Why Firing Jürgen Klinsmann Was a Terrible Move for US Soccer

Today, the US Soccer Federation fired Jürgen Klinsmann.

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Today, the US Soccer Federation fired Jürgen Klinsmann, the head coach of the US Men’s National Team. Klinsmann is also stepping down as technical director of US Soccer. The change comes after a disappointing opening to the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. In its previous two matches, the USMNT suffered a 4–0 defeat to Costa Rica and a 2–1 defeat to bitter rivals Mexico — the first World Cup Qualifying match that the US had lost at home in the past 15 years. US Soccer did not announce a replacement for Klinsmann, though Bruce Arena is said to be the top candidate.

While many have been calling for Klinsmann’s head in recent months, the choice to send him packing was the wrong one. Over Klinsmann’s five-year tenure as USMNT coach, he boasted a record of 28 wins, 6 draws and 13 losses in all competitions. That gives Klinsmann a winning percentage of just under 60 percent. In the 2014 World Cup, the only World Cup where Klinsmann coached the US, he guided the team to the round of 16 — a more than respectable finish, especially given the USMNT’s placement in the “group of death.” In comparison to other managers of a similar tenure at the national level, Klinsmann looks like Sir Alex Ferguson — the English Premier League’s most successful manager ever. For example: Chris Coleman, the manager of the Welsh national team, boasts a winning percentage of just under 38 percent; Didier Deschamp, France’s esteemed manager, comes in at 62.3 percent.

In other words, Klinsmann hasn’t underperformed the way that the USMNT faithful say he has. In their minds, a loss to Mexico on home turf is as low as it gets. Sure, the US has suffered some embarrassing losses as of late. But Klinsmann wasn’t the problem. The problem is systemic.

At the moment, Klinsmann is working with the best that he has. Oftentimes, managers tend to stick with their old reliable players. And to be fair, guys like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman have likely seen more playing time than they are due. But Klinsmann has also given plenty of playing time to young and upcoming players like Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris — both of whom are pegged as the USMNT’s best bet at success and are enjoying successful club careers.

America simply is not producing world-class soccer players. At the moment, the best hope that we have for producing a world-class player is Christian Pulisic, and that’s where the list ends. Until we start to develop better players at the youth level, through better coaching, we’ll flounder in moderately good, or average performances. Changing managers won’t lead to World Cup wins. At least not at this time. Ten, even 20 years down the line, that could be a different story — but unfortunately, at that point, Klinsmann will be long gone. The man who was once the greatest hope for US Soccer is now just another former manager.

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