Should the USMNT Brass Sack Klinsmann?
By Vincent Conroy-Villarreal @mrconroy2u , AAV Sports
DENVER, Colo. (June 28, 2016)- After yet another disappointing tournament exit for the
United States Mens National Team, reports have surfaced that manager Jürgen Klinsmann’s job security could be in jeopardy after Saturday’s 1-0 loss in the third place match against Columbia at the 2016 Copa America. To support these rumors, Klinsmann is supposedly developing a contingency plan of his own and has told those in his camp that he is seriously considering accepting the appointment of the vacant manager position at Premier League Club Southampton after Ronald Koeman departed the Saints earlier this month to take charge of Everton.
With the United States’ team clearly failing to adopt the German’s philosophical possession based approach, American supporters have grown impatient with the manager’s failures to provide signature results at marquee tournaments. Paired with a deficient youth development program instilled by Klinsmann himself, the United States side looks lost, out of form, and disinterested on a consistent basis. With reports coming in from USA Today, Klinsmann has been listed at 1-3 odds from London bookmakers to join the Hampshire based English club earlier this morning. Two days before the USA’s scheduled match against Columbia, he was listed at just 40-1 to odds to return back to managing at the club level.
Since Klinsmann was introduced as the manager of the USMNT squad in 2011, there is no denying that his results have been inconsistent. While many of his accomplishments have reaped high praise and huge rewards for the USMNT team, many of these results have been unfairly considered as “tangible tasks”from supporters of the red, white, and blue. While he has progressed popularity of the sport stateside, I like countless other supporters still feel that there is some sort of separation from both the players on the pitch and the manager. Ever since Bob Bradley was axed, Klinsmann’s appointment has been received with lukewarm reception. There seems to be no middle ground and I am here to explore the harsh reality that perhaps despite public desire to see him sacked, he is the right man for the job.
The Glaring Failures in Klinsmann’s Philosophy
To better understand Klinsmann’s failures with the United States, an avid football follower can explore the pressing issues in his philosophical approach. There is no denying that whether it has been at his stops with the German National Team or with Bayern Munich, Klinsmann has always been a huge believer of integrating and promoting players from the development youth squad into the starting eleven on the pitch. When he was appointed manager of Germany in 2004, he selected eight players under the age of 21 that would later be a part of the 2006 World Cup Team. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Philipp Lahm were amongst those promoted who would later play an instrumental role in Germany claiming their fourth World Cup Trophy in 2014. Through this analysis it is evident that Klinsmann has a history of making long-term investments.
Outside of being enamored with developing younger talent another knock on the Baden-Württemberg native is that Klinsmann, regardless of where he has managed, has always rotated goalkeepers regardless of form. The only anomaly to this practice was at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Future Colorado Rapids GK and former Everton standout Tim Howard commanded the net for the entirety of the tournament. While player rest is prescribed in football, not all managers practice this method at the goalkeeping position. The problem with this sort of philosophy is that it prevents any sort of defensive consistency and command for the backline. Furthermore, each goalkeeper has different tendencies when it comes to ball placement on goal kicks which may not seem like a big issue in the grand scheme of things, but actually plays a huge role in varying attacking philosophies.
These two philosophical approaches ultimately have plagued Klinsmann’s troubled tenure at the helm of the United States. While the youth development program has clearly taken more time than anticipated, it seems to be a growing concern. Most of the United States’ current starts like Howard, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, and Michael Bradley are all aging footballers nearing the twilight of their international careers. A change of colors is long overdue at numerous positions and the failure to fully integrate players from the youth squad falls solely on shoulders of Klinsmann. Naturally, I am inclined to give Klinsmann the benefit of the doubt on this matter, but I can no longer compartmentalize that this problem will be taken care of by World Cup qualifiers.
As a journalist and avid follower of European football, I understand that these things do require years of investment, scouting, and training in order to prepare American players to face a far greater quality of talent found in Europe and South America. But as a supporter of the USMNT, I find this theory hypocritical. If Klinsmann is a true believer of youth integration, then players like Jones and Dempsey would be reduced to lesser roles. Instead they are still part of the starting eleven because players like Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic, and Jordan Morris are still very raw from a fundamental standpoint. Youth integration and development was one of the primary reasons why Klinsmann left one of America’s favorite sons Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup squad, ushering in a early retirement for Donovan and a sudden dissatisfaction with Klinsmann’s managerial decisions from supporters. Truley it is a great American travesty that there is such few silverware shared between all of USMNT senior players. Regardless, if the youth development was truly working, Klinsmann could be able to in theory increase numerous senior player careers.
Klinsmann is Here to Stay
Despite my harsh criticism of the manager’s philosophy, I still remain one of his greatest supporters. While this piece is obviously opinion based, these selected issues are really the only things during his tenure that bothers me.In all reality, Klinsmann is a world class manager that creates a blueprint for success that can be carried on for years to come, reagardless on who replaces him. Look no further than the German national side to test this theory. This is achieved through the investment and utilization of the youth academy. Where Klinsmann has succeeded in comparison to his predecessors, is that he has explored youth talent outside the United States borders. While that may irk nationalistic fans, he is really left with no other choice. Up until recently, there has virtually been no American based talent worth investing in the previous five years. Remember Freddy Adu? That’s perhaps the only name that can come to mind in recent memory and we all know how his career panned out.
Ultimately this roster has the talent to crack the elimination round each and every major tournament. If he is let go, any coach that replaces him would likely replicate the same type of success Klinsmann has achieved in his five years at the helm. But there is a great chance any other coach that comes in could potentially derail everything he has accomplished up to this point. The same problems that plague club teams often extend to national sides as well during a coaching change. The problem with USA football does not lie in philosophical approaches or management personalities. It lies in a lack of both quality and quantity of football talent alike. Furthermore, the main reason why America struggles in football is because from a cultural standpoint, the value we invest in the sport is no where near the level like Spain, Germany, or Argentina.
American Society has huge expectations for its sports teams. Success is engrained into our culture, which is why it continues to make our nation the greatest nation on Earth. However this cultural prerogative is detrimental for the development of American football. Like Colin Cowherd stated in Dec. of 2015-
“We don’t have realistic expectations. United States soccer wants Alabama football results but doesn’t have any five star athletes. Look at the top 50 players in the world- they are not our players. You can have coaching all you want but what you really need players and that is the one thing USA simply doesn’t have”
Unfortunately, Klinsmann is left with average talent and is tasked to fulfill insurmountable tasks. You can object all you want with Klinsmann’s policy to integrate players into the squad outside the United States. But most large, multi-billion dollar companies in the United States are doing the same thing. They continue to outsource domestic jobs to international talents because the local product simply isn’t good enough. But then again we as a society complain about that too, citing that it’s unfair to taxpaying American citizens. Here’s the deal, if you want Untied States Football to be relevant assist in the cause and embrace Klinsmann. We simply won’t find another coach of his qualities again if we decide to move on.