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. Premier League Sunday Preview: Liverpool’s chance to tighten its grip; Fourth place in focus

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:57 AM EDT

    Steven Gerrard AP

    Liverpool can go five clear before David Moyes makes his return to Goodison Park.

  2. MLS Roundup: Sporting climbs to first in East; RSL stays undefeated

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT

    ned_grabavoy_javier_morales Getty Images

    Dallas stayed at the top of the Western Conference, while Seattle improved to 3-0-1 on the road.

  3. Late Martins goal gives Seattle full points at Chivas USA (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:39 AM EDT

    Obafemi Martins 2

    Seattle’s high-priced strike tandem produced another late winner, giving the Sounders their fourth win of the season.

  4. Grabavoy winner prolongs Portland’s agony against Real Salt Lake (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 AM EDT

    nick_rimando Getty Images

    Two huge saves in the final minutes from Nick Rimando keep RSL unbeaten.

  5. Sporting Kansas City takes care of business against Montréal, 4-0 (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT

    dom_dwyer AP

    Goal difference has the defending champions on top of the Eastern Conference.

  6. Pérez’s late goal gives FC Dallas 2-1 win over Toronto FC (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 AM EDT

    blas_perez Getty Images

    Two more goals off set pieces gave FC Dallas its fifth win of the season.

  7. D.C. United takes a point out of Columbus, but referee has some explaining to do (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    bernardo_anor_davy_arnaud Getty Images

    Juan Guzman gave Giancarlo Gonzalez a pass. Columbus came back to claim a draw.

  8. Late strike from Manneh allows Vancouver to salvage a point against LA Galaxy (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    jay_demerit_robbie_keane Getty Images

    Two separate leads were pulled back as the Whitecaps fought back at BC Place.

  9. WATCH: Arlo White, Jim Beglin on Chelsea’s shock loss to Sunderland

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT

    jozy_altidore_cesar_azpilicueta Getty Images

    NBC’s team on the scene reacts to the day’s big result:

  10. Colorado, San Jose combine for one shot on target, no goals (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

    Clint Irwin AP

    San Jose remains without a win beside playing the second place Rapids to a standstill.

  11. WATCH: All the goals, highlights from Saturday in the Premier League

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    sunderland_chelsea AP

    Look back at a Saturday that helped bring clarity to the Premier League’s title race.

  12. More late PK heartbreak sees Chicago draw sixth in a row (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa Getty Images

    Two weeks ago, it was Mike Magee. On Saturday, it was Juan Luis Anagonó who couldn’t covert late from the spot.

  13. Union, Dynamo fail to break through, end deadlocked at PPL Park (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    gilles_barnes AP

    Will Bruin and Andrew Wenger came close, but neither were able to keep his team from playing out a scoreless draw.

  14. Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski of Poland, center, scores during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between BvB Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) AP

    A host of teams are battling it out to determine who will fill Germany’s European spots. Meanwhile, the rush to avoid the drop continues.

  15. Watch Live: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa_jack_mcinerney AP

    Chicago goes for its first win while New England looks to make it two-in-a-row, and it all starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports Live Extra:

  16. Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Borini and Sunderland stunned Chelsea, as the bottom club beat the title chasers. Getty Images

    All the recaps, analysis and video highlights from a sensational Saturday:

  17. VIDEO: Jose Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Watch Chelsea’s manager implode in the post-match TV interview, as his unbeaten streak comes to an end:

  18. Serie A Roundup: Milan look set to sneak into Europe

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:52 PM EDT

    AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli, second from left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Livorno at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) AP

    Lazio, Torino and Parma all dropped points, opening a path for AC Milan to push into Italy’s final Europa League spot.

  19. Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland: Blues’ title dreams in ruins, as Black Cats grab shock win (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea lose at home in PL under Mourinho for first time in 77 matches, as Sunderland shock Blues:

  20. Watch – Chelsea and Sunderland level with title and survival on the line

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Eto'o is at the center of a huge controversy as Mourinho was recorded without his knowledge. AP

    Blues and Black Cats locked at 1-1 after nervy first half, watch live online right here:

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title