After years of rancor, the axe finally fell on Monday as US Soccer announced that they were parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann as Technical Director and Head Coach of the US Men’s National Team. Prior to the opening of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, Klinsmann had the best winning percentage of any modern national team coach. Despite that fact, the two losses to Mexico and Costa Rica combined with some poor messaging and the persistent moans of the cognoscenti produced outrage in the fan base. In the end, the customers were (rightly or wrongly) apoplectic, and they were always going to be right. That said, they were encouraged to revolt every step of the way.
There’s a meme for every season and every reason, and much like most memes, they’re not always spot on. Namely, the first line item (First three game losing streak since 1997) is inaccurate. From July to September 2001, Bruce Arena’s charges (more on that in a minute) lost 3 consecutive World Cup Qualifiers in the Hexagonal leading up to the 2002 World Cup. Those losses came at Mexico, at home hosting Honduras, and on the road in Costa Rica. The US required an 81st minute penalty from Joe-Max Moore at home against Jamaica to ensure qualification to the 2002 World Cup and all of the glorious nostalgia that would provide.
The 2nd point on this glorious piece of artwork is hilarious cherry-picking. It makes a random series of events seem like a disaster from a bygone era. Those of us who remember US Soccer’s history giggle remembering the time the US went winless in SIXTEEN straight home games (beginning on the 48th anniversary of D-Day) in the early 90’s long after LBJ was having his tailor make extra room for where his nuts hang and his bunghole.
These two examples actually pair up nicely with two hallmarks in US Soccer history. In the case of the less recent three game losing streak in 2001, the US bounced back and defeated Mexico in the 2002 World Cup (more on that in a minute!) to make it to the quarters and take Germany to the limit before bowing out. In the case of the SIXTEEN game home winless streak (in a row?), that preceded the US hosting the World Cup in 1994. That went ok, too.
Needless to say, Klinsmann brought a lot of this on himself. From the outset, he promised a
wall that Mexico would pay for proactive style where the US would take the game to the opponent instead of the defend and counter style everyone had come to expect as default for decades. In attempting to transform the nation’s embrace of the beautiful game, he failed to delineate the benchmarks that would determine his success or failure and left it to the punditry to determine his fate. This backfired spectacularly as his methods and choice of ‘formations’ were constantly placed under the microscope, even when experimentation on the fly had succeeded famously in 2002.
Minus an established rubric, it was all left to the theater of the mind. People latched on to Phillip Lahm’s critique of Der Klinsy. Toni Kroos, too! If the Germans knew Jurgen was full of shit, obviously we should, too. Hell, I heard Klinsmann was actually DB Cooper!
Of course, this flies in the face of what happened in America where the ‘real’ Americans players. In quick succession, Joe Gyau, Eddie Johnson, and Geoff Cameron all came out in support of Klinsmann. Despite the fact they all play in different leagues and all have extremely different states in the player pool, the one thing they all have in common is that they were born in America and that they were disappointed to see Klinsmann go. Were we really concerned that he was focusing too much attention on ‘Germericans’?
And what of the perceived slight against MLS? One need only go as far as the cute meme to see that one of the principal arguments against him was that he started Brad Davis in a ‘crucial game at the World Cup’. In Klinsmann’s tenure, he anointed players like Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wondolowski, Graham Zusi, and Gyasi Zardes as trusted warriors. None of the 4 have played a pro minute outside of MLS, and with the exception of Zardes, all played college soccer (another Klinsy sore point). Did professional scribes really lose the ability to distinguish between the goal and current reality? Klinsmann, ultimately would lose his head without the service of MLS favorites like Zardes and Dempsey at his disposal.
Candidly, we’ve reached a critical point in our country’s history. The Know Nothing party wasn’t eponymous to a proud declaration of a lack of epistemological chops. It was so named because its adherents were at least somewhat sheepish about fully embracing its ethos. This is not the case now- neither in country or within the sphere of American Soccer.
Fans and punditry alike have embraced an inward view that proudly disdains the foreign influence. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the all-time leading scorer on the USWNT. If that doesn’t do it for you, how about the all-time leading scorer for the USMNT? Finally, if that doesn’t wet your whistle, how about the guy ever so slightly ahead of Klinsy in winning percentage who is about to take his job?
With all that said, is there really an argument to be had? Like it or not, that’s where we are, and that’s why there’s really only one answer to this question. Oscar Pareja should be the next coach of the US Men’s National Team.
For all of Klinsmann’s faults, he did make strides to improve the youth ranks. Pareja’s CV in this department is beyond impressive, and he would be a natural successor to build on the project. Breaking News: Bruce Arena hired. Guess Papi had some emails or something. I was going to write some nice things about Pareja actually getting the American player and knowing how to communicate, but why bother. In the real world, it doesn’t matter that we’ve had job growth every month for six years straight and are at theoretical full employment. The facts don’t matter any more. I’m going to drink now.