Five years after he was brought in to bring the United States Men’s National Soccer Team to “the next level” Jurgen Klinsmann has been fired from his dual role as Head Coach and Technical Director by the man who spent almost that much time pursuing him.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati had finally seen enough when the U.S. MNT dropped the first two games of the final round of World Cup Qualifiers (The Hex) last week raising the possibility, however slight, that the Americans might miss out on competing in the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
When Gulati finally landed Klinsmann to replace Bob Bradley after the U.S. fell to Mexico by a 4-2 score in the 2011 Gold Cup Final at the Rose Bowl Klinsmann seemed in many ways the perfect choice to guide the Americans to that “next level.”
A former star player and World Cup winner with his native Germany, Klinsmann had earned praise for his work in taking a rebuilding German side to the 2006 World Cup semifinals in Germany.
Klinsmann also garnered praise for his role in bringing new ideas to the German set up, many of which had a somewhat “American” feel. Which was not entirely surprising, given that Klinsmann was living and raising his family in Southern California.
So, Klinsmann seemed perfect. A man with a big reputation in the world game who understood the American soccer landscape.
And Klinsmann has had some successes with the U.S. team, in particular advancing from the “Group of Death” to the knockout rounds of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and bringing his team to the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario, although neither achievement was the unvarnished hit that Klinsmann and U.S Soccer liked to present.
The Americans lone victory in Brazil was a 2-1 opening game win against a Ghana side we later learned was in rebellion against its federation over nonpayment and the U.S only extended Belgium to extra time thanks to an epic 15 save performance by Tim Howard.
After advancing to this June’s Copa America semi-final the tournament ended on a bad note for the hosts when Argentina ran roughshod over the U.S. en route to a 4-0 U.S. loss, which was followed by Klinsmann’s side with a 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third-place game, a match that never felt that close.
Perhaps as much as anything Klinsmann’s decision to leave Landon Donovan off of the World Cup squad backfired with U.S. fans and many in the media who weren’t buying Klinsmann’s rationale that the likes of Brad Davis or Chris Wondolowski were somehow “ahead” of Donovan.
Klinsmann survived earlier calls for his head in the wake of a disastrous effort by his team at the 2015 Gold Cup but the coach lost whatever goodwill he had earned from that Copa run with the loss to Mexico in Columbus that ended a run of four straight 2-0 wins over El Tri in Ohio and in the 4-0 shellacking against Costa Rica that followed, a match in which the U.S. seemed to quit.
U.S. Soccer released a statement that said in part “We want to thank Juergen for his hard work and commitment during these last five years. He took pride in having the responsibility of steering the program, and there were considerable achievements along the way.”
Multiple reports have U.S. Soccer close to announcing former U.S. MNT coach Bruce Arena as Klinsmann’s replacement. Arena’s contract with the L.A. Galaxy is set to expire at the end of the year.