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. Scholes: Gareth Bale is a “perfect fit,” could lead Manchester United back to titles

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur FC Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur FC

    If punditry doesn’t work for Scholes, sign him up as Man United’s top player recruiter. At least he aims high.

  2. WATCH: Time-lapse video of San Jose Earthquakes’ Avaya Stadium construction

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Chicago Fire v San Jose Earthquakes Chicago Fire v San Jose Earthquakes

    Watch in 90 seconds the construction of Avaya Stadium, from Day 1 to Game 1.

  3. International roundup: Neymar, Willian star as Brazil thump France, 3-1, in Paris

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:59 PM EDT

    Neymar, Brazil Neymar, Brazil

    Neymar is 23 years old, and he’s already scored 43 goals for Brazil. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is.

  4. Report: Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge to miss a month with hip injury

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool FC

    Another month out for Sturridge, just when Liverpool’s top-four dreams rest on his shoulders the most.

  5. UEFA fines Malmo $110,000 for “poor pitch” in Champions League, but racism still only worth $11,000

    Mar 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF Swedbank Stadium, Malmo FF

    You couldn’t get this one anymore wrong, UEFA. 10-times worse than racism? Not OK.

  6. Hope Solo says she entered therapy during 30-day suspension from USWNT

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT

    Hope Solo, USWNT Hope Solo, USWNT

    Solo said her 30-day suspension was full of therapy, apologies to her teammates and getting herself right for this summer’s World Cup.

  7. EURO 2016 preview: Qualifying resumes for England, Spain, Germany, Italy

    Mar 26, 2015, 5:04 PM EDT

    EURO 2016 EURO 2016

    This weekend’s EURO 2016 qualifiers marks the halfway point of the group stage, which means it’s do-or-die time for a few hopefuls, and some giants.

  8. Soccer’s rich list: Jose Mourinho best paid coach, here’s the top 20

    Mar 26, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The “Special One” received a rather special amount of cash in 2014.

  9. Barcelona’s Xavi set to sign deal in Qatar; will not join New York City FC, MLS

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

    Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce Barcelona's midfielder Xavi Hernandez ce

    Xavi is heading to Qatar on a three-year deal, will get paid $11 million per season.

  10. Soccer’s rich list: Who are the top 20 highest earning players?

    Mar 26, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi, Neymar Lionel Messi, Neymar

    Here’s a look at the players with the highest revenue in 2014.

  11. VIDEO: Watch Alexis Sanchez play the piano to John Legend song

    Mar 26, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Sanchez piano

    When he’s not ripping apart Premier League defenses, Sanchez loves to unwind by tickling the ivory.

  12. Report: Brazilian striker Luiz Adriano interesting Liverpool, Arsenal

    Mar 26, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT

    Turkey v Brazil International friendly match Turkey v Brazil International friendly match

    Shakhtar’s star striker set to leave in December when his contract runs out.

  13. Morgan Schneiderlin wants Southampton exit if they fail to make UEFA Champions League

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:21 AM EDT

    Schneiderlin Getty Images

    Saints midfielder speaks of his desire to play in the UCL, reassess his future this summer.

  14. Theo Walcott denies fall out with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger over contract talks

    Mar 26, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    Arsenal v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Walcott denies a “bust-up” with Wenger over contract talks.

  15. Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil believes he can win Ballon d’Or award to silence critics

    Mar 26, 2015, 7:58 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The German international playmaker is aiming to join the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s of this world.

  16. Union’s Zach Pfeffer given 2nd game for elbow, Manneh also suspended

    Mar 25, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.20.07 PM

    The MLS disciplinary committee was busy after this last weekend.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment