After an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Guatemala on Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. Men’s National Team bounced back and cruised to a 4-0 home win on Tuesday. The match was a must-win for numerous reasons, including merely qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but Klinsmann’s uncertain future dominated discussion.
The victory almost certainly guarantees the U.S. a spot in the next round of qualifying, but it doesn’t absolve Klinsmann of criticism. A mere two hours after the U.S. manager and technical director strolled off the pitch in Columbus, Ohio, the U.S. U-23s were bounced from the Olympics discussion for the second-straight cycle for the first time since 1964 and 1968 with a discouraging loss to a superior Colombian side.
Which opened the floodgates …
No matter how fickle American soccer fans can appear at times, or how their inferiority complex probably makes the fickleness more pronounced, U.S. supporters had a reason to be furious.
When he was hired back in 2011, Klinsmann promised to play proactive soccer. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he looked forward to the “leadership he will provide on and off the field.”
But almost five years later, this is the state of U.S. soccer on the field:
And off the field, former players have blasted (and blasted again) Klinsmann for throwing his current crop of players under the bus time and time again. He’s never taken responsibility for putting together nonsensical lineups that lack creativity, cohesion, style, and so on and so forth, or considered whether or not running his guys into the ground in training is the best course of action for the team. He’s behind on nearly everything he promised five years ago,* which fans made blatantly clear prior to Tuesday’s match:
*But hey, he’s pretty good in friendlies, right?!
There’s much more to be said on Klinsmann and the state of U.S. soccer, but there’s a blog to get to:
Before delving into fantasyland, I do want to take a moment to answer another question asked this week, which was whether Vermes would be a candidate for the USMNT job in the event of Klinsmann losing his job.
The easy answer to that is yes, Vermes would be considered. He’s gone through the rigors of playing for his country and understands the state of the game here at home.* The U.S. lacks any sort of an identity presently, and consistency has been questioned repeatedly. Vermes would have both solved in a matter of minutes because, well, he’s known for making up his mind and sticking to his guns.
*He’s also 93-69-53 in MLS play and 116-79-61 overall — a fine coaching record.
However, I don’t think U.S. Soccer would choose Vermes for that very same reason. Vermes’ isn’t afraid to tinker, but it almost always centers on the high-press style. That style doesn’t exactly transition well to the international stage against the likes of Germany and Mexico, where the talent level of the U.S. is almost always trumped. There’s also a guy named Jason Kreis who’s currently out of a head-coaching job and would make a ton of sense.
That being said, who would replace Vermes if he were to take the USMNT job? One would have to think Kreis would be at the top of the list if he were still available. Kreis is a hard-nosed coach familiar with the league, who has a bigger vision that includes multiple levels of a club (youth included). His Real Salt Lake teams were hated by Sporting Kansas City fans, but then again, these are the same fans who chanted Brad Davis’ name recently after years of “hatred.”
Another name worth mentioning would be Kerry Zavagnin. An assistant coach who played for the club back when it was the Wizards, Zavagnin has been Vermes’ right-hand man for years now. He’s also one of the top scouts in MLS.
For kicks and giggles, let’s also toss Bob Bradley’s name into the mix. It’s time to come home, Bob.
LOOK AT THAT SMILE. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THIS MAN?
Matt Besler will miss Saturday’s Western Conference clash with Real Salt Lake because of a concussion. He was hurt last Thursday during USMNT training and flew back to Kansas City early. I suspect we’ll know more in the coming days.
With Ike Opara still on the road to recovery,* Kevin Ellis is a likely candidate to start at center back alongside Nuno Coelho. Lawrence Olum has experience at centerback as well, but I believe Ellis’ role as a spot-starter lends itself to situations like this, especially against a Real Salt Lake side missing practically its entire team (which isn’t that good anyway).
*Vermes and company are taking it slowwwwwwww with Opara. Here’s an excerpt of what Vermes had to say to Sam recently: “He’s just not yet there. When you talk about a guy who’s been out for two years basically, I want to make sure he’s going to have consistent training week after week. That’s how he’s going to get back into it. And that’s going to take a little time.”
Through red-card suspension or injuries, Real Salt Lake is down eight players, including Kyle Beckerman, Burrito Martinez, Javier Morales and Jamison Olave.
That said, I don’t suspect we’ll see anything different from Sporting KC. Aside from Besler being a likely scratch and Benny Feilhaber set to return, the only other question mark is Soni Mustivar, who showed for his national team on Tuesday.
There’s a good chance Sporting KC comes out on the front foot and pushes for an early goal to discourage the whittled-down visitors, but the tactics involve shouldn’t look all that different. The only real tactical change should be more activity in the space between the midfield and forwards, with Feilhaber leading the charge.
ICYMI, Swope Park Rangers scored twice in their inaugural USL game on Saturday to top the Portland Timbers II 2-1. Daniel Salloi, whose finish has been criminally unheeded by the national media, provided the game-winner with a top-shelf flick late in the match.
Roster slots remain open, which give Sporting KC flexibility to work with the Swope Park Rangers, but as for who may get “called up?” Salloi remains the best bet. A lot hinges on Diego Rubio’s success with the club and whether his loan gets extended, but even so, it’ll be tough to deny Salloi a shot if he can consistently put away opportunities like the one on Saturday.
Tommy Meyer is another player to keep an eye on. A two-time MLS Cup champion with the L.A. Galaxy, Meyer has professional experience that goes well beyond the USL level. In a worst-case scenario where centerbacks start to go down with injuries, Meyer could be a decent last resort.
It’s also important to note the arbitrary rules at play within the MLS/USL partnership. For instance, Sporting KC can bring up a player without signing him to an MLS contract, but that changes after so many recalls. The rules are so fuzzy that I’ve had them explained to me differently by both Vermes and a USL communications representative.
I can’t help but watch the madness, which either reflects an adequate soccer team or takes the form of a garbage truck caught on fire rolling down a steep incline. USMNT Twitter is at its best when the latter takes place (for various reasons, but mostly because of GIFs), but sometimes I hate feeling sad.
You do you, my blog sensei.