Jurgen Klinsmann is not perfect. Even the biggest Klinsmann defender like myself can admit that. But if there’s one thing I can’t understand for the life of me it’s the people who don’t think Jurgen Klinsmann should be the manager of the United States Men’s National Team.
I’m not talking about the people who this past summer had a problem with the fact that Jurgen is German and he’s managing Americans. Those people aren’t real fans and won’t watch another soccer game until the 2018 World Cup. I’m talking about the people who are actual soccer fans and are still somehow being swayed by the on-field results of the USMNT.
It’s time to take a deep breath. Jurgen Klinsmann took over US Soccer with the idea of re-inventing the whole program from the top down. He’s been in charge for almost four years now and people are now losing patience that we aren’t already seeing the changes he’s promised. Newsflash: these changes are going to take time, and by time I mean more then four years.
You know the saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?” Well what Klinsmann is doing is trying to teach old dogs new tricks while simultaneously teaching the young dogs those same new tricks, so when they grow up they’ve already perfected those tricks. That process takes more then four years but it works. How do I know that? Well in 2004 Klinsmann was hired by Germany not just to manage the national team, but to revamp the entire way the German federation ran things. Klinsmann had some immediate success in the 2006 World Cup, but the true success came eight years later when Germany won the World Cup in 2014, thanks in large part to the seeds Klinsmann had planted during his time there.
The new hot fad in the streets is to be calling for Klinsmann’s head based on the team’s recent results which have seen them win just one game since the 2014 World Cup and be outscored by an astonishing 12-1 margin in the second half of games. None of that matters though, and he’s why. I know Fox and ESPN don’t want you to hear this because they want you to watch the games, but the games the US is currently playing are literally the least important games they will play in the next four years.
When push comes to shove, there is only one thing that matters for the United States in 2015–qualifying for the 2017 Confederations Cup. They can do that by winning the 2015 Gold Cup, where they will have their top team and have proven to be able to essentially sleepwalk to the final. If they fail to win the Gold Cup, which may not be a bad thing, they’ll play a one game home playoff vs. the Gold Cup winner to determine who gets the Confederations Cup spot since the US won the 2013 Gold Cup.
The Confederations Cup is the only thing that this year is about. Klinsmann knows that and therefore he’s been using all the friendlies to experiment, not just with his lineup, but with players playing out of position as well as finding out how many times he can throw Brek Shea and Rubio Rubin out there to do nothing before giving up on them.
There has not been a single game since the match vs. Belgium at the World Cup where the US has had anything close to a full strength squad. For the most part, the US has also been playing most of these friendlies without Clint Dempsey, who is the only game-changer the US has in it’s player pool. Without Dempsey in the lineup, Klinsmann is forced to experiment with several different formations and players to see how he could get the best results out of a team where the best player is considered “above average.”
The lack of game-changers in the US system is a problem that pre-dates Klinsmann but one that he is working hard to change. It is well known that Klinsmann has done his fair share of recruiting a number of “dual-nationals” whether they be German-American or other nationalities. The name that often gets the most chatter is 19-year-old German-American Julian Green, who made the 2014 World Cup team despite not having any International Resume. Now fans seem to be concerned that a kid who was being sold last year as “the next big thing” isn’t making a big splash and some are already labeling him as a bust. Let me remind you, Green is 19 years old, he already has a World Cup goal to his name. He needs time to develop and time is exactly what he has. When the 2018 World Cup roles around he will only be 23, which is the age Clint Dempsey was when he made his first World Cup squad.
Will Green at 23 be as good as Dempsey was at 23? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on if he makes “the jump” or not. That’s the point here, Green, like many other young players who Klinsmann has begun to give a look to, need time to develop which means everyone needs to have patience. This process takes several years. While these players are out there making mistakes and costing the US meaningless points this year, Klinsmann is really just assessing their progress and seeing how they do against tougher competition.
If you still want Klinsmann fired please give me the name of an available International manager that you’d like to replace him. You can’t name me a better one. If Klinsmann were fired today, it’s safe to say every country other than Germany, Spain, and Italy will be knocking on his door tomorrow. So with that, please stop calling for his head until he’s losing meaningful games and is at risk to not qualify for a World Cup. But I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.