Should Jurgen Klinsmann be fired? What we learned from USMNT’s Gold Cup campaign

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Following the USMNT’s shocking 2-1 loss to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals in Atlanta on Wednesday, plenty of questions are being asked of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players

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Rightly or wrongly, his future as the leader of the USMNT is being debated by many fans and pundits with a poor 2015 Gold Cup campaign culminating in a huge upset against Jamaica. After four years in charge of the U.S., has their been real progress under the German coach?

[ MORE: Klinsmann refuses to blame players ]

Let’s break that down and more by assessing the current situation.

Is this a knee-jerk reaction to a poor Gold Cup campaign?

People calling for Klinsmann’s head seems a little premature, it has to be said. Yes, the U.S. has reached the Gold Cup final in the last five tournaments and had said winning this trophy was a must, but they came up against a talented Jamaica side who have spent all summer together and have conceded just six goals in eight games of tournament play. Impressive. What hasn’t been impressive is the play of Klinsmann’s side. There has been a lot of rotation in the lineups throughout this Gold Cup but squeaking past Haiti and Honduras to open up, then a 1-1 tie with Panama showed plenty of cracks. Especially at the back.

When it came down to the big game against Jamaica, Brad Guzan was at fault for both goals and the central defensive partnership of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado just didn’t work. In particular the defending on Darren Mattocks’ header from a long throw on the first goal was woeful. Klinsmann will get a reprieve for now and should remain in charge until the Confederations Cup playoff in October, but if the U.S. loses to either Jamaica or Mexico in a few months time, the writing could be on the wall.

Progress since 2011 has been minimal

Soccer is a results business. We all know that. Look at the constant chopping and changing of players and coaches across the globe in order to try and achieve success. Klinsmann took charge in 2011 and has won a Gold Cup and lost in the semifinals, got to the last 16 of the World Cup and won World Cup qualifying. In the cycle before him former USMNT manager Bob Bradley won a Gold Cup, got to the last 16 of the World Cup and won World Cup qualifying, plus came second in the 2009 Confederations Cup and was runner up in two other Gold Cups. Right now, it is hard to suggest that there has been progression under Klinsmann in the last four years despite marquee friendly wins in Europe against Italy, Holland and Germany. Sure, they were great, but when it comes down to tournament play and the games that really matter, the jury is still out.

source: Getty Images
Guzan and the U.S. defense struggled once again.

Defensive issues remain

One of the head-scratching decisions this summer was the fact that Klinsmann persisted with Brooks and Alvarado as a central defensive partnership. Both are young and inexperienced on the international stage and Klinsmann wanted to test them. Time and time again they just weren’t good enough and how Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream didn’t both, or at least one of them, start against Jamaica is baffling. Leaving Matt Besler at home despite him being a starter at the 2014 World Cup last summer seemed to be almost a punishment for his comments and those of his manager at Sporting KC, Peter Vermes, when Klinsmann questioned the fitness of several experienced players in his squad in January. During the post-World Cup friendlies, late collapses were commonplace as defensive partnerships were changed time and time again. Due to MLS not being on a FIFA schedule, it makes it hard for Klinsmann to keep the same group of players together year round. But he must find a way of doing that and building continuity, especially in the defensive areas. One thing is for sure: veterans Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron should come straight back into the team for the September friendlies.

Handling of Dempsey, Altidore a concern going forward

Deciding to strip Clint Dempsey of the captaincy for his hissy-fit when playing for the Seattle Sounders was a bold move from Klinsmann and seemed to work for most of the Gold Cup as Deuce scored six times in five matches. But now what? With the captaincy handed to Michael Bradley and the U.S. failing to make the final, what will Dempsey’s relationship with Klinsmann be like going forward? Far from positive is the likely answer. As for Jozy Altidore, his omission from the U.S. squad after the Gold Cup group stages due to fitness issues has seen Klinsmann ostracize Altidore and the Toronto FC forward will rightly feel bemused by the decision. Sure, Jozy might not have been fully fit but is a 70 percent fit Alitdore a better option than Alan Gordon or Aron Johannsson? I’ll let you decide that. Dempsey is the second-highest scorer in U.S. history, Altidore is in fifth. Both may now be feeling hard done by and that could backfire massively against Klinsmann if his two top goalscorers are unhappy.

If Klinsmann was fired, could USMNT hire anybody better?

I threw this question out on Twitter directly after the defeat to Jamaica and, understandably, there was plenty of buzz surrounding Klinsmann’s tenure so far and if anybody else could do better. Granted, U.S. fans want their team to succeed like any other fan of a national team, but most are intelligent enough to realize this program has come a long way in a short space of time. With huge improvements in the way all teams are set up from youth level right through to the first team, Klinsmann has done a lot of good things structurally for the U.S., just like he did for Germany before and during the 2006 World Cup. But with Joachim Low kicking on the German national team in recent years and grabbing World Cup glory in 2014 following the foundations Klinsmann successfully laid, do the U.S. now need a fresh figurehead to build on Klinsmann’s project?

It is a question worth asking but another question remains: is there anybody out there right now better than JK? The last thing the U.S. needs to do is gamble on another coach and have things not work out. That could set them back years. Klinsmann holds the role of technical director with U.S. Soccer and has a deal through the 2018 World Cup. If U.S. Soccer fire him anytime soon, that would mean paying huge amounts of cash in compensation to Klinsmann. I’m not sure that’s something they can afford to do, especially if they don’t have a top-class replacement lined up to build on the foundations he has put down.

What next?

As the disappointment of failing to reach the Gold Cup final sets in, the U.S. must now regroup and play in the third place match against Panama at PPL Park in Philadelphia on Saturday. After that, friendlies against Peru on Sept. 4 and Brazil on Sept. 8 await. However, the big game on the horizon for Klinsmann and his players is the Confederations Cup playoff in October. No date is confirmed for that game, but it will be played on U.S. soil against either Mexico or Jamaica to decide which nation will represent CONCACAF at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. If the U.S. lose this one-off playoff game, Klinsmann will be under intense pressure and serious questions will be asked about his future with the USMNT.

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.

Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship

Championship promotion playoff final
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after claiming west London derby delight at the expense of local rivals Brentford in Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Ranking the new Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

It was an incredibly cagey affair — as the Championship promotion playoff final tends to be — that saw the two sides combine for just 17 shots (four on target) through 90 minutes of regular time. In the end, it was the most unlikely of restarts halfway through extra time that sent the Cottagers on their way.

Brentford were nearly the architects of their own downfall early in the first half. FirstIt was a poor back pass from Henrik Dalsgaard that left David Raya in worlds of trouble in the 10th minute, though Fulham were unable to find a proper chance amid the chaos inside Brentford’s box.

Fulham were perhaps fortunate not to go a man down in the 29th minute, when Harrison Reed slid through Christian Norgaard and put studs into the Dane’s ankle. Reed came over top of the ball in a 50-50 challenge and, despite first making contact with the ball, came in with borderline excessive force and in a reckless fashion. Nonetheless, only a yellow card for the on-loan Southampton youngster.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic issues injury update ]

The start of the second half looked like more of the same from the first half: Fulham with an early chance and Brentford scrambling to stay level. Neeskens Kebano curled a free kick around the wall in the 48th minute, likely beating Raya if it was on frame, but only managed to rippled the outside netting.

Championship Golden Boot runner-up (25 goals) Ollie Watkins had the final scoring chance of regular time in the 70th minute as he fired from the edge of Fulham’s penalty area, but Marek Rodak was able to comfortably palm the ball over the crossbar. Still, the first threatening signs of life from the Bees.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

The decisive moment finally arrived in the 105th minute, and it came from absolutely nothing — less than nothing, one might credibly argue. Joe Bryan was tasked with restarting play following a foul roughly 50 yards from goal. Rather than lofting the ball high and to the back post, as Raya so clearly expected him to do, Bryan wrapped his left foot around the ball and whipped it toward the near post — as “near” as it can be from 50-plus yards. Raya was painfully slow to recognize the shot and tried to scramble across the face of goal, but never had a chance of getting anywhere near the ball.

Bryan doubled Fulham’s lead in the 117th minute. It was fast and fluid one-two atop Brentford’s penalty area and the left back tucked it away to seal promotion back to the top flight, and it turned out to be hugely necessary after Dalsgaard poked home a late consolation goal for the Bees with virtually the last kick of the game.

Fulham spent the 2018-19 season in the Premier League but finished with just 26 points in 19th place and were relegated back to the Championship after one season. Only time will tell if they’re able to stay in the top division this time, or if they’re a full-time yo-yo club.

Transfer confirmed: Ferran Torres to Man City for $26 million

Ferran Torres to Man City
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Reports sending Valencia youngster Ferran Torres to Man City have been burning red-hot over the last 24 hours.

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Man City confirmed their capture of the 20-year-old — one of the brightest prospects in all of Europe — on Tuesday.

Torres, who came through the Valencia academy, tallied six goals and seven assists in 43 appearances (all competitions), including two of each in the Champions League, for Valencia this season.

He broke into Valencia’s first team back in November of 2017, at the age of 17, before establishing himself as a regular over the last two seasons.

[ MORE: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer ]

Reports out of the UK claim it will reportedly cost just $26 million to bring Ferran Torres to Man City, plus possible add-ons, as he had just one year remaining on his contact with Valencia. Torres reportedly met with City sporting director Txiki Begiristain earlier on Tuesday, adding further fuel to the fire that a move was imminent.

Torres seems an obvious replacement for recently departed winger Leroy Sane. He’ll join Raheem Sterling as one of only two natural wingers in Pep Guardiola’s squad, offering more tactical flexibility — not to mention, width — after City were fairly limited in the wide areas during the 2019-20 season.

Championship playoff final: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Brentford - Fulham
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Fulham – Brentford: Team news is in with the two West London sides set to do battle for a place in the Premier League in the Football League Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley Stadium.

We can hardly wait to find out who’ll claim the 20th berth in the 2020-21 Premier League season in the richest game on earth.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europe ]

Kickoff is at 2:45 pm ET Tuesday at Wembley Stadium.

Team news


Key players

Fulham leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 26 goals were the joint-most in the Championship and more than three times as many as Tom Cairney, second amongst the Cottagers. He’s healthy for the first time after missing the semis with a hamstring injury.

Brentford’s Ollie Watkins scored the same amount of goals as Mitrovic, tying for the league lead, and he’s joined by Said Benrahma’s 17 goals (fifth in the league) and Bryan Mbeumo (eighth). The latter have combined for 16 assists, too. The Bees can sting.

Their seasons

Brentford won a even-straight league games to surge into the mix for automatic promotion but lost their last two, meeting Fulham on 81 points.

As for the Cottagers, Fulham finished the season on a seven-match unbeaten run which included five wins

Their playoffs

Brentford overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to oust Swansea City in the semifinal, while Fulham’s first leg win was enough to outlast Cardiff City’s strong second leg in their semi.

Odds and ends

Brentford beat Fulham twice, 1-0 at Griffin Park and 2-0 at Craven Cottage.

The Bees are favored to win the match at +108 odds, while Fulham carries +265 odds of a win.

Prediction

Mitrovic’s availability is huge for a Fulham side hoping to break down the league’s second-stingiest defense. Brentford feels like it’s the superior side but Fulham has been here and Cairney even scored the goal to beat Aston Villa in the 2017-18 playoff final. That experience is an X-factor, but we’ll still call Brentford 2-1 winners.

How to watch Fulham – Brentford

Kickoff: 2:45 pm ET Tuesday
Stream: ESPN+