You certainly can’t argue with the results. CONCACAF champions and top finisher in their World Cup Qualifying group, the U.S. has done all it can under Jurgen Klinsmann, but at some level of international coaching, your final judgment usually comes after the World Cup. Fall flat on your face on the biggest stage, and people will likely forget how you got there.
For Klinsmann, however, judgement came early, with U.S. Soccer announcing the national team boss has extended his contract through the next cycle. Renewing through 2018, the 49-year-old German received a vote of confidence that should transcend whatever happens in Brazil. He also added the technical director’s title to his business card – another sign the USSF is all-in on Klinsmann.
“One of the reasons we hired Jurgen as our head coach was to advance the program forward,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a statement announcing the extension. “[W]e’ve seen the initial stages of that happening on the field and also off the field in various areas.”
That success saw the U.S. reclaim the Gold Cup this summer. The team followed by winning their World Cup Qualifying group for the third straight cycle. Along the way, a 12-game winning streak set the mark for longest in program history, with the U.S. now ranked 14th in the FIFA World Rankings.
Aside from the U.S. winning all its games, there was little more Klinsmann could have done in his time in charge. Qualifying for Brazil while changing the way they win games, the U.S. accomplished exactly what Klinsmann was asked to deliver.
“I am very fortunate to continue the work we started more than two and half years ago,” said Klinsmann. “It’s exciting to see the progress we have made, and we continue to make improvements on all fronts.”
As much progress as there’s been on the field, there’s been as much progress in the perception of Klinsmann’s performance. Whereas the coach was the target of regular skepticism and critique going into the last round of qualifying, with doubts reaching their peak in the days before the U.S.’s home qualifier against Costa Rica, Klinsmann’s won critics over with results, the product of which has earned him an extension.
“He has built a strong foundation from the senior team down to the youth teams,” Gulati said, “and we want to continue to build upon that success.”
Hence the technical director designation, a move that effectively hands Klinsmann a promotion for the work he’s done since 2011. Though many assumed Klinsmann’s philosophies were already bleeding through the U.S. Soccer apparatus, now the former Germany and Bayern Munich coach as the title to match his influence.
“The role of Technical Director is a huge challenge and also a huge opportunity as we look to keep connecting the dots to the Youth National Teams, Coaching Education, the Development Academy and the grassroots efforts in this country,” Klinsmann said. “For sure it means more work, but also many more fulfilling opportunities.”
With the U.S. slowly changing the way their team is playing at the senior level, the technical director role ensures the concepts Klinsmann has instilled at the highest levels trickle down. The degree to which youth teams are matching the senior team’s style is at his discretion.
“It is vital that we stay focused on the development of our youth players and make sure the messages we are providing the senior team are being spread through our Youth National Teams as well the U.S. Soccer Development Academy,” said Klinsmann. “With Tab [Ramos] as our Youth Technical Director we will be able to continue to connect the dots and see more improvement.”
If connecting dots was the theme of Klinsmann’s remarks, it was an appropriate one. With this extension, U.S. Soccer is connecting the dots between their 2014 and 2018 cycles, a move that ensures the progress that started when Gulati turned to Klinsmann can continue beyond Brazil.