Tag: Mexico

Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Fabian, Andres, Klinsmann and more: Top 3 things to watch as USMNT faces Mexico

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Is it Saturday yet? You know, the day in which the U.S. and Mexican U-23 sides can clinch Olympic berths.

Oh, and the two senior sides will determine which rival is going to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Yeah, it’s a big one. And we’ve got three big battles (and two bonus things to keep an eye on) as the Rose Bowl plays host to a critical CONCACAF Cup playoff.

  1. U.S. centerbacks vs. Mexico’s strikers: The fact that we don’t know who Jurgen Klinsmann will use as his pairing against Mexico tells you all you need to know about their plight. Ventura Alvarado has had more than growing pains while representing his country, but Klinsmann remains faithful to the Mexican-based back. Could a match-up with El Tri bring out the steady best in him? Matt Besler was a revelation at the 2014 World Cup but fell out of favor with Klinsmann. Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream are steady as it goes, but that seems too easy for the experimenting coach.

    Meanwhile, Mexico is without L.A. Galaxy star Giovani Dos Santos, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the horses to run by the Yanks. Oribe Peralta doesn’t have a great record against the States but seems to have that “clutch” gene for big games. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will be aching to make his presence felt, too. Their third is a victory the U.S. must win given its big battle in the middle.

  2. Monster midfielders: It’s very difficult to look past El Tri’s midfield unit, with a pair of Porto regulars steadied by PSV’s brilliant Andres Guardado (below), who has six goals in 7 caps this year. Guardado is given more offensive opportunity with Mexico than his club, and he responds well. There may be no better player on the pitch than Guardado excepting, well…

    Whether Guardado or Michael Bradley comes out of this match a bigger presence likely determines who wins this one. That’s not to say a tricky bounce or controversial call won’t lay out the final score, but the U.S. captain will be at his box-to-box best. He’ll also be hoping to make his imprint as skipper after American failings at the Gold Cup and a disappointing World Cup (personally, though not for lack of distance covered).

    Alejandro Bedoya, Andr s Guardado

  3. Fabian forward? How will Klinsmann deploy Fabian Johnson, who is arguably the best player on the U.S. roster and the perfect role model for DeAndre Yedlin? Johnson is fine as wide back with the freedom to advance, but he simply shines as a quasi-wing for Borussia Monchengladbach.

    How does Klinsmann favor Johnson against Mexico in the what is arguably the biggest non-World Cup game of their international careers? That’ll make a huge dent in the game’s outcome, as Fabian deployed favorably and in-form is a question of which Mexico doesn’t have a good answer.

[ EDWARDS: The case for firing Klinsmann (with a U.S. loss Saturday) ]

BONUS 1: Brad Guzan is getting the keys to the 18, one of the clear mistakes in my book. Yes, Guzan is younger, but Tim Howard‘s big game resume is key, and how many people have ever — on even footing — claimed that Guzan is a better shot-stopper. I’ve no beef with Aston Villa’s keeper, but to say he’s better than a historical U.S. hero is tough to fathom.

BONUS 2: Domestic honks/Klinsmann haters like to point to his MLS omissions as Klinsmann’s Euro-snobbery of the highest order. Well, especially at striker, here’s their chance to dance. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Gyasi Zardes are your four out-and-out attackers, with Aron Johannsson left home at Werder Bremen. John Brooks is hurt, while Bobby Wood and Alfredo Morales are hanging back in Germany, too.

This is an extreme over-simplification given that a minimum of 11 combined starters will hail from European clubs, but an interesting subplot is this equation:

Twelve MLS (plus two Liga MX) players on the U.S.
+ 12 Liga MX players on Mexico
= ???


The case for firing Klinsmann if Mexico beats USMNT

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

It’s all anyone wanted to talk about regarding the U.S. national team team for months now, and Landon Donovan’s comments on Tuesday only brought the discussion into further focus, so let’s talk about what happens to Jurgen Klinsmann if the USMNT loses to Mexico on Saturday, eh?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The easy answer is, “He gets fired.” Of course, it’s not that simple. Let it be known that I am 100 percent against firing any coach for one result in one game, no matter the coach, the sport, or the situation. Furthermore, Klinsmann is an especially unique case as he holds both head coach and technical director titles. Firing Klinsmann the head coach would mean firing Klinsmann the technical director, as well.

If Klinsmann is to be fired following Saturday’s game against Mexico, it won’t be because he lost a single game against Mexico. It will be because he coached the USMNT to its worst-ever finish at the Gold Cup, showed no signs of learning or accepting responsibility for his mistakes, alienated and repeatedly blamed his players for said coaching errors, and lost to Mexico all in the span of three months.

Back in spring, Klinsmann called the 2015 Gold Cup the most important stretch of games during the calendar year. In fact, he did so on numerous occasions leading up to and even during the early stages of the tournament. As the tournament wore on, however, that rhetoric disappeared and in its place phrases like “experimenting with young players” and “building for the future” were born while more experienced players who had won previous editions of the Gold Cup — Matt Besler, Omar Gonazlez and Benny Feilhaber, to name three examples — sat either at home or on the bench as the Yanks lost to Jamaica in the semifinals and Panama in the third-place game.

[ MORE: Klinsmann calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries ]

Klinsmann made qualifying for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup his no. 1 goal  this year, yet took a largely inexperienced squad to the Gold Cup, and failed. If the USMNT loses to Mexico on Saturday, Klinsmann’s bunch will have exhausted all options to get into the Confederations Cup, and failed again.

As Donovan pointed out on Tuesday, saying what so many have been saying for months now, he should answer to someone for that. It’s far from “sour grapes” from the player infamously cut from last summer’s World Cup team; it’s a veteran of the game, an American soccer legend, and someone who cares about the game going forward, speaking truth about the harsh reality of top-level soccer.

Around the world, if a player plays poorly and a player has a bad string of results, they get dropped from the team.

Jurgen said many times he wants our players to feel pressure — so if they lose a game they can’t go to the grocery store the next day. If they lose a game, they are getting hammered in the press.

The reality is that now, anywhere else in the world, if this coach had those results, and they lose this game against Mexico, they’d be fired.

Unfortunately, the four-year contract extension handed to Klinsmann prior to the 2014 World Cup — an unheard of practice in the international game — means answering for his shortcomings will likely amount to a friendly lecture from U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and a full-tooth, grinning “We’ll get ’em next time” rallying cry.

The standard defense of Klinsmann has long been one of two things: 1) “He’s trying to build a new program for the future and that takes time,” while ignoring that results still matter in the present tense; 2) “He doesn’t have good enough players because MLS isn’t good enough,” while ignoring that 10 players from the USMNT’s 23-man World Cup — a tournament at which the congregation of Klinsmann swears the USMNT did so well to get out of the “group of death” —  including seven key contributors, came from MLS.

[ MORE: How will the USMNT line up vs. Mexico? ]

Klinsmann has held exactly two other managerial job during his post-playing career — Germany and Bayern Munich — neither of which for a period longer than 24 months following a series of substandard results, by their respective measures. Is it really a surprise he’s failed to deliver on his grandiose plans through 50 months on the job?

In the end, the USMNT’s shortcomings under Klinsmann have often been due to self-inflicted handicaps that left the squad and/or lineup ill-prepared to achieve the kind of results he was hired to deliver. Never before has a USMNT head coach been armed with such compensation, such control over the entire system and such depth within the player pool, which also means that never before has — or, should have — a USMNT head coach been held to such a standard.

If Klinsmann merely achieves the same as those who came before him, that’s a clear failure to deliver his stated objectives. He won’t be fired even with an embarrassing defeat on Saturday, which means he has three more years to show us that both he and his USMNT can be better than they have been for the last four.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to FIFA.com ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.