Questions of Klinsmann’s direction for USMNT resurface

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21 June 2016: A disgruntled Team USA fan during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

The USMNT will end their Copa America run in Glendale, Arizona in the 3rd/4th place match on Saturday against either Chile or Colombia. Many people will point to them getting within a game of the final and argue that this will be the end of a very successful run for the team. These people are completely wrong. When you really take a nice, long look at the team’s results you will see that we are in the exact same situation we were before the tournament started, when we were speculating about Jurgen Klinsmann’s job.  They are a mediocre team that plays ok against teams they should beat and plays scared against world class opponents, and the US is not yet ready to take the next step and compete against the world’s elite countries.

21 June 2016:  United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.  (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
21 June 2016: United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Coming into the tournament there were already questions about Jurgen’s decision making when the roster was announced. This team has no identity and no direction and that starts and ends with Jurgen. When you hear Jurgen talk about the team before the tournament starts and he says that their goal is to make the final four and see what happens, you know he doesn’t believe that they can win the tournament. If you don’t believe that you can win the tournament, why not bring your young up and coming players that you think will be involved in the 2018 process to get invaluable experience against big-time, world-class opponents? When else will they have this opportunity at the international level to gain such valuable experience? Why bring guys who won’t be involved in that process? Don’t say one thing and do another. Bringing along average, questionable players such as Wondo, Michael Orozco and Edgar Castillo instead of younger players with potential like Jordan Morris or Omar Gonzalez were rightfully questioned.

21 June 2016:  United States midfielder Michael Bradley (4) and Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.  (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
21 June 2016: United States midfielder Michael Bradley (4) and Argentina midfielder Lionel Messi (10) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

The US then started off the tournament with a whimper, getting thoroughly outclassed 2-0 by a very good Colombian side. Speculation intensified about Jurgen’s job after the result which saw the team play scared and not be able to hold possession or string more than a few passes together before giving it up. Their backs were up against the wall heading into the Costa Rica match and sure, the team took care of business and won 3 straight matches. However, these results came against teams they should always be expected to beat and outside of the Costa Rica win they still struggled to hold on against Paraguay and Ecuador. These matches didn’t offer much insight to whether or not the team was actually progressing or merely maintaining their ordinary status.

In the semifinal matchup, Argentina again exposed the biggest flaw facing the USMNT, the same flaw we saw in the first game of the tournament. When the US match up against a world class opponent, Jurgen coaches scared. He tries to fall back on a defensive minded team based on players that have always been scared on the highest level and never proven themselves, and this match was no different. Missing three of his starters in a matchup against the world’s top ranked team featuring arguably the best player in the history of the game, Jurgen said leading up to the match they would be “going for it.”

21 June 2016: Argentina forward Erik Lamela (18) and United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (17) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)
21 June 2016: Argentina forward Erik Lamela (18) and United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (17) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire)

I was hoping he meant that he would be starting the young and talented players on the roster likeChristian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe, who haven’t had a chance to be scared by the names on the backs of the Argentinian jerseys. Instead, Klinsmann “went” with guys who have proven time and time again they aren’t fit to be on the same field as those players in Wondo, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman.

21 June 2016:  United States midfielder Kyle Beckerman (15) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.  (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
21 June 2016: United States midfielder Kyle Beckerman (15) during the Copa America Centenario semi-final match between USA and Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Although no one played well at all (looking at you Michael Bradley, candidate for worst overall performer in the tournament), Wondo in particular was his usual awful self on the big stage. All he did was remind us of his 2014 World Cup performance by barely running around, give the ball right back to the Argentines anytime the ball came to him, committing a foul when he lost it and not coming close to being a dangerous offensive threat. By halftime it was too late for Jurgen to reverse his poor decision bringing Pulisic on for him in the second half.

Look, I am not saying that by starting the young guys we would have won the game. Argentina, and Messi in particular, are on another level at the moment and will most likely be hoisting the Copa America trophy in MetLife Stadium on Sunday. What I am saying is that the United States has 300 million people and millions in sponsorship money invested into the national team. We have no excuse and should not be just ok with accepting the fact that Argentina completely outplayed us in every facet of the game. We should be better than we actually are. What I am saying is that this was yet another chance for Jurgen to prove that the US was progressing by not doing the same thing they always do and ACTUALLY “going for it.” Instead, he continued to coach scared and the world saw that there has been no progression for this team. Most people will say the Copa America was a big success for the US Men’s National Team, but for me they look like the same old mediocre national team that will not come close to competing for the 2018 World Cup.

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