Where the USMNT Stand After the Firing of Jurgen Klinsmann

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 21, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on after playing against New Zealand during an International Friendly at RFK Stadium on October 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The decision United States men's national soccer team fans have been waiting for occurred on Monday afternoon, as U.S. Soccer parted ways with manager and technical director Jurgen Klinsmann.

Sam Borden of the New York Times broke the news before the federation put out a statement via its Twitter account:

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati addressed the decision in the statement:

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.

The demise of the Klinsmann era began at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the Yanks slumped to a disappointing fourth-place finish on home soil in a tournament normally dominated by the U.S. and Mexico.

USA's Jurgen Klinsmann is seen during the Copa America Centenario third place football match against Colombia in Glendale, Arizona, United States, on June 25, 2016.  / AFP / Mark RALSTON        (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The poor showings on the international level continued during the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in March, as the team needed a home win over Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, to get on track to advance to the Hexagonal round of qualifying.

After a 4-0 semi-final loss to Argentina in this summer's Copa America Centenario, the Americans fell short at home against Mexico in their Hex opener and stooped to a brand-new low under Klinsmann in a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica four days later.

U.S. Soccer had no choice but to fire Klinsmann after his baffling tactical decisions against Mexico set the team up for failure. The response by the players in Costa Rica proved that Klinsmann had lost the locker room for good.

While most of the focus following Klinsmann's departure will be on the poor results of late, he did bring positives to the program.

He recruited plenty of dual-nationals, especially German-Americans, who are key pieces of the squad. He also earned some surprising results during the first four years of his tenure, including wins over Italy and Germany and a victory in the Estadio Azteca against Mexico.

But he failed to generate the same results after the World Cup in Brazil.

The Stars and Stripes will enter 2017 in last place in the Hex on zero points, but all hope is not lost to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Moises Castillo/Associated Press

If the USMNT win all four of their remaining home matches and pull out a win on the road in either Panama, Honduras or Trinidad & Tobago, they should be fine. But there was growing concern in American soccer circles that Klinsmann wouldn't be able to get the job done given the recent disappointing results on home soil.

Goal.com's Ives Galarcep reported that U.S. Soccer came to an agreement with Bruce Arena to take over for Klinsmann:

This was a prudent decision by the federation given the state of the national team. The primary goal for Arena will be to qualify for the World Cup. In addition, Arena will be tasked with ushering in a new group of youngsters and using the 2017 Gold Cup as a testing ground for some of the new faces.

By no means did Klinsmann leave the cupboard dry, but his failure to integrate the new generation of talent that is blossoming in Major League Soccer and Europe produced stale roster selections.

On too many occasions, Klinsmann relied on veterans Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman and others to earn key results.

What Klinsmann also failed to do with his personnel was institute a consistent first-team starter at left-back and find a creative midfielder to link between Michael Bradley in defensive midfield and the forwards up top. Klinsmann started to rectify the playmaker problem by including Darlington Nagbe and Sacha Kljestan in the last year, but neither player was used enough in big matches.

Arena will need to call on a mix of veterans who have been cast off in some cases and a new batch of young players to get the required number of points in the Hex. Fifteen points should be enough to advance to Russia.

Two of the veteran players Arena should reach out to are Jonathan Bornstein and Benny Feilhaber.

Bornstein, who has been in USMNT exile for years, is in solid form with Queretaro in Liga MX, and he would provide a short-term fix to the left-back situation while younger talent develops beneath him. Feilhaber would be an extra playmaker with international experience to add to the squad.

KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 20:  Mid-fielder Benny Feilhaber #10 of Sporting Kansas City score a goal on a penalty kick against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC during the second half on August 20, 2016 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  Sporting Ka
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Some of the players Arena introduces to the squad will be short-term fixes, just like he is as the manager. The annual January camp will be crucial to identifying domestic-based talent that will help the USMNT win the continental title in the summer and advance to the World Cup.

For those who fear Arena will rely too much on experienced players to move on from the Hex, he has a solid track record with youth development. Arena was the USMNT boss who brought a young core led by Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley to the 2002 World Cup and guided it to the quarter-finals.

Arena has also had no problem integrating young players into the squad with the LA Galaxy, despite the presence of stars like Donovan, Robbie Keane and Giovani dos Santos.

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

After the World Cup, U.S. Soccer can search for a long-term replacement. FC Dallas boss Oscar Pareja, New York Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch and Sporting Kansas City gaffer Peter Vermes are three names that come to mind right away to take over.

The USMNT isn't in need of a total overhaul. There is talent already in the squad that will be boosted by the addition of a few new pieces. Arena's tactical plan won't be all over the place like Klinsmann's.

U.S. Soccer fired Klinsmann at the right time, and despite the poor results to start the Hex, Arena should calm the panic and bring the Yanks to Russia.


Joe Tansey covers U.S. soccer for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JTansey90.


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