USMNT: Does Klinsmann Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt?

Andy KontyCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2014

USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann 2 Days Before Announcing His Final World Cup Roster
USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann 2 Days Before Announcing His Final World Cup RosterAssociated Press

U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as reported on Wednesday, May 23, by Soccer America's Mike Woitalla:

We see them up close everyday in scrimmages and training exercise. We see little things that give us just more and more information. Everyday is another day of more information that helps us. It teaches everyday some lessons.

We discuss (the roster decision) daily. It’s part of our work. I don’t have a specific date in mind.

Jurgen Klinsmann on Thursday, May 24 (via US Soccer):

What we are trying to do now having this 23 is really to prepare in every way, in every training session in every game that we have, for the first game against Ghana. We really need to win this game. Having made that decision now we can focus on the starting 11. That gives us a bit more quality in everything we do, and also it gives the players a very clear picture of what is going on. Therefore, it’s exciting now that we have this part crossed off, and now the players know their individual case and we can move forward.

In just a single day, Klinsmann went from indecision to final decision.

USMNT supporters should be used to Klinsmann's eccentricities, and his selection of the final 23-man roster is no exception.

Landon Donovan, 1 Day Before Being Cut from the USMNT World Cup Roster
Landon Donovan, 1 Day Before Being Cut from the USMNT World Cup RosterBen Margot/Associated Press

Before he dropped the Donovan bombshell this week, he made seismic waves the week before when he didn't even invite Eddie Johnson to the farm. Two of the most productive USMNT players of Klinsmann's highly successful 2013 campaign are not on his 2014 Wold Cup team.

Klinsmann also cut three players—Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, and Maurice Edu— who made the move to MLS to get more playing time and impress the coach. Goodson and Edu both made significant contributions to the Nats' record-breaking 2013 campaign. 

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Klinsmann is bringing three German-American players—Tim Chandler, John Brooks, and 18-year old Julian Green—who contributed nothing to the team's qualification. Chandler was bloody awful in their road loss to Honduras, Brooks had three uneven appearances and Green wasn't even a U.S. player until this year.

There are no dual-nationality Mexican-Americans on the final roster, despite a half-dozen who put in the work last year. Klinsmann has spoken highly of the Latins' technical ability but will have none of that quality on hand in the heat and humidity of Brazil.

Finally, the coach chose a 20-year-old right back, DeAndre Yedlin, over his veteran teammate, Brad Evans. Evans had the most starts at right back for Klinsmann in World Cup qualifying.

May 3, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC defender DeAndre Yedlin (17) dribbles the ball during the game against the Philadelphia Union at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Philadelphia 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Does Klinsmann deserve the benefit of the doubt for these seemingly bizarre roster selections? How can he leave out so many tested international veterans? How can he select so many untested players?

Klinsmann says he tested the quality of all these folks, and that he chose the best of the best. And it's true that none of us in the armchair brigade were on hand to evaluate the players.

You can be sure, however, that all 30 players at the camp saw who could do what, and Klinsmann better hope that his core players agree with him. If not, he will lose this team before they even pack their passports.

In video posted for ESPN's Inside U.S. Soccer's March to Brazil, Klinsmann holds a team meeting just after all of the players had been told about the cuts. Team captain Clint Dempsey can be seen in the background nodding in agreement to his coach's encouragement. At the end of the clip Tim Howard and Michael Bradley seem to be giving off similar signals.

Maybe Klinsmann did make the right moves. The U.S. faces three very athletic teams in the group stage, and one obvious trait Klinsmann selected on is athleticism.

Brad Davis was the only surprise pick who doesn't light up the speed guns, though he does sport a laser-guided artillery piece on his left foot.

Perhaps Klinsmann picked just the right mix of veteran savvy and rookie verve, combined with the perfect bits and pieces for game-changing tactics.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

It is possible that, once he made the decision to cut Donovan, he had to go ahead and rip the bandage off before he ruined team morale with two more weeks of speculation. That meant making and announcing all seven decisions a day after he said that no decisions had been made.

Let's not forget that we brought in Klinsmann to shake things up. And if you're going to hire a shaker, things are going to get moved. 

After a decade of Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley, Klinsmann obviously didn't have a status quo mandate.  It is hard to imagine a bigger blow to the status quo than sacrificing a sacred bull.

American soccer fans got exactly what they asked for by hiring Klinsmann. At the very, least we owe him the tournament he was hired to tame to see if his methodology works.