A few weeks removed from a very disappointing loss to Mexico in the one game playoff that would crown the 2015 CONCACAF Cup Champion and clinch a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, many US fans and media outlets are panicking about the state of the United States roster, and are calling for Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired. But I say hold up, wait a minute.
Does nobody else see the progress we have made since Klinsmann has taken office for former coach Bob Bradley in 2011? Sure, I would agree Klinsmann has made some mistakes along the way, and with that, more than a few questionable decisions. But doesn’t that come along with the territory?
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
During Bradley’s tenure as coach, the US soccer team was stale, predictable, and flat out boring if I’m being honest. Their game plan was to defend for 90 minutes and only counter attack a handful of times during the game and hope to win. If the US had any hope of becoming a real contender that could compete with powerhouses Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Spain, it had to change its philosophy and mentality.
Why am I telling you not to worry about the state of American soccer after a devastating loss to our most hated rival?
Back in 2011, the US had just been a year removed from a round 16 loss to Ghana 2-1 in the 2010 World Cup. It had come out of the World Cup with more questions than answers. During the summer of 2011, the United States Soccer Federation tabbed former Germany star Jurgen Klinsmann to be the man to find these answers. And for a while, he did.
Klinsmann quickly became a favorite among soccer pundits across the country with outstanding wins against Italy (first time the US beat Italy in Italy), Germany (first time the US beat a top 2 ranked team since 2009), and Mexico (first time the US beat Mexico in Mexico).
But not only was the US winning games, they were playing a more European style of soccer. They held possession for long periods of time, were capitalizing on set pieces, and for once did not play defense the entire game. Klinsmann brought in that new mentality that has set the foundation for the last 5 years.
But why am I telling you not to worry about the state of American soccer after a devastating loss to our most hated rival?
1. Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann has been the best thing for American soccer in a long time. He has done so much more work behind the scenes than anyone could ever imagine. He is developing academies across the United States, targeting young players of dual citizenship to commit to the US, and creating a farm system that will nurture young talent.
Klinsmann is the main reason why the US is even having such a huge discussion about this recent loss. Klinsmann was quoted early last year saying,
“If they are talking about me being fired after a loss that’s a good thing, it’s showing progress for this country.”
He is absolutely right. In any other major soccer power’s country, if a manager loses a crucial game, they are almost guaranteed a 50-50 shot of losing their job. America cares about our performance on the soccer field, and as Klinsmann says, that is the only thing that matters.
2. Deandre Yedlin and Bobby Wood
Yedlin and Wood are two of the most promising young stars in American soccer today. Both have been prominently featured in 2015 and have shown major signs of progress and success. This is the future, and Klinsmann is bringing in these young players to compete.
Even MLS starlet Gyassi Zardes has seen major playing time this year and has pushed the likes of veteran players Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi for their jobs.
These players are hungry and growing up in a time where American soccer is different. They no longer want to be the “pioneers” of the sports as Dempsey, Donovan, and Howard have been. They want to compete, and compete now.
3. It’s natural to have a bumpy year after a World Cup.
Most years following a World Cup come with transition; this is no different for any other countries. Klinsmann has been experimenting with young lineups all year, seeing who might be ready to step up as WC qualifying starts for the 2018 WC in Russia. So far in 2015, Klinsmann tested out over 15 different combinations on the back line.
Klinsmann is trying to find the balance between veterans such as Dempsey, Jones, and Bradley, while infusing the team with the youth of Zardes, Yedlin, Wood and others. I am not saying we should not be concerned, but we shouldn’t be panicking by any means. Over the next year, we should see this team start to take form and gain chemistry with one another.
The United States should not falter in World Cup qualifications, but in case they do, then and only then should we be talking about a head coaching change.