Can Klinsmann Get USMNT Back on Track?

When former VfB Stuttgart star Jürgen Klinsmann took the role as coach of the United States Men’s National Soccer team, many felt the squad would improve greatly. After a career as a striker that saw him excel in the Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Premier League, many thought his skills and previous coaching successes with the German national team and at Bayern Munich would help him lead USMNT to the promised land. Recently, many have questioned Klinsmann’s accomplishments five years into his role as coach of the team, and are calling for a replacement.

While the team did see success initially advancing out of the “group of death” in the 2014 FIFA World Cup before falling to a formidable side in Belgium, Klinsmann first faced backlash from supporters with his omission of fan favorite Landon Donovan from the roster. Donovan was suspicously left off the roster that traveled to Rio, and played his final match for the red, white and blue just a few months later. 

More recently, however, the play on the field has suffered. The losses keep piling up as the team attempts to qualify for future tournaments such as the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Last summer, USMNT fell to a weak Jamaica side in the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, forcing the team to look for other ways to qualify for the 2017 competition. In the one game play-off match to determine CONCACAF’s entry into the Confederations Cup just a few months later, the U.S. allowed Mexico to score a goal in the 118th minute to take the lead and deny the team of another opportunity to qualify. 

Just last week, the final straw seemed to come when the U.S. fell to Guatemala in their 2018 World Cup Qualifier, putting them in a perilous position as they attempt to advance out of the fourth round of the qualifying stage. Their 2-0 loss sent the fan base into a frenzy, but a 4-0 win this past Tuesday over the same Guatemala side seems to have the team back on track to make it to Russia in 2018. Where the team and Klinsmann go from here, however, will be incredibly important in determining Klinsmann’s future with

the squad.

What Klinsmann needs to focus on, aside from producing a XI that will compete and win on the pitch, is developing talent that he can point to as the future of American soccer. A team that consists of veterans such as Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey is in desperate need of a youthful talent boost. While raw talent does exist with players such as DeAndre Yedlin in the back four and Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes up top, Klinsmann needs to develop strategies that help further these players’ skills and allow them to grow within his formation (or find a formation that better suits their skills). 

Wins will not come easily to a team that mixes a veteran group with young, inexperienced players. It is the job of Klinsmann to properly manage the team and find the right XI that will compete with the top squads around the world. I will be anxiously watching Klinsmann and USMNT’s progress as they attempt to find their role in the soccer landscape but above all, I believe that we will win.