Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT Part Ways: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2016

Sep 6, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA;  United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (center) looks on from the sideline prior to a game against Trinidad & Tobago at EverBank Field. United States won 4-0.  Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Jurgen Klinsmann was removed from his post as the United States men's national team manager on Monday, U.S. Soccer announced.  

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati made a statement in the announcement that read in part:

We want to thank Jurgen 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.

Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.

While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction. With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup.

Sam Borden of the New York Times reported that Bruce Arena is "likely" to be named as Klinsmann's replacement.

Klinsmann, 52, took over as the USMNT manager in 2011, leading the country to a Gold Cup in 2013 and past the group stage of the World Cup in 2014. 

His tenure wasn't without controversy, however. The United States never quite took the next step from a decent team in major competitions to a great one, and Klinsmann's decision to keep Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster was never popular.

He also came under fire after the United States lost consecutive matches to Mexico and Costa Rica in November, opening the CONCACAF Hexagonal phase of 2018 World Cup qualifying in poor form.

Klinsmann attempted to adjust the USMNT to a 3-4-3 formation for the contest against Costa Rica—the United States has traditionally played with four defenders—but captain Michael Bradley hinted that the system didn't exactly suit the team.

"They're a good team," he told FS1's Jenny Taft after the 4-0 loss, per Caitlin Murray of Fox Sports. "The way they space themselves out, they do a few things tactically that means you have to have clear ideas about how you're going to go about dealing with it. In the second half, by virtue of rearranging ourselves a little bit, we were able to get after them a little more."

Criticisms of that game were fierce, though, as Jeff Carlisle of ESPN FC noted: "There has long been a skepticism surrounding the U.S. manager. That is what happens when you overpromise and underdeliver in terms of the team's style."

Indeed, the United States is no closer to having a distinguishable style of play than it was when Klinsmann took over. That, in part, can be attributed to the fact that the former Bayern Munich striker took over a soccer program that didn't have the organization, depth or top-level coaching you might find in Germany or Spain.

But Klinsmann has also varied in his approach, failing to find a consistent style that matched the strengths of his team. While that ultimately didn't hamper the team in CONCACAF play, it became more apparent when the United States matched up against elite competition.

Nonetheless, his departure leaves the USMNT swimming in uncertainty ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Klinsmann's tenure with the United States wasn't a failure—the country is better off than it was in 2011 when he took over—but he also didn't deliver the lofty heights expected of him during his stint as manager. 


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