Dust settles but questions remain for USMNT, Klinsmann’s future

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Do you want him in, or out?

It’s not your decision, but many fans of the U.S. national team, and U.S. Soccer as a whole, have been debating the future of Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach of the USMNT and the technical director.

[ MORE: Klopp’s top targets emerge ]

Klinsmann, 51, has now been the head coach of the U.S. for over four years. In that time he has won a Gold Cup (2103) and led the U.S. to the last 16 of the World Cup (2014). Those, plus a smattering of impressive friendly wins away in Europe, have been the highlights, but plenty of lows have continued to roll in over the last few months, as questions regarding whether or not the German coach is the right man for the job have continued to linger, and now they’re festering.

[ MORE: The end for Klinsmann? ]

President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, has already said Klinsmann’s job was safe regardless of the outcome of the CONCACAF Cup match, which the U.S. lost to Mexico 3-2 after extra time on Saturday. That scoreline flattered the U.S. as they sat back in a defensive shell (something we saw throughout the World Cup in Brazil and against many of the elite nations they have faced over the past four years) and couldn’t cope with the constant attacks launched by El Tri. The loss provided plenty of people with ammunition to say: Klinsmann has to go.

That is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a defeat to a bitter rival, but the rearing of a violent under-current which has been sweeping through USMNT fans for quite some time and has manifested into a wave of negativity against Klinsmann, the playing style he promotes, his staff and his players.

[ MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Klopp’s unveiling

The latter two parties can certainly not escape the blame, but like any coach of any team worldwide, the buck has to stop with Klinsmann amid the lack of progress over the past four years since Bob Bradley was fired for a Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, also at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Klinsmann stated that winning the Gold Cup this summer was crucial. The U.S. finished fourth in its second worst-ever performance. He also stated reaching the Confederations Cup was crucial. Those hopes were dashed by Saturday’s defeat. And then there’s the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which hang by a thread after Andi Herzog’s side were beaten by Honduras in the semifinal of the qualifying tournament on Saturday, just hours before Mexico beat the U.S.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USA 2-3 Mexico ]

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

Many can’t argue that Klinsmann is capable of building successful youth programs and systems for teams to flourish long-term. Look what he did in Germany before and during the 2006 World Cup, as Die Mannschaft immediately bore the fruits of his and Joachim Low’s labor with a third place finish, and then replicated that achievement at the 2010 World Cup before winning it all in 2014. Klinsmann helped put that in place and with plenty of promising young players selecting the U.S. over other nations, plus improvements being made across the infrastructure of U.S. Soccer, his role as technical director of U.S. Soccer seems a natural and good fit.

However, the percentage of games he has won as U.S. boss has now dipped to 55.25 percent, which is lower than his spell in charge of Germany and his 44 games at Bayern Munich, and there needs to be some more accountability. That is the biggest concern for fans and those observing the U.S. national team. Increasingly Klinsmann doesn’t seem to be taking the blame solely on his shoulders and amid the constant lineup changes and lack of continuity in who he selects (and comments about whether they play in MLS or Europe) in which formation, the USMNT has become a rudderless ship drifting into the murky waters of obscurity on the international stage. The lack of identity on this team is troublesome and leaves the outlook for the future looking bleak. Will the next three years under Klinsmann be like that last four? He has previously stated that the target at Russia 2018 must be to reach the semifinals. Right now, that seems a long way off.

Speaking in his post-game press conference after the loss to Mexico, here’s what Klinsmann had to say, via MLSsoccer.com, about how the U.S. can move on from a disappointing spell.

“A loss is always difficult to swallow, there’s no doubt about it, especially when there’s a lot at stake,” Klinsmann said. “It means that you have to work even harder than you ever did before in order to turn the results around and make things happen….

“We have to get out group together and rethink the next couple of months,” he continued. “Obviously, we’re going into World Cup qualifying already in November, and we have to kind of sit together and discuss things–who we’ll be counting on, how we want to build toward the next couple of games. There’s not much time in between, because World Cup qualifying is World Cup qualifying. So there will be a lot of conversations coming up in the next couple of days.”

A lot of those conversations, from fans at least, will be about Klinsmann’s future as the national team’s head coach. Those are just and fair, as Klinsmann has failed to get any more out of a player pool with largely the same, if not more, talent than Bradley had between 2007-11.

The calls for Klinsmann to move on from being the head coach of the USMNT and move “upstairs” to continue in his role as a technical director are growing.

What this U.S. side needs now is re-invigoration, fresh ideas and a new approach. The overwhelming feeling from the masses is that after four years of stagnation, Klinsmann is no longer the right man to push this program forward.

The 2 Robbies podcast: Liverpool, Chelsea through to UCL knockouts

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle on Liverpool’s nervy 2-0 win against Red Bull Salzburg to take first place in Group E of the Champions League (1:55), Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Lille to secure a place in the Round of 16 (13:15) and who is the current favorite to win it all (20:45).

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Plus, what Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-1 win at West Ham means for both London clubs (29:10) and the Robbies discuss what they’re looking forward to most at the next Live Premier League Mornings Fan Fest in Miami Beach (46:05).

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 16

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The Premier League didn’t issue too many surprises at the bottom of the table this week, but two top-tier sides didn’t behave as such and shook up our rankings.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Chelsea and Man City have dipped low, and Bournemouth’s skid doesn’t have it sinking lower (yet) because of the teams beneath it.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — Liverpool and Manchester United are next, and it’s looking a long way back to safety.
Last week: 20
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 0-0 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

19. Norwich City — Outshot, out-passed, our possessed Sheffield United at home and still lost. Bad vibes, man.
Last week: 18
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Leicester City

18. West Ham United — Just feels like there’s something lurking below the surface here. Doesn’t smell right given the Irons talent.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

17. Bournemouth — Losing to Liverpool is no shame, but it’s almost officially time to worry.
Last week: 16
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Aston Villa — Tom Heaton is a heck of a goalkeeper but he can’t be expected to save four A-plus danger chances per game.
Last week: 14
Season high: 8
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 4-1 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Sheffield United

15. Southampton — West Ham and Villa back-to-back have to provide four points if Saints revival is to be believed.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Newcastle United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

14. Everton — Duncan Ferguson gives the Toffees board reason enough to be patient with their managerial hire, and then Napoli goes and fires Carlo Ancelotti.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 3-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Burnley — The defending against Spurs — we know, Spurs are good — was enough to drop them far lower than four spots. Abject stuff from a Sean Dyche side.
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 5-0 at Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Newcastle

12. Arsenal — Freddie Ljungberg started Nicolas Pepe, and Nicholas Pepe was his best player. Stunning stuff, really. Look at the assist below.
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-1 at West Ham
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Man City

11. Crystal Palace — I want to believe, but am holding out for something more. A derby win versus Brighton would suffice.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 0-0 at Watford
Up next: 2:45 p.m. ET Monday v. Brighton

10. Newcastle United — Again, Steve Bruce‘s men are getting tremendous Fortune and he’s pushing almost all the right buttons (It takes guts to start Andy Carroll over the struggling record signing Joelinton). This could be a sign of the Geordie Apocalypse.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Southampton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

9. Sheffield United — A little wobbly lately, but still a good comeback at Carrow Road.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 10 a.m ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

8. Brighton and Hove Albion — Doesn’t it say something that a country who starves for young, strong English coaches had one sitting in Sweden for eight years? Graham Potter is legit.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 2-1 at Arsenal
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

7. Chelsea — Some of those young guys who’ve played so well, so early, are looking a little ragged. It’s a shame Frank Lampard is still waiting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will really help things take another step.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 3-1 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

6. Manchester City — It probably has nothing to do with the system, and a lot to do with not having Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane… Still, it needs to be better than a home derby loss to a Paul Pogba-less United.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Manchester United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Arsenal

5. Tottenham Hotspur — We’re gonna need multiple screens on Sunday morning, as Wolves-Spurs and Man Utd-Everton are both must-monitor.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 5-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Wolves

4. Manchester United — Ole’s at the wheel, and still doesn’t feel like Lewis Hamilton or anything but we’re not worried about heading off a cliff.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton

3. Wolves — Beat Spurs on Sunday and I’ll go ahead and bet on them as a Top Four finisher, even after the Brighton draw failed to deliver the goods.
Last week: 3
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Brighton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Spurs

2. Leicester City — Wow.
Last week: 2
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 4-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Norwich City

1. Liverpool — Wow, only atop the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

Champions League Weds. preview: Two spots remain

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Only two spots remain in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, and those will be settled Wednesday afternoon.

In Group C, hosts Shakhtar Donetsk need to beat Atalanta to go through, while the visitors can also go through with a win if Dinamo Zagreb fails to defeat Man City.

[ MORE: Ancelotti reportedly speaking w/ Everton ]

In Group D, Atletico Madrid is through with a win over Lokomotiv Moscow, though Bayer Leverkusen can complete a remarkable comeback from an 0-3 start to the group stage if they beat already-qualified Juve and Atleti loses to their Russian visitors.

You certainly wouldn’t be against Diego Simeone there, though.

“Tomorrow is a great opportunity, every day that you wear the Atletico shirt is,” Simeone said, via Marca. “I believe in my team, in the humility that they have at the moment. The results will come based on what they are demonstrating on the field.”

Premier League sides Man City and Tottenham Hotspur both have their fortunes settled, with City having won Group C and Spurs settled into Group B’s second spot, but they still have plenty to figure out on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho’s Spurs are going up against a Bayern team that walloped them at home, while City is living an unusual 2W-3D-2L lull in form.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action

12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta
Dinamo Zagreb v. Man City

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray
Olympiacos v. Red Star Belgrade
Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur

Ancelotti fired by Napoli as Everton, Arsenal lurk

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Carlo Ancelotti won a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds, then lost his job.

The Napoli’s boss strained relationship with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis came to a head, with the Neapolitan side advancing in Europe to end a nine-match winless run.

[ MORE: Sporting KC adds Liga MX top scorer ]

That run may’ve included seven draws, but it also saw Napoli dip into seventh on the Serie A table. They are seven points back of sixth and 17 points behind leaders Juventus.

A strained relationship got worse when Ancelotti refused to take the team on a De Laurentiis-ordered “team retreat” following a draw against Salzburg in early November.

Gennaro Gattuso is rumored as Ancelotti’s replacement, and the fired coach himself is being mentioned as an immediate target for Arsenal and Everton.

In fact, the Toffees are in discussions with the Italian legend already, according to Sky Sports. Football Italia claims Arsenal is in on the action, too.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice and a third time with Real Madrid. He’s claimed domestic titles in five of Europe’s top leagues, with silverware at Chelsea, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid.