The United States' painful loss against Mexico on Saturday in the CONCACAF Cup proved everyone's suspicions: Jurgen Klinsmann's side is all out of sorts. The German coach's obsessive tinkering has created questions about whether or not a consistent backline can be formed, and if enough talented youth is arriving.
Klinsmann, also the technical directer of US Soccer, saw his hand-picked coach fail to lead the U-23s to the Olympics for a second straight go-around, barring wins over Canada and Columbia in the coming months.
The senior team also has faced hard times this year, most noticeably in the Gold Cup, when they lost to upstart Jamaica in the semi-final. The center-back pairing of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado, both young enough to play in the Olympics, made crucial mistakes throughout the tournament, while MLS veterans Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler were essentially exiled from team.
Gonzalez was selected to the squad, but didn't earn considerable minutes, while Sporting KC's Besler didn't even make the roster. Why neither of them played a role in the tournament is beyond me; same with Geoff Cameron, who plays for Stoke City in the Premier League, and Tim Ream of Fulham in the level below.
Klinsmann came to his senses in the CONCACAF Cup when he paired Cameron and Besler together in central defense, and while they could have been better on one of the goals and in build-up play, it was overall a good solution. But they wouldn't have even needed a solution if Klinsmann established a starting XI.
The fullbacks are the place where there's not supposed to be an issue, with the experienced Houston Dynamo man DaMarcus Beasley on the left and Bundesliga talent Fabian Johnson on the right. But Klinsmann decided to make it an issue when he openly criticized and sent home Johnson for asking to exit the Mexico game more than halfway through extra time.
The Munich-native was not necessarily injured; just exhausted. It showed on Mexico's second goal, when his lazy marking allowed Oribe Peralta to get a free touch past Brad Guzan. Apparently, Klinsmann's inability to effectively keep players fit is the 27-year old right back's fault, or, actually, scratch that, he's a winger. He's one of the many that Klinsmann plays out of position.
This isn't the first time he's thrown a player under the bus. Alejandro Bedoya was played at holding midfielder for whatever reason against Brazil-no, not Peru, but Brazil-and that resulted in a few goals conceeded and a first-half substitution.
In the halftime interview, the manager said, "Ale had a bit of a problem getting into his rhythm." I wonder why?
Klinsmann's aforementioned-disliking of playing guys where they want to be played is a major issue. Here are just a few of the players that he has played them at different positions than what they play at the club-level:
- Michael Bradley- Klinsmann has played him primarily as a number-10 as well as sometimes as a number-six. It'd be nice to have a no. 10 that is more creative around the box and stays forward more, like Lee Nguyen.
- Fabian Johnson- Johnson plays as a winger for Borussia Mönchengladbach, but as a right-back for the USMNT. That makes me think, why doesn't DeAndre Yedlin, naturally a RB, play that position rather than outside mid, where Jurgen plays him?
- Gyasi Zardes- Zardes, formerly a forward with the LA Galaxy, was switched to winger by Klinsmann. He doesn't get involved with the play enough and just does not seem comfortable. He now also plays left midfielder with the Galaxy as well because of Giovanni dos Santos's arrival.
- Jermaine Jones- A center mid basically his entire career, Jones was all of a sudden placed at right mid against Mexico. He played the full 120, but the US clearly lacked speed, defensive help and a runner to target. He was one of the reasons for the early switch from a diamond 4-4-2 to a flat 4-4-2.
- DeAndre Yedlin- He was originally a right back, and a good one at that, with blinding speed and the ability to overlap. But Klinsmann lost that extra offense when he moved Yedlin to winger, where he now plays on loan at Sunderland.
That's just the beginning.
Another flaw of Klinsmann is his tendency to "exile players." This is self-explanatory: he will simply not call up players, for reasons unknown to the public.
Mlssoccer.com's Matthew Doyle says what needs to be said here:
My best XI of guys who've been exiled - temporarily or permanently - by Jurgen. pic.twitter.com/vW8ZxYaRff
— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) October 12, 2015
This includes guys like Robbie Rodgers, Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu that still haven't gotten caps in a while, and also features Bradley, Besler and Jozy Altidore, who still earn caps but have been exiled in the past.
In short, Klinsmann is not helping this team in the right direction at this point. He used to be, but now, heading into World Cup qualifying, it's time for someone different to take over at the helm.
The World Cup is too important to tinker with.