Because of a re-imigination of CONCACAF rules, there's an important game today between the USA and Mexico. The Yanks and El Tri will battle it out tonight at the Rose Bowl for regional supremacy. On top of the berth into the Confederations Cup, well, Ricardo Feretti has a chance to pad his resume on the way out the door. Regardless of result, he'll be replaced by Juan Carlos Osorio after this match. If you were wondering, it is the same Juan Carlos Osorio who underwhelmed with the Red Bulls, and who has managed at 4 different clubs since. If he stays at the helm of El Tri for longer than 18 months, it'll be a shock. Mexico goes through coaches like toilet paper because that's what the public demands.
In the US, we have not been nearly as quick about removing our national team coaches. Bruce Arena went longer than eight years at the helm for the Stars and Stripes. Bob Bradley's tenure lasted almost an entire six years. Jurgen Klinsmann is entering year five, and the drumbeats for his head have grown loudly since the Yanks' disappointing performance at the Gold Cup this summer.
I do not come here to bury Klinsmann, nor to praise him. His way with words vexes me. His ability to overlook form players (with USMNT experience) like Benny Feilhaber, Matt Hedges, and Dax McCarty make me want to toss my frisbee-framed laptop through a street sign. His omission of Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup at the expense of Julian Green (or Brad Davis, or Chris Wondolowski) makes me nuts. It's irritating to the nth degree, and I'm leaving out the bulk of my frustrations here to avoid bagging on others.
That said, these are a sample of my personal frustrations. If you ask others, they'll bitch about him a lot more. Unremarkably, they'll dig into his man-management style. They'll lament the fact that he hasn't realized the hypothetical 'pro-active' style that he'd have the Nats' playing. Landon Donovan thinks he should go if the US lose today. Many agree this is a shrewd plan, while there are some (most importantly, Sunil Gulati) who see him staying regardless of the outcome.
In the spirit of fairness, I'll offer up some comparisons with his predecessors, and the place to start is success and failure seeking the ultimate prize, the World Cup. Bruce Arena managed a 2-4-2 record at two separate World Cups with the distinction that he took the 2002 team to the quarterfinals and with the distinction that his 2006 team was the only team not to lose to eventual champions, Italy. Bob Bradley's 2010 team went 1-2-1 and much like Arena, was eliminated from his last World Cup by Ghana. Jurgen Klinsmann's record as a World Cup Manager is identical to Bradley's record. Unlike Bradley (and Arena the cycle before), Klinsmann's side defeated a previously unbeatable Ghanian side which was crucial to the US escaping the toughest group that any of the three manager's faced at their four World Cups. That said, in each case, the US needed some help to advance out of the group, and there's very little clarity on who's been the best World Cup manager. Similarly, in qualifying, the US has topped the group in the last three cycles, while Bruce Arena's first cycle was a little more harrowing as the US finished third and earned the last spot from CONCACAF in 2002.
If you move on to the Gold Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann's charges finished fourth this year which marked the US's worst performance since 2000. That said, his group won the last Gold Cup, and has as many Gold Cup Championships as Bob Bradley (who won once in three tries and included two beatdowns by Mexico in 2009 and 2011). Arena picked up two championships in his four Gold Cup tries, but was at the helm for the only tournament where the US did not make it to the semifinals and never beat Mexico at the Gold Cup. Again, there's very little to distinguish one manager over the other. So what about their records?
Arena: 75-28-27 (56.07% winning percentage)
Bradley: 43-12-35 (53.75% winning percentage)
Klinsmann: 42-14-19 (56.00% winning percentage)
It's beginning to sound like a broken record, but there's not much to see here.
What about results against 'perennial powers', and more so, how do we define perennial powers? Well, since we can't really qualify that with group discussion here, I'll list the opponents that I consider 'perennial powers' when the US played them, and we can discuss it in the comments. Generally, I'm going by if these are typically considered a Top 10 team and if they were around that performance-wise when we played them. Here's a list of all US results if you want to play at home. Here's a breakdown by coach:
Arena: (GermanyX4, BrazilX4, ArgentinaX2, EnglandX2, ItalyX2, NetherlandsX2, Portugal)- 4-11-1
Bradley: (BrazilX4, ArgenxtinaX3, SpainX3, EnglandX2, Italy, Netherlands)- 1-10-3
Klinsmann: (GermanyX3, BelgiumX3, BrazilX2, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal) 4-7-1
In Klinsmann's time as US Manager, there's a clearer uptick in the number of games per year against top competition as well as success rate. This is despite not having the benefit of having coached in a Confederations Cup (or two, in Arena's case), and that can be remedied with a win today against Mexico. Speaking of Mexico, here's the manager's respective records against Mexico.
Having won almost twice as often as we've lost to our most bitter rival since Arena took over, It's probably no coincidence that our coaches have enjoyed relatively long tenures as manager. Arena deserves a lot of credit for changing the momentum in this series, but it's impossible to ignore that the US has not tasted defeat since Klinsmann took over as national team coach. This includes a win and a draw at Azteca and extends Klinsmann's undefeated streak against Mexico all the way back to his playing days with the German National Team.
Oddly enough, the Mexicans are considered the favorites today despite the fact they have not beaten the Yanks in four years. I guess you can give that nod to El Tri. They did win the Gold Cup after all (although they were hardly convincing and got some massive breaks from the refs, as you'll recall). The majority of the fans in attendance at the Rose Bowl will be cheering for El Tri, so it will feel more like a home game for them. Regardless of the result, it will be hard to lay too much blame on Klinsmann because by several objective measures, he's been as good or better than his predecessors at delivering the desired results, and given the amount of angst surrounding his regime, I found this to be very surprising.