clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jurgen Klinsmann has created a cycle of frustration that will last for 2 more years

The USMNT beat Guatemala, but nothing's changed.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The sky did not fall. The Earth did not open, swallowing all the hopes and dreams of American soccer fans with it. The United States has, at least temporarily, been saved from itself. Their path to an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance is still entirely realistic and their spot in the Hexagonal round of qualifying is all but assured.

Their 4-0 thumping of Guatemala on Tuesday effectively ensures that, bumps aside, the United States is on pace to do what was always expected of them.

But don't fool yourself, something is very wrong with U.S. Soccer. Beating up on the 95th-ranked team in the world, on home soil, in a stadium where they've never lost, does nothing to change the big picture. Even if the United States can get their act together, win the final two games in this round of World Cup qualifying and even manage to qualify for Russia without too much trouble, we seem to have entered a new era.

While fans calling for the head coach to be fired is not an entirely new concept, the vitriol aimed at Jurgen Klinsmann is unlike anything we've experienced before. Klinsmann was always a somewhat divisive figure -- plenty questioned his hiring from the very start -- but he was largely given the benefit of the doubt among the American soccer media. Now, it's almost impossible to find someone offering a full-throated defense.

But what would you expect as results American fans once took for granted -- road games almost anywhere other than Mexico and home games against basically everyone -- became far less assured? Over the last two World Cup cycles, the USA has suffered first-time-in-two-decades qualifying losses at Jamaica, at Honduras and at Guatemala, while managing to finish fourth at the Gold Cup they host every time (their worst finish since 2000). They've also failed to qualify for either Olympics under Klinsmann's watch -- something they'd only failed to do once before in the Under-23 era -- and will miss a second consecutive Confederations Cup.

Yes, there are quite a few encouraging results, too. Winning four times in Europe and even once in Mexico were all previously unaccomplished tasks. But this is an era defined by its unpredictability more than anything else.

To some degree, maybe that's what Klinsmann wanted. He was an American soccer outsider, someone who many hoped could position himself above the fray and see things others couldn't or were maybe refusing to. There were going to be hurt feelings and bruised egos -- that we expected.

When he left Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster, it was one of those things you could chalk up to a painful but perhaps necessary exercise. The same could be said when it came to decisions of where our country's best might play their club ball. If Klinsmann wants to get in a public spat over Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore returning to MLS, fine. If he wants to steer promising prospects like Jordan Morris to Europe, it's expected to a degree.

Similarly, a head coach gets to choose who plays and at what position. Debating whether DeAndre Yedlin is misused as a midfielder is the kind of discussion we should be having as a soccer nation.

These are the big-picture ideas he's paid to have opinions on.

Will fans and various stakeholders be upset by each of these things? Sure. Klinsmann must have known that. But if he believed this served a larger goal of pushing the U.S. soccer apparatus out of its comfort zone, that shouldn't be a problem.

Where we do run into problems is the lack of results. It's one thing to upset the apple cart as part of a grand vision. It's an entirely other thing when the cart has been dismantled and there don't seem to be plans on how to transport the apples any other way. All you have left is a bunch of apples waiting to rot.

There's reason to suspect that whatever leeway Klinsmann was given by the fanbase up until now is gone. It hardly seems coincidental that there were plenty of empty seats in Tuesday's must-win match. That someone felt passionate enough to pay for a plane flying an anti-Klinsmann banner was symbolic of a larger frustration. Twitter is virtually always a cauldron of anger when it comes to the United States national team, but rarely has it become as laser-focused as it is now on Klinsmann.

There is no obvious vision. There is no new path being blazed. There is no reason to believe any of Klinsmann's heady promises -- about style of play in particular -- will come to pass. All we've experienced is disruption.

Adding to the frustration is the seemingly Teflon nature of Klinsmann's status. Bob Bradley was ridden out of town after similar results, and yet there's no inkling from the top that Klinsmann's job is really on the line. Nothing short of failing to qualify for a World Cup promises to change that, no matter how much public opinion seemingly has turned against him.

It all feeds into this cycle of frustration, and there's no end in sight.