USA Men's Soccer: 5 Things We've Learned in Jurgen Klinsmann's First 3 Games
The era of Jurgen Klinsmann as head coach of the U.S. men’s national soccer team is only three games old, but many people are already questioning if Klinsmann is the right man for this job.
Three games have been played and the results are two losses and one draw.
What type of Klinsmann did U.S. soccer get?
Did it get the Klinsmann who led the German national team to the World Cup semifinals in 2006, or the Klinsmann who managed to drag Germany’s most successful club team Bayern Munich down the drain in less than a full Bundesliga season?
Only time will tell, but there are five things that are already clear after three matches.
Defense Has Big Holes
Tuesday’s game against Belgium made one fact very clear, the U.S. defense has more holes than Swiss cheese.
If you take a look at the statistics of the last three games, you will realize that the U.S. allowed 11 shots on goal, which resulted in three goals.
This means it is not necessarily the quantity of shots the American defense allows, it is the quality of those chances. For example, Mexico had only one shot on goal in 90 minutes and it resulted in a goal.
If the U.S. team continues to allow those high quality chances than nobody should be surprised that they cannot win against teams like Costa Rica and Belgium, who are both ranked out of the top 35 in latest FIFA world ranking.
Offense Is Not Clicking
On the offensive end, the strikers seem to struggle with Klinsmann’s new tactical concept.
It is a system that forces strikers to become more involved in the creation of offensive plays.
Players like Jozy Altidore, who is without a doubt a gifted striker, is just not used to picking the ball up at midfield and creating a chance with it.
Altidore is a typical center striker, who needs to get the ball in the box to create something with it but not at midfield.
This leaves Klinsmann with two options, substitute strikers like Altidore for players that are able to execute his system, or create a system that favors the players that he has.
The inability to adjust his tactical concept got him fired after 10 months as the head coach of Bayern Munich.
Let's see if history repeats itself.
Howard Is a World-Class Goalkeeper
Jurgen Klinsmann has to thank his goalkeeper Tim Howard for keeping the damage in his first three games on the sideline fairly small.
The last two games against Costa Rica and Belgium, which both resulted in a 0-1 loss, could have become so much worse without Howard between the goalposts.
The 32-year-old Howard, who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, highlighted his importance for the U.S. soccer team with outstanding saves, especially against Belgium on Tuesday.
Klinsmann Lacks Tactical Understanding
As mentioned before Klinsmann is not known for having outstanding tactical knowledge.
The only success the former world-class striker had so far in his coaching career came as the team manager of Germany’s 2006 World Cup team.
As the job title already said, he was not the coach of the squad, he was the team manager, and as that he did a tremendous job motivating a young German team.
His assistant and current German national coach Joachim Low was the mastermind of Germany’s offensive tactics during the World Cup.
Don’t get me wrong Klinsmann is a great motivator, who knows a squad with a superior fitness that is able to play a fast paced style of soccer over 90 minutes will most likely win at the end.
However, he has no clue what kind of system suits his 11 players the best.
A Long Way to Go
I don’t know if I can make this comparison, but Jurgen Klinsmann reminds me of Barry Switzer.
Both coaches, despite coaching two completely different sports, have been described as so-called players’ coaches.
These are coaches, who know how to talk and communicate with their players, and therefore able to rally a team behind them.
That’s the good thing about these types of coaches. The bad thing is as soon as players realize that there is not much substance—in terms of tactical knowledge—behind the talking, players start to turn away.
Klinsmann could be the man, who turns the United States men’s national team into a recognizable soccer force.
The only two things he needs are the help of somebody who can fill his lack of tactical understanding and time. Without time and that somebody, it is going to end ugly.