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. VIDEO: “I Was There” visits LA Blues and LA Red Army for Chelsea’s win over United

    Apr 21, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT

    If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.

  2. UEFA Champions League roundup: Bayern Munich and Barcelona walk into the semis

    Apr 21, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe2ymq2mgvlzdu1owi2mjvkzmiwogy1ztfinwfjy2q5 AP

    The first spots in the semifinals have been determined as two of Europe’s top clubs made light work of their opposition today.

  3. Luis Enrique off to the best start in Barcelona history

    Apr 21, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg Getty Images

    Enrique has won 42 of his first 50 games in charge at Barcelona, and has his side gunning for a treble.

  4. Yaya Toure hints at departure from Manchester City

    Apr 21, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT

    AP

    Toure: “No amount of wages will make me stay at a club if I feel that I no longer belong there or if no challenge exists for me.”

  5. VIDEO: Bayern Munich’s second leg comeback the best in UCL history? Here’s a few contenders

    Apr 21, 2015, 5:48 PM EDT

    Deportivo La Coruna v AC Milan Getty Images

    Time to take a trip down memory lane and look at some stunning UCL comebacks.

  6. Bayern Munich 6-1 (7-4, agg.) FC Porto: Bayern obliterate Porto to reach UCL semifinal

    Apr 21, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Thiago, Xabi Alonso Thiago, Xabi Alonso

    Guardiola’s boys batter Porto to reach the final four of the Champions League.

  7. Barcelona 2-0 (5-1, agg.) Paris Saint-Germain: Neymar brace eases Barca into Champions League semifinals

    Apr 21, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT

    AP

    Barcelona reaches the semifinals for the seventh time in eight seasons as the Catalans eliminated PSG from Champions League play.

  8. LIVE — Champions League, at the half: Bayern Munich bags five, will they ever stop scoring?

    Apr 21, 2015, 3:39 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptyzzjc1yzvjmdfknzi4nty4ntyynzbhzdlhmduzmznk AP

    Bayern Munich has put in FIVE first half goals against FC Porto, while Barcelona tightened it’s grip on a semifinal berth.

  9. Report reveals Premier League spenders and gainers with financial breakdown

    Apr 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Manchester United spent the most money in the Premier League, while Tottenham made the most.

  10. FOLLOW LIVE – Champions League: Bayern Munich, PSG aim to overturn 3-1 deficits to Barcelona, FC Porto

    Apr 21, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT

    Javier Mascherano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Two UCL quarterfinals will take place on Tuesday. Follow them both live, right here.

  11. Wolfsburg, already down 4-1, will be without De Bruyne and Schurrle for Europa League 2nd leg vs Napoli

    Apr 21, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    DeBruyne Getty Images

    As they look to mount a dream comeback on the road, the Bundesliga club will be without two of its best attackers.

  12. Report: Arsenal one of four teams in for young Palermo star Paulo Dybala

    Apr 21, 2015, 11:41 AM EDT

    Dybala Getty Images

    Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has dubbed him the “new Messi” in an attempt to boost his value.

  13. Chris Smalling signs new Manchester United contract through 2019

    Apr 21, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

    Smalling Getty Images

    With the most goals of any defender in the Premier League, Chris Smalling has emerged as a solid member of Louis van Gaal’s lineup at Old Trafford.

  14. Internal turmoil swirling at Leeds, with transfer lawsuit the latest incident

    Apr 21, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    Redfearn Getty Images

    Manager Neil Redfearn is dealing with countless off the field issues, while the club’s legal team now has a new task with problems piling up.

  15. Tim Sherwood may have convinced Ron Vlaar to stay at Villa

    Apr 21, 2015, 9:12 AM EDT

    Vlaar Getty Images

    A player whose departure many thought was a foregone conclusion appears to be reconsidering.

  16. Franz Beckenbauer: Der Kaiser weighs in on Klopp, Dante and Bayern’s CL hopes

    Apr 21, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    franz-beckenbauer-nyc

    NBCSports.com’s Managing Editor Randy Kim spoke with Der Kaiser, as the German legend visited NYC.

  17. Karim Benzema the next Real Madrid attacker to go down injured

    Apr 21, 2015, 7:42 AM EDT

    Benzema Getty Images

    Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Marcelo are all already out for tomorrow’s 2nd leg with Atletico Madrid, and now their striker is unavailable as well.

  18. Mourinho: Chelsea will promote a handful of youth players to first team next year

    Apr 20, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea FA Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea FA

    Mourinho says Chelsea will look to the club’s stacked youth academy for reinforcements, as well as the transfer market.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea