Jurgen Klinsmann has said that U.S. soccer fans' criticisms of his tenure as head coach of the national team are an indication of how important the game has become in American sports culture. If the fans are critical, he reasons, that only means that they are engaged and care about the performance of their national team.
There isn't a national coach in the world who isn't criticized by the fans. If Spain wins the World Cup surrendering only two goals in the entire tournament, the fans complain that their team didn't score enough goals. When Brazil won their last World Cup the fans complained that the team was not playing with enough flair. And so on.
Every national team coach becomes the focal point for armchair analysis of their tactics and player selections. Jurgen Klinsmann is no different.
When the fans sense that something is not going their way, they turn the volume up to 11 and call for the coach's firing. In Mexico's qualifier against Costa Rica the fans chanted in full voice, "Fuera Chepo" or "Fire Chepo!"
If such events are the hallmark of a great soccer nation, the U.S. is not far from the pinnacle. When the U.S. seemed to be struggling in the first round of World Cup qualifying, the calls for Klinsmann's removal echoed off Mount Rushmore. When the Nats stumbled in the opening game of the Hex against Honduras, the hot air could have lifted a fleet of giant balloons.
Sports fans are, of course, a fickle lot, and the U.S. fans were chanting "We are going to Brazil" as Klinsmann's team dismantled an overmatched Panamanian squad 2-0 in Seattle.
For now, the voices calling for Klinsmann's removal are no louder than amber waves of grain. So before our national attention deficit swings the other way, here are four reasons USMNT fans should stick to analyzing the players' tattoos and stuff this nonsense about firing Jurgen Klinsmann into the deep recesses of the Grand Canyon.
Few people ride horses any more, and even fewer people understand why it's a bad idea to switch horses in the middle of a stream.
Horses, you see, are powerful critters. Flowing water is similarly powerful. While a fast-moving stream can sweep a man to his death, a horse can make it through. It thus makes little sense to try and change horses when one finds himself in such a precarious situation.
Unless the horse is about to falter and drown the rider, why change horses?
World Cup qualifying can be an overpowering force, just ask the English. And in case this tortured metaphor isn't obvious enough, Klinsmann is the horse.
Prior to Klinsmann's tenure, the U.S. had never won a game in Mexico City, nor had they ever beaten Italy, anywhere.
In the current calendar year, the U.S. got an away qualifying point in Azteca and showed considerable flair in beating Klinsmann's old mates from the Deutscher Fussball Bund.
Halfway through the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. sits alone at the top of the table.
Ever notice how Jurgen Klinsmann is always smiling? In interviews, have you heard as he both criticizes and praises a player in the same sentence? Has anyone ever seen this man nonplussed?
In less than a year, Klinsmann benched his starting forward and Eredevise hot dog Jozy Altidore, and then told the U.S.' all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, that he would have to earn his way back on to the team, as Sports Illustrated reports.
Prior to the qualifier against Costa Rica, some Anonymous Sources told Brian Straus of Sporting News that Klinsmann was losing control of his locker room.
Oh the end was near! It was the end of the world as we know it!
Not Klinsmann, he felt fine, and his team responded with four straight qualifying results from their best run of games under his tenure.
For a long time, the problem with U.S. soccer was supposedly the lack of fan support. Then it was the lack of great athletes and their loss to other American sports. Then it was the lack of a domestic league.
Someone probably blamed the Commies along the way.
Then Klinsmann comes along and points at the naked emperor, and still people want to blame the cold water.
He identified the importance of incorporating the burgeoning Hispanic culture in America. He correctly surmised that our kids were actually practicing too much and not playing enough in a vacant lot. He tut-tutted an elite youth soccer system where the 99 Percent are essentially shut out.
It is not surprising that it took an outsider to point out our foibles or that it it took so long to listen. But, it is disheartening to comprehend that the most imaginative person to ever come along in U.S. soccer is one poor run of form from going back to the L.A. recreational leagues.
But not today.