A View from Afar / Commentary

Is it time to replace Klinsmann as USMNT coach?

Photo: Earl Gardner

It’s time to reconsider Jurgen Klinsmann’s fitness as U.S. national team coach.

Let’s run down the list of why.

  • He just led the USMNT to their worst showing in 15 years at the Gold Cup.
  • The U.S. is in danger of missing two straight Olympics.
  • The senior team is a tactical mess completely lacking in chemistry because of Klinsmann’s constant tinkering.
  • The U.S. style of play is no more attractive than under his predecessors. In fact, it might be uglier.
  • Klinsmann just threw one of his best players (Fabian Johnson) under the bus by banishing him from the team for reportedly asking out of a game without an actual injury, only for the player’s club team to say that, yes, Johnson is injured.
  • His poor roster selection at the World Cup — no backup center forward for Jozy Altidore, Brad Davis over Landon Donovan, etc. — significantly handicapped the club at the tourney, and it hasn’t improved much since then.
  • He has pretty much ignored some top creative players in their prime — notably Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen, ages 30 and 29, respectively — perhaps under the premise that they’ll be too old to contribute in the 2018 World Cup.
  • The USMNT has won just one of their last six matches against CONCACAF opponents. Is it time to worry about World Cup qualification?

How many players who were born and raised in the United States have established themselves under Klinsmann as new regular starters who you expect to see still playing with the national team next year? Is there anyone other than Alejandro Bedoya? (Gyasi Zardes? Not sure.) Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler should be regular, cemented starters, but Klinsmann has handed them only three combined starts this year while messing around with Ventura Alvarado and other ineffective alternatives in their stead. Kyle Beckerman and DaMarcus Beasley both became regulars under Klinsmann — Beasley basically came in from the cold and was reinvented as a left back — but neither is likely to be in the mix this time next year.

Instead, Klinsmann continues to rely primarily on a core of players identified before his four-year tenure — Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and possibly Tim Howard once again. With everyone else, it’s mix, match, shuffle, repeat. For every DeAndre Yedlin that emerges, there’s a DeAndre Yedlin who isn’t regularly starting at his best position, right back.

We can talk all we want about philosophical changes and building a national development program, as well as the requirement for patience when engaging in such structural work.

However, the malaise lingering around the national team is impossible to ignore. So too are Klinsmann’s uninspired tactical choices, roster selection, lineup decisions, and man management. He plays mental games with players like German coaches do, which makes sense since he is in fact German, but it’s no less distasteful to Americans.

Klinsmann remains someone with the big picture vision and credibility within the world game to rebuild an American soccer development structure from the ground up as a technical director. He has done an excellent job identifying and recruiting dual nationals for the national team, such as Fabian Johnson, Terence Boyd, John Brooks, Aron Johannsson and others. He has articulated a grand vision, and even if the results aren’t there yet, at least the ideas are.

But that is all the province of a technical director.

As head coach, he has yet to prove he is up to the task. Four years should have been enough time to do that.


  1. As mentioned in the end, right now my opinion is that his work as a technical director is too important right now.

    If we can get a new coach in while he remains TD, then fine.

    But if he is still demanding both jobs or none, I’m ok with him as a coach still.

    • What work as a technical director? Seriously, what has he done? Bring foreign born players in? Ok, so nobody else ever did that? And the ones he’s brought in have been a net negative.

      The best German born American we’ve had was brought in by Bradley. Had he not been injured in 2010, no Ricar…I can’t say it.

      • Unified vision fo playing style.

        Killing pay to play.

        Introducing U12, U13, U23 teams.

        Other stuff I’m way too lazy to look up and quantify.

      • He has SAID he would unify the playing style across the different levels, but having listened to an interview on SIRIUSXM FC, I forget who with honestly, saying they spoke to the U15 and U17 coaches, they weren’t on the same page whatsoever. Also how has he killed pay to play? If anything US Soccer has fought more FOR it in fighting Crossfire over the Yedlin transfer money. and how is introducing a U12 team helping in the even distant future if he cant even decide on a style for the senior national team 4 years into his stay? Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t believe he’s ever played the same back 4 twice. He is 100% incompetent in every way. It is all lip service. How are we going to expect him to beat the top national teams when he cant even figure out his best XI for concacaf? Getting out of the group of death was great (only winning 1 game), taking Belgium to ET was great. But who have we actually BEATEN since Ghana? I feel no pride watching the stars and stripes anymore under him. He took all the positivity from the WC and destroyed it and he needs to go. I literally don’t even care who they bring in in the interim. I’m honestly worried about qualifying for 2018 with him.

      • in the DA…..clubs are awarded points for playing 4-3-3 and building out of the back…..that is encouraged at the academy level and rewarded. But, I think our country is too big for one uniform style. Whats wrong with different regions having different styles of play? And, what does it say that you want the academies in 4-3-3’s and your national team plays in an outdated 4-4-2 whenever a match that means something is on the line? Its says we don’t have the horses to play that way…thats exactly what it says…..

      • I think a uniform playing style is foolish. Maybe in the higher national levels, but not at all levels. It kills ingenuity. Imagine if an NFL Czar mandated the west coast offense and 3-4 defense for everyone?

      • We’re going to lose to T&T. The weaknesses are so glaring–regardless of who he plays–and they’re good enough to beat us, as sad as that is.

        That’s why I want the airplane banner at the St Vincent’s game in St Louis.


        Sorry for the plug, but it’s relevant. 😀

      • My point was that he has done nothing he promised. He promised a unified program, hasn’t happened, he promised a more progressive playing style for the senior squad, nothing they’ve actually gone backwards. As a coach he has done nothing any different than Bradley or Arena did. He didn’t make it any farther in the world cup, and has actually LOST a bunch of games that have always been easy wins. He isn’t the biggest problem with US soccer, but right now he’s clearly not the solution either. Friendly wins in Germany and the Netherlands mean literally nothing.

      • I agree wholeheartedly

  2. If your going to sack JK…….Gulati needs to go with him!

  3. Klinsman is to important to the trajectory of the game in this country. .
    These are your feet. This is the fire.
    Oah hot. hot. hot.
    I carried over this article and comments section from Espnfc.com. It is worthwhile to follow the thread as the conversation is a good one.
    Oli Olaffson’s POV is particularly interesting.

    • Ok, Oli, I get it. 😉

      But nobody actually ever points to anything he’s actually done.

      What is this secret plan? I know, you have to take 47,342 steps back to take one step forward. That’s still a net loss of 47,341 steps as I see it.

    • There’s plenty of argument to be made about the problems of player development in the US. But none of that explains all the stuff Dan talks about in this piece. Now, we could chalk some of it up to just having a bad stretch — it happens to better teams than us (see: Holland failing to qualify for Euro 2016). But there are 2 of his bullet points that need to be amplified:

      1. Picking fights with players. The Fabian Johnson thing is not an isolated incident. How in the hell do you not put Landon Donovan on the World Cup squad, other than sheer spite??? He creates a terrible atmosphere, and then wonders why the players don’t perform for him.

      2. Roster selection. If it was bad for the World Cup, it was even worse for Gold Cup. I remember watching the games and asking, “Who the hell is playing CB for us? Who is Ventura Alvarado, and why is he here when Matt Besler is at home?? And why do he and John Brooks keep playing after getting outplayed??”

      In other words, in a nutshell, even in a country with a talent development problem, there is a strong argument that Klinsmann is simply not doing enough with the talent he has.

      • his roster selection is absolutely maddening. people like to say that the reason this team is failing is because the players aren’t good enough yet he refuses to call up other available players who are probably (and in some cases definitely) better

      • I didn’t highlight the Donovan omission in the way you did because it’s a flashpoint that could distract from the other points, but I absolutely agree with you regarding it.

      • I recall JK publicly was very complimentary of LD and his high place in US soccer when he was cut and when he made his final appearance and that JK was very circumspect in his remarks about LD not making the first cut – all of which were warranted. I believe he had good reasons and the results were about as good as to be expected. But his public shaming of FJ has no redeeming value that I’ve seen and I think he should’ve also volunteered to walk it back post-match last night. Neither JK nor Sunil sounded as sure about his coaching future after these matches as after the Gold Cup. Just give him some tactical and game management help and look ahead.

      • Sorry, you cannot tell me that Donovan was not one of America’s 20 best soccer players as of 2014. If Klinsmann were trying to develop young talent somewhat, OK, fine — you could start someone else and leave Donovan on the bench. Even THAT would’ve raised all our eyebrows. But leaving him off the squad altogether??? Pure spite. And the Fabian Johnson thing just validates the motives for his behavior.

      • I know less than most on this site but I think JK decided the team would be better off because of the incredible endurance test – including the grueling travel – that Brazil posed, and that new faces – from Bradley as leader to a Brooks or Yedlin – needed to step up rather than look to LD in that too familiar match-saving role. I don’t think he picked the 20 best (Brad Davis?), but he picked the best team – including role players – for the tournament. And if those results were accepable, then by the same measure – moreso the play than score – this summer’s are not. And changes must be made. But with JK, not without.

      • No backup or hint of a plan if Altidore went down?

      • Oh, to be clear, I was saying that I agree it was spite and other factors. Donovan was undoubtedly one of the best 20 US players last year. 10 goals, 19 assists, and more than the numbers show.

        My views on the Donovan omission haven’t really changed since I wrote this last year: https://phillysoccerpage.net/2014/05/23/donovan-left-out-klinsmann-gives-up-on-2014/

    • there is a good read on topdrawersoccer website as well….don’t have a link.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        The Will Parchman article is well written and I get it… but it is off base and wrong… Pancho Villa’s rebuttal underneath, who is a frequent strong 3four3 contributor, actually summarizes the real issue better.
        As long as men like the Kleiben’s are producing spawn… there is hope… and we need an incentive structure which MLS does not provide.
        Sold that issue and we begin to get to the root of the problem.

      • “Solve that issue” I meant to say above…fingers are so tired and tight today… maybe I should ask to come out of the game.
        The solution to the problem is easy but it requires being willing to walk away from X amount of now $ for X with an exponent amount of later $. Transfer the where and how of the money problem and the incentive problem and the root issues resolves itself… including the cultural issue…. Literally. I repeat…the issues resolve themselves within a generation of player or two.
        Problem with most business models which MLS is…is the inability to walk away from the now money.
        Another viable LEAGUE.

    • it all goes back to how were bringing up the kids…………

  4. The answer to your questions is “yes”.

  5. US Soccer is paying Klinsmann a ton of money so he isn’t going anywhere. No way US Soccer eats that contract. And if they do eat that contract then the next manager would have to be cheaper(ie. American). Plus I don’t see a MLS manager capable of stepping up to the National Team job. Maybe Olsen, Heaps, or Berhalter in a few years but I don’t think any of them are ready for that job yet.

  6. start playing the U-20 and U-23 kids with the full MNT……our 30 somethings aren’t going to be helpful for the next cycle……bring the kids up…..instill how you want them to play….let them take their lumps now…with something to build on…instead of taking our lumps with guys who won’t be useful for 2018.

    • hell, England had Ross Barkley in the middle of the pitch on Monday……..how old is he????? There are guys on our U-20’s who are 10x’s the footballers we have on our current MNT and have been in European academies since they were 15 and 16 years old……

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Yes yes and yes again.
      Clearly addressing the media and the greater soccer country about the need to look forward and bring in a new set of players is in Klinsman and the USMNT best future.
      Recognize you were giving the old guard a final opportunity but that it is not working… Lose the respect of a portion of your player pool but always looking and building to the New Future and that you will be using the first few games of WC cycle to determine the next 20 players you are hooking your future vision on.
      This has to be the solution.
      Short of this — I can no longer defend Jurgen Klinsman as MNT coach.
      You dumb your camps down and build from the foundation of your spine…and instill the exact style you hope to see and repeat it over and over and over for next 3 years. The talent alone is there to qualify in CONCACAF and The Hex. Seems logical to me.

      • I see things way different. I think the problem is they aren’t given enough in the camps. Americans do well when there’s a plan, structure. They fall apart when they are told to be creative,artistic and free-flowing. Brazilians play this way, or used to. As the talent stands, being the product of they way we have done things, they are incapable of doing this, either through the lack of talent, technical ability or what they have learned growing up. Agreeably, this has to change for the future. I.E. at the U-23 level on down. As Guido has said, starting at the U8 level on up would be best. But that doesn’t change the here and now and what needs to be done to make the next WC.
        Even less structure, form and tactics going into the round of qualifying amounts to a death sentence for US soccer for 2018. That’s totally not what they need.

      • After what I posted above, I re-read what you posted El P, and feel I may have misunderstood what you were saying. If you meant to go back to basics and start from a devised plan of attack, then I totally agree. My apologies if I misunderstood.

      • el Pachyderm says:


      • thats just excuses……world football is world football. Its called being a professional and adjusting to what the gaffer wants……the whole world does it….we are not special and need a different type of coaching…thats crazy. Now, if your telling me JK’s training regiment sucks…..thats a different issue. But if your saying JK needs to “americanize training”….I completely disagree….they are big boys and need to deal with whats placed in front of them….its done the world over.

      • I’m saying Americans need a foundation to work from. A plan. Defensive and offensive. I.E. if the opposition Rb pushes high, we want our LM pushing higher to pin him back etc. Do you ever, ever see anything like this from Klinnsmann? American creativity comes from a solid base, from which they can work from. In no way do I think this is unique. I think most players around the world would also benefit from that too. But if you took a bunch of Brazilians, put them in a 4-3-3 (pick your formation) and told them to just go out and play, they would have a basic form, shape, idea of how to make that work. Do the same thing for a group of American players, and you wouldn’t get the same base, form, shape. It goes back to something I mentioned earlier in the year about the sub-conscious of a world player, vs. that of an American. The rest of the world has soccer ingrained in their psyche. We do not. There’s no pick up games on the beach here, as in Brazil. There’s no barefoot kids playing on a dirt soccer field as in Argentina or Africa. That just doesn’t happen. Our kids aren’t spending hours on the weekend watching football from around the world picking up little things here and there from professional players. Maybe some of the kids from the people on this site are. But not the majority of 300 million people. Sorry it doesn’t happen.
        And so what if you have to coach Americans differently? So you mean you’d keep doing something that doesn’t work, just because the rest of the world does it that way. That’s moronic. You tailor your plans to the players you have. That’s basic and simple. The Marines have a saying, adapt and overcome. Not sit tight, keep doing things that don’t work, and pray your ass doesn’t get killed. Silly.

      • Sorry, the Marines and world football are two different things. Our military squad lost 7-0 to the South Koreans. So, I’ll let the Marines stick to what their good at……….winning wars and storming beaches….and I’ll let people who have pedigree in footy…….discuss what the best options to move forward! Nothing will truly change….until like you said…..little Johnny can go outside and play pick up games with his friends……until then…everything else we discuss…..is window dressing. You can honestly use the saying: Overcome and Adapt….for every single thing in life. Too easy…..things are much more complicated than that! Should I call you Gunny Highway for now on?

  7. I made my view known about Klinsmann last few days. Yesterday just reinforced it: the players were running like chickens without heads.
    Besides paying Klinsmann too much US Soccer made another major mistake. When the whole Academy system started they started with U16 and U18 Academies. Now they have U14’s but it is all upside down: they should have started concentrating on the U8 and U10’s and then work towards U18. The money that was invested in the U16 and U18 academies over the last 8 years has been a real bad investment based on the U23’s and MNT results. The kids were just too old to change dramatically; one has to start with the young ones, most of which are still not developed correctly.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Hard to argue… Vision Philosophy Plan… It all begins with the little kids getting the best coaching. I know this. You know this. Why doesn’t JK and SG?

      • Because they think too much of themselves. They should look what the Belgiums did and how they are now ranked no. 1 in the world. Well summarized in this article: http://grantland.com/features/world-cup-2014-belgian-national-team-vincent-kompany-eden-hazard-marouane-fellaini/

      • Very interesting article. Thanks for posting the link.

      • The old American fantasy of getting the best coach possible. There is no such thing. So like American football. So out of touch about soccer. I know excellent europeaan players who live here and who will not let their kids play in the Acdemy teams because of the the emphasis on speed, size, and winning. Brett Shea is the ideal Academy player. A guy who will NEVER rise above club level. Who picked him for the USA team? Too much wrong on too many levels. PLease, no more Brits, Germans or any other soccer tourists. We get the same results with Americans. Spend the money on poor kids who cant afford to play in the rich kids Academy teams.

      • I think JK knows it, he should with his pedigree…..but its a touchy subject to bring up….make a lot of parents upset that little Johnny really isn’t going to be the next Messi! Its tough to come out with: “You know after spending a few years with the MNT and US soccer…..I have come to the conclusion that your youth program sucks, your coaches suck, and the parents suck”………not going to make many friends coming out and saying that. Even though its true! Americans don’t like the reality of certain things……ignorance is bliss!

  8. Dan has laid it all out there. There really isn’t much more to say other, “when’s the new coach getting here?”

  9. Klinsmann is not the problem it started in the 80’s when all the British started coming over for soccer camps, they started to run all the local clubs and charging big bucks to get kick and run soccer. it happened at almost every local club West Chester, Lower Merion, Warrington etc. and all over the country. Soccer is a poor mans sport the best players from all over the world mostly come from lower class parts, in the US you have to pay to play these British coaches that came here started it. I remember in the 70’s the Phoenix, Dunubia , UGH, VE ,Ukies etc. never charged they had a lot of local players representing this country on the National team.

    • Today. 2 p.m. Riding my bike by a local playground. I see cones set up on a soccer field and tiny little kids in matching t-shirts. I slow down enough to make out what’s on the t-shirts: “UK petites.”
      I shit you not.

      • to be honest… IMHO… UK elite is part of the problem locally… learning how to do a scissor in three easy moves is not functional.
        Host your $125 seven week program… set up 4 goals… and let the kids play 2v2 and 3v2 or 3v3 for an hour a week after a 5 minute warm up. Just get out of the way. I’ve spoken with the actual owner of UK elite and said… ‘hey.. how bout hosting a local pick up game 2 or 3 evenings a week that is a $5 drop in fee for the host/chaperone and see what happens…. 5yr through 8yr play in one group…8yr-11yr play in another group. Open it up to every club within 6 or 8 miles as the crow flies. See if you can build something special.
        And from those groupings of players week in week out maybe 1 or 2 kids of real quality and inventiveness will grow. Nah. Never happened. Not part of the BUSINESS model.
        My 4 and 5 year old are on the ball for probably 12 – 16 hours a week… but that’s because I am fortunate enough to be home playing football football football then watching football football football… dreaming about football football football. It is ingrained into our home it is our culture… but try and find 6 kids for a regular weekly pick up on wednesday evenings… nearly IMPOSSIBLE. I have tried since my oldest 9 year old was 6 with small returns to build an infrastructure of free play… NEARLY impossible.
        Now allow the local clubs to get paid for building a footballer to have an incentive for building a footballer and I bet the open free play market would be easy to see… everywhere…. every night in all the hamlets and suburbs and side streets not populated by pay to play.
        UK Petites. Phew. At the very heart of the issue..with respect of course.

      • snake oil salesman……….listen to my accent, I must know the game, give me money and your kid will make the EPL! The sign says UK and Elite…….it must be good!

  10. Dan Walsh is a wanabe jounalist who has no clue what a technical director is and should do. It so so tiring to read stuff from people with no clue. JK is MUCH more dangerous as a Technical director than as a coach. Coaches can be disapointing, but directors can be destructive. This bufoon Walsh has no idea how much JK is held in contempt by USA national coaches. How can you direct people who hold you in contempt? A director must be an aggregator, damn it. He has lost any ability to bring anyone together His handpicked teutonic coach led the USA to a 2-0 defeat and got kicked out of the game. What the hell is that all about. I have no issue with a foreign coach, but get a good one. better yet get a USA guy. JUst look at the records. The USA guys have done just as well as the guy earning 2.5 million. Give the money instead to the poor kids who love soccer but cant afford to pay for the academy teams. It is so tiring to read all this equivocation in these blogs. Look at this as an investment. If the company turns bad, SELL IT.

    • Maybe someone should tell you that if you’re so tired, you don’t have to come here. I doubt anyone is clicking this web site for you. I’d expect a “Dr.” to figure that out…but hey I guess wanabes aren’t just limited to journalists.

    • Perspective sir.
      In that you need some…perspective.
      and a damn bit of respect while you are at it.
      I push the edge as much as anybody around here and have stepped over the line a few times to be reprimanded by the contradicting points of view… consider this a crucial conversation or Like-Kind Exchange – for your long term benefit.

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