In all likelihood, that little tantrum Jurgen Klinsmann pulled Wednesday night will eventually become a comical coda to what has been an overwhelmingly satisfying Gold Cup run for the United States men's national team.
First, though, we need to identify it for what it was: An unnecessary and potentially damaging rush of blood to the head.
Not that we're that mad at Klinsi, of course.
As the final seconds ticked away at Cowboys Stadium, the U.S. was putting the final touches on a comfortable 3-1 win over Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinals. Landon Donovan scored two more goals and Eddie Johnson bagged a classy opener. The performance produced plenty of positives, as our John D. Halloran writes, from the team's facing down of adversity to Kyle Beckerman's surprisingly strong performance.
With three minutes left, Klinsmann responded loudly and angrily to a Honduran challenge on DaMarcus Beasley along the touchline. Moments later, Costa Rican referee Walter Quesada had sent America's favorite German to an early shower.
Whether or not Klinsmann was right to complain is beside the point. True, Beasley had been manhandled. And true, Stuart Holden's face had been rearranged by a flying elbow—in the box—in the first half. But in this situation, late in a match that had already been decided, Klinsmann needed to show his cool.
As head coach, Klinsmann serves as the focal point for the players' conduct, both on and off the pitch. He sets the tone, in other words, and in this situation, he was off pitch.
Looking back after the match, he seemed to have realized as much. From MLSSoccer.com:
It was just a reaction out of frustration because fouls had added up throughout the last half an hour. … I just kind of overboiled it. Obviously, you shouldn’t then throw the ball or hit it on the ground. I apologize for that reaction, but it was not meant against the referee, against nobody. It was just frustration because you feel the health of your player (is in jeopardy) in that moment. I apologize for that.
Klinsmann was right to suggest he is responsible for looking after the health of his players. But as his comments imply, he also knows that there is a correct way to do that.
He was in the wrong Wednesday, and now the U.S. might play Sunday's final at a disadvantage. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Klinsmann's status for Sunday's game is uncertain. After being sent off, he might have to serve a suspension. A CONCACAF disciplinary committee will decide Klinsmann's fate by Friday.
A Klinsmann-less USMNT might not be disastrous. After Klinsmann's dismissal Wednesday, the U.S. players calmly killed off the remaining moments of the match. Besides, even if he is not allowed on the touchline, Klinsmann would still be able to work with his team beforehand, settling on tactics and delivering any last-minute instructions.
But that in no way implies that it would be a good thing to play a continental final without the head coach on the touchline. Klinsmann is most valuable to the team as a visible and present leader, but because of a momentary lapse of reason, he is now in danger of missing the match.
It might not be all bad, of course. Klinsmann would only miss the final and return for World Cup qualifying and, if the team qualifies, the World Cup. And while Wednesday's tantrum revealed that a touchline tantrum is a possibility for Klinsmann, if we're being honest with ourselves, it was also fun to watch.
In that moment, Klinsmann showed true emotion. He proved that he cares. He demonstrated that he is one of us. And anyway, it was a meltdown by a coach, and everyone loves a good managerial meltdown.
But that's only if the U.S. wins the tournament, and only if Klinsmann keeps the tantrums to a minimum.
In feuding with an obviously half-baked CONCACAF ref Wednesday night, Klinsmann showed a little personality. And in fighting for his players, he proved he's one of us.
All the same, Klinsi, try to keep it under control from now on.
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