lost for Klinsmann, and given some of the responses he gave Sporting News, the U.S. boss is not only aware of the issues but anticipated them. Still, the time for results is nigh, with anything but a win Friday versus Costa Rica turning Tuesday’s match in Mexico into a must win. And if the Ticos do get out of Commerce with a result, expect the U.S. pundits to take the Sporting News’ work and eviscerate the national team boss.

(MORE: Noah Davis on the chaos in Klinsmann’s camp)

“These comments are just normal to me. This team is in a transition. Between two World Cup cycles, faces change. We’re doing that, and you also kind of mix up the chemistry. There will be a new group of leaders coming through that process, and that will be responsible for molding everything together.”
— Klinsmann, to Sporting News

Those are the personal stakes for Klinsmann heading into Friday’s match, though if the Legend of Jurgen holds, he doesn’t care. He might not even care enough to address the Sporting News’ piece with his team, though he will certainly have read it. The U.S. boss is always aware of the conversation, but as the legend holds he doesn’t take any of it personally. Instead of ruminating on what many likened to a dressing down, he’s undoubtedly focused on preparing an undermanned team for a game he’s called as a must win.

Not exactly the best time to be missing your top goalkeeper and all your choice fullbacks while you’re trying to forge a relationship between your new center back combo?

source:  For some, Klinsmann’s made his bed, but you can’t help but notice a number of factors beyond his control have contrived to set up a trap for the U.S. boss. Klinsmann didn’t relish Landon Donovan’s health issues ahead of his sabbatical, factors which have left the U.S. without their biggest star for much of Klinsmann’s tenure. He didn’t contribute to Clint Dempsey’s injuries or dip in form, Tim Howard’s broken bones, Michael Bradley’s lost playing time, or injuries to Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, and Edgar Castillo. He didn’t wreck Omar Gonzalez’s knee, and he didn’t age Carlos Bocanegra and move him to a second division team that has benched him. If detractors get their chance to toss dirt on Klinsmann’s grave, they may want to acknowledge the circumstances that led to his demise.

(MORE: Bocanegra speaks out | Howard follows | Bradley calls out sources)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For all their issues, the States are far from doomed. On paper, they have a team that should beat Costa Rica, particularly if the facets Klinsmann has tried to emphasize prove valuable in Commerce. Those facets include fitness, a new more adaptable mentality, but perhaps most importantly (and most maligned) a style of soccer that focuses on technique, possession, and building a style of play that isn’t unduly dependent on athleticism.

“It’s not the same routine they were used to before we came on board. And my job is to elevate the program and I can’t do that by doing the exact same of what they did before me. I can only get to another level by bringing in new players and challenging the older players. By challenging them in every training session, by giving them uncertain feelings here and there—‘Do I play or not play?’—and so on.”
— Klinsmann, to Sporting News

All of which translates into a method to protect the defense. Eight times in their last 16 games, the U.S. has held at least 59.7 percent of the game’s possession. They kept a clean sheet in four of those matches and never gave up more than one goal.

Granted, none of those games were against Costa Rica, and none of them were in The Hex. But they did keep 69.1 of the ball in shutting out Jamaica last year. Against Guatemala, their possession numbers were 62.8 and 74.3. Versus Venezuela, they fished with just under 60 percent of the ball, while 61.9 and 66.1 possession in two games against Canada produced 180 shutout minutes.

All of those matches may prove easier than Friday’s, but they outline a recipe. Possession may not necessarily lead to wins, but it’s hard to argue with the basic logic supporting its virtue: It’s almost impossible for your opponents to score when they don’t have the ball. And the best way to protect a potentially suspect defense will be for Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey and the rest of the team to do what they’ve proved they can: Keep the ball.

(MORE: Dempsey to captain U.S. vs. Costa Rica, Mexico)

Should that recipe save the U.S. on Friday, Klinsmann will have a measure of vindication in what’s been his most trying time. The Sporting News report was damning in its quality – an inscrutable survey from an established source – but it didn’t offer conclusions. It left its conclusions to the readers, most of whom let the anxiety surrounding their national team see the features as an indictment. More readily, the article presented a conflict, one which may be resolved on Friday.

If the U.S. lose, the players who detailed Klinsmann’s faults will be seen as overlooked canaries in a contaminated coal mine. But if Klinsmann wins and does so with an approach he’s fostered over the last year and a half, the besieged boss may deserve a series of anonymous recantations.

Latest Posts
  1. Real Madrid president asked what’s wrong with Carlo Ancelotti: “I don’t know”

    May 26, 2015, 7:38 AM EDT

    Carlo Ancelotti New Real Madrid Manager Press Conference and Photo Call Getty Images

    Real’s president isn’t quite sure why he fired Ancelotti. That says it all.

  2. Steve McClaren fired by Derby County — Is Newcastle United his next stop?

    May 25, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Steve McClaren, Derby County FC Getty Images

    McClaren was Mike Ashley’s first managerial target earlier this month. Now unemployed, will McClaren end up at Newcastle United?

  3. VIDEO: Behind the scenes with Xavi Hernandez before his final game at the Camp Nou

    May 25, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona Xavi Hernandez, FC Barcelona

    Go behind the scenes, all-access style, with Xavi on the day of his final Camp Nou appearance.

  4. Dani Alves: If Barcelona don’t start showing me respect, I’ll leave this summer

    May 25, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT

    Dani Alves, FC Barcelona Dani Alves, FC Barcelona

    With his contract expiring this summer, Dani Alves is posturing — and doing it well — for upcoming negotiations.

  5. MLS Player of the Week — Week 12: Columbus Crew SC’s Kei Kamara

    May 25, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC Kei Kamara, Columbus Crew SC — Photo credit: Columbus Crew SC

    We’re only through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, but one man is threatening to run away with the Golden Boot race already.

  6. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 12

    May 25, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT

    Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC Benoit Cheyrou, Toronto FC

    Four of the league’s bottom-five teams won over the weekend, making this week’s TOTW a bit of a “who’s that?” instead of a “who’s who.”

  7. In a career full of blunders, firing Carlo Ancelotti is Florentino Perez’s worst mistake yet

    May 25, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Perez Getty Images

    The problem at Real Madrid isn’t the manager year after year, it’s a problem of accountability, and it comes from the top.

  8. Roma top Lazio in Rome derby, guarantee 2nd-place finish, Champions League spot

    May 25, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT

    Francesco Totti, AS Roma Francesco Totti, AS Roma

    Few games can make an entire season the way one victory in the Rome derby can do. Only this time, there was CL football on the line.

  9. 2014-15 Premier League season review: The managers

    May 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC

    It’s time to look back at the men who shaped the Premier League’s teams this season: the managers victorious, and gone.

  10. Report: Russia wants to use prison labor to prep for 2018 World Cup

    May 25, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    FIFA FIFA

    The workers would make close to $300 a month for the full-time work.

  11. Check out the L.A. Galaxy’s classy full-page Gerrard ad in Liverpool Echo

    May 25, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    The American club wisely made its role in the advertisement understated, as it salutes its new midfielder.

  12. Florentino Perez announces firing of Carlo Ancelotti by Real Madrid

    May 25, 2015, 1:39 PM EDT

    AncelottiCup AP

    The Italian manager had more or less conceded his job status earlier Monday due to a bout with cervical stenosis.

  13. 2014-15 Premier League season review: Americans Abroad

    May 25, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at Britannia Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    It’s time to take a look back at the seasons of four American players in the Premier League, and one who is no longer.

  14. Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich City: Comfortable Canaries back in Premier League

    May 25, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England. Getty Images

    It’s called the richest game in the world, with an estimated $180 million on the line, though it didn’t provide a wealth of scoring chances.

  15. Ten biggest storylines of the Premier League season that was

    May 25, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpta2ytvim2vjnzvmnmixmde1nmzmmji2ngzkmwu4ytq4 AP

    Now, it’s time to take a look back at — in no particular order — 10 storylines that helped make the Premier League season a memorable one.

  16. FOLLOW LIVE — Lineups as Middlesbrough and Norwich duel for final Premier League slot

    May 25, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Fans walk to the stadium prior to the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final between Middlesbrough and Norwich City at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Norwich is hoping for a quick fire return to the PL after being relegated last season, while Middlesbrough was sent packing to the second flight in 2009.

  17. VIDEO: Premier League’s Top 10 goals of the season, from A(dam) to Z(amora)

    May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Crystal Palace v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    See what Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe and Kyle Martino tabbed as top of the pops in a surprisingly QPR-heavy Top Ten list.

  18. West Ham lays out coach criteria, as top candidate Bilic says he’ll leave Besiktas

    May 25, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsene Wenger, Slaven Bilic AP

    The Hammers have specific characteristics in mind for the next Premier League boss at the Boleyn Ground.

  19. USMNT’s Morales signs new deal with Ingolstadt after Bundesliga promotion

    May 25, 2015, 7:54 AM EDT

    INGOLSTADT, GERMANY - MAY 17:  Alfredo Morales of FC Ingolstadt and team mates celebrate the winning the shield after the 2. Bundesliga match between FC Ingolstadt and RB Leipzig at Audi Sportpark on May 17, 2015 in Ingolstadt, Germany.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Morales played sparingly for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga from 2011-12.

  20. MLS transfers: Didier Drogba mulling move, Andrea Pirlo “received offer”

    May 25, 2015, 12:30 AM EDT

    article-1202950-05D61EA7000005DC-689_468x357 Reuters

    MLS is reportedly pursing the signatures of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.

Featured video

Chelsea lift the 2014-15 PL trophy