The United States men’s national team is struggling.
There’s no doubt about that. Miserable second halves and a 1-4 record in its last five matches have the States plummeting down the FIFA rankings and looking like a much lesser side than the one that went into the World Cup’s Round of 16.
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lightning rod head coach Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t exactly have an easy road to a win in his next match… or his next four. The States run into the Gold Cup goes looks like this:
at Switzerland (Tuesday)
It’s a gauntlet made more daunting by Klinsmann’s choice to eschew experienced defenders like Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in order to operate with a back four, at least Wednesday in Denmark, that had no member born in the 1980s.
Care to explain, JK?
“Right now, these games are to see if players can break into the inner circle and into the starting lineup. Are they consistent? That’s why we want to have players showing us where they are at, a couple of months away from the Gold Cup, when we have to make the decisions. At times, it looked good. At times, they looked composed; they looked confident, they stayed calm on the ball and they combined well into midfield. However, at the end of the day when you have a couple of individual mistakes against an experienced team like Denmark, you pay the price for it, and we did, even if we could have equalized the game still in the last minute.”
Keeping in mind that Klinsmann is glossing over an overwhelmingly inadequate defensive performance with his “couple of mistakes” comment, there’s a question as to whether his tactics and choices might just be… right? Gonzalez, Cameron and Besler aren’t going to lose much by missing out on Denmark and Switzerland, while Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones were injured.
And Klinsmann has a — gulp, prepare for comment section hatred — valid comment on why he’s tossing guys like John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin) and Gyasi Zardes (L.A. Galaxy) from the frying pan into the fire (I will not attempt to understand Alfredo Morals, but that’s another story). If they are going to fit into his Gold Cup plans, a tournament that matters, let’s see how they do against high-end European sides:
“So, right now we are choosing highly competitive opponents like Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Germany in order to help evaluate new guys and new combinations. We know it’s a difficult approach that we have taken. In this period, we want to learn. We want to see things about our players: how they react under pressure; play against excellent individual talent; communicate and fit in with the team. This causes us to swallow some bitter pills from time to time.”
Does he have a point? I’m again bracing for the comment section when I say… I think so.