Three things the 2015 Gold Cup taught us about Jurgen Klinsmann and his USMNT


Friends, it’s over. It’s safe to come out from your hiding pla…wait, I lied, the American soccer universe is currently a raging inferno. No one is safe.

On Saturday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s US national team fell to Panama, 1-1 after extra time and 3-2 on penalties, in the third-place game of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It was a fitting end to the Americans’ tournament, in which they looked less “revolutionized” than they looked like the team we sent to the 1998 World Cup in France.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Gold Cup coverage ]

The 2015 Gold Cup team was constructed and performed much more poorly than the 2011 Gold Cup team for which Bob Bradley was fired, and Klinsmann was subsequently hired. Here’s three things we learned about Klinsmann and the USMNT during their failed run during this month’s Gold Cup.

1. The standard of CONCACAF is steadily improving, but the USMNT might not be

Way back on July 6, I wrote these words about how the rest of CONCACAF has steadily improved over the last two, four and even 10 years. I pointed to Costa Rica’s run to the World Cup quarterfinals last summer and Panama’s double-defeat of Mexico at the 2013 Gold Cup as just two examples of the rising tide in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

This Gold Cup further enforced my belief that teams not named the US and Mexico — Jamaica, this year’s finalists, as well as Trinidad and Tobago and Panama — are quickly catching up to the “big two” of the region.

This was the USMNT’s chance to show that while everyone else was improving, they were, too. Instead, they laid egg after egg after egg and finished fourth — their second-worst showing ever (2000).

Ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying, the USMNT not only finished, but routinely looked, the fourth- or fifth-best team in CONCACAF. Klinsmann took over a CONCACAF power, and they are currently anything but that.

[ FULL RECAP: USMNT falls to Panama in penalty kicks, finishes 4th at Gold Cup ]

2. Klinsmann preaches “learning” and “improving,” but refuses to do any of it himself

It’s Klinsmann’s way or the highway — silly things like logic, precedent or results be damned. We’ve known that since, well, basically the beginning of time. What we didn’t expect, however — or, at least I didn’t — was for Klinsmann’s insistence on doing things his way to routinely cost the USMNT not just games, but tournaments (the entirety of the 2014 World Cup comes to mind).

Example: Young defense struggles mightily throughout the group stage and shows lots of signs of bad things to come, but Klinsmann refuses to call up a Matt Besler — who’s playing extremely well for Sporting Kansas City, by the way — when given the chance to make six roster changes before the knockout rounds. Instead, it’s ride-or-die with John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado (both 22 years old). Spoiler alert: they died, and now Klinsmann should be answering the kind of questions he so often sidesteps with ease.

For instance, “Why would you, after failing so miserably during the Gold Cup, say you’re going to roll with a largely unchanged roster for the one-game playoff in October to determine CONCACAF’s representative at the 2017 Confederations Cup?” You probably think I made that up, because it’s so stubborn, right? Wrong.

We know that Klinsmann is virtually untouchable in terms of his employment, but is too much to ask for Klinsmann to hold his hands up and say, “I need to be better, too, not just the players?” Klinsmann acknowledging that he, just like his players, had a poor tournament isn’t asking for the world.

[ PREVIEW: Mexico, Jamaica to do battle in Gold Cup final | Officiating errors impacted Panama in SF ]

3. Clint Dempsey is still “the guy,” but he needs help

Ol’ Deuce, despite his paper-tearing ways, remains as reliable as ever as the USMNT’s talisman. In fact, Klinsmann’s decision to remove the captaincy from over Dempsey’s head was 100 percent the right decision. Not only did Dempsey say so himself, but he looked like the Dempsey that USMNT fans have come to expect — and the team to rely upon — throughout the entire tournament. In truth, Dempsey is perhaps the only player for which that can be said.

source: Getty Images
Clint Dempsey, USMNT — 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Seven goals in six games is unquestionably an impressive haul for Dempsey, but one can’t help by wonder if it could have been more had he forged a successful forwards’ partnership with someone — anyone. It wasn’t working with Jozy Altidore during the group stage, and though the 6-0 victory over Cuba might indicate otherwise, it didn’t happen with Aron Johannsson during the knockout rounds, either.

The USMNT was out-shot by a total of 93 to 62 during the Gold Cup. By five CONCACAF teams. Not Germany, or Brazil, or Argentina, or Spain. Honduras, Haiti (21 to 6!!!), Panama (twice), Cuba and Jamaica.

Gyasi Zardes looked promising during stretches, but he’s still a 23-year-old with less than three years of professional experience. Johannsson showed better than he has at any other point of his international career, but he’s wildly inconsistent at best, and maybe too similar to Dempsey for the two to ever really work well together.

Ronaldo not ready for retirement: ‘Age is just a number’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cristiano Ronaldo reassured Juventus supporters and his legions of fans worldwide that at 34 he’s not ready for retirement yet.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

“Age is just a number. It does not mean that at 34, 35, 36 you are at the end of your career,” Ronaldo said at a news conference ahead of Juventus’ Champions League match against Lokomotiv Moscow on Tuesday. “I can show that with my performances, how I play, the way I play, the way I still feel good, sharp, thinking about the game, more mature. This makes the difference.”

In the second season of a four-year deal at Juventus, Ronaldo had sparked concern among his fans when he said in an interview published a few weeks ago that he was starting to enjoy seeing himself “outside of football, so who knows what will happen in the next year or two?”

Ronaldo recently scored his 700th goal as a professional while on international duty with Portugal and has been nominated for a record sixth Ballon d’Or award – which would break his tie of five with Lionel Messi.

But Ronaldo said he’s more interested in winning a treble with Juventus.

“We want to win Serie A, we want to win the Cup, the Champions League,” he said. “Juventus should think big. … We are going to try to win all the trophies, we know it will be difficult, especially the league and the Champions League, but I think it is possible. Everything is possible.

“In terms of individual, I have nothing to say as this is individual. It is not the most important thing,” Ronaldo added. “The most important is the collective awards. If you win the collective awards you have more chance to win the individual awards. … The Golden Ball is for me in second place.”

While retirement may not be on Ronaldo’s mind yet, family time is a big part of his life now.

“To win games, to score goals, to enjoy myself, to arrive home and see my kids happy and say, `Congratulations daddy for scoring a goal.’ That makes me happy,” he said. “This is my motivation to come to train, for the games, to entertain people and the fans with my passion.”

More AP soccer: and

Andrew Dampf on Twitter:

Carragher apologizes to Evra over Suarez t-shirts

Leave a comment

Jamie Carragher has apologized to Patrice Evra after Liverpool wore t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez in 2011.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The day after Suarez was banned for eight games by the English Football Association, who found him guilty of racially abusing Evra, Liverpool’s players put on t-shirts with Suarez on the front and back during their warm up in a Premier League game against Wigan Athletic.

Carragher and Evra were both analysts for our partners at Sky Sports in the UK on Monday Night Football for the clash between Sheffield United and Arsenal, and discussed the current problems with racism in the game.

“There is no doubt we made a massive mistake; that was obvious,” Carragher said.

Liverpool’s former vice-captain asked Evra how he felt regarding the situation with Suarez, and the former Man United, Juventus and Monaco left back revealed his disgust at the way the situation was handled.

“When I saw it I was like, this is ridiculous. This is unbelievable,” Evra said. You put your own club in danger when you do those things. You always have to support your player because he is from your team but this was after the ban. If it was before and we were waiting for the sanction, I would understand. What message do you send to the world? Supporting someone being banned because he used some racist words.”

Click play on the video above for the full discussion between Carragher and Evra.

Italy women’s team awarded for ’emancipating’ female game

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Leave a comment

ROME (AP) The Italy women’s national soccer team was awarded the Foreign Press Association’s Invictus award Monday for promoting and “emancipating” the female game in the country with its run to the World Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Head coach Milena Bertolini and forward Barbara Bonansea were given the award during a ceremony at the Rome-based association.

With soccer dominated by men in Italy and few opportunities for girls, Bertolini recounted how she had to dress up as a boy to play as a kid.

“Now things are changing, thanks to the Italian federation’s school programs,” Bertolini said.

Bertolini and Bonansea lamented that female players are still not considered professionals and therefore are not permitted to earn more than $33,500 per year by Italian law.

“It’s not about the money, it’s a question of rights,” said Bonansea, who also plays for Italian champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

While Italy’s men’s team is a four-time World Cup champion, the women had not played in a World Cup for two decades and entered as a prohibitive underdog during its opening match against Australia in France in June. But the Azzurre came back from a goal down for a 2-1 win courtesy of Bonansea’s two scores , with her second coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

“That goal shaped our World Cup, both in terms of results and in terms of promoting women’s soccer in Italy,” Bertolini said. “The strong emotions on the field were transmitted to everyone who was watching. I still get goosebumps now just thinking about that goal.”

The Azzurre went on to win their group then beat China in the first knockout round before losing to eventual finalist the Netherlands.

In a country of 60 million people, a total of more than 20 million spectators watched Italy’s five matches on RAI state TV, setting audience records for women’s soccer game after game.

The Invictus award is dedicated to “promoting the positive effects of sports in terms of integration and emancipation by the vulnerable sections of society.”

UCL preview: Spurs desperate for a win; Man City host Atalanta

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

By the end of the week, we’ll be at the halfway point of the UEFA Champions League group stage, and while some Premier League clubs (Manchester City and Liverpool) are currently in rather strong positions, a couple others (Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea) have some serious work to do to rescue their respective campaigns.

[ MORE: Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video) ]

Tottenham’s start to the group stage has gone about as poorly as it could have done, considering the positions in which they’ve found themselves early in games. Going from 2-0 up to a 2-2 draw away to Olympiacos was bad enough, but going from 1-0 up to a 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich was the real demoralizer.

Now, last year’s UCL runners-up find themselves third in the group with just one point. However, Mauricio Pochettino‘s side is set for a back-to-back home-and-away with (presumed) doormat Red Star Belgrade, beginning Tuesday when the Serbian side visits the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs will continue to be without goalkeeper Hugo Lloris following his dislocated elbow, while midfielders Christian Eriksen and Giovani Lo Celso are back in full training and expected to be available for selection. Tanguay Ndombele was only involved as a second-half sub during Spurs’ draw with last-place Watford over the weekend, so he is likely to return to the starting lineup.

[ MORE: Referee officials explain VAR decision on Rashford goal ]

Man City, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace and feeling a renewed sense of PL title contention after Liverpool dropped their first points of the season. While a domestic three-peat is undoubtedly high on the list of priorities for Pep Guardiola‘s side, it’s probably safe to assume that breaking though in the UCL is the main objective for 2019-20. Since Guardiola took over at the Etihad Stadium, City have reached the quarterfinals twice and the round of 16 once. Under the direction of Manuel Pellegrini, City reached the semifinals the season before Guardiola’s arrival.

Outside of long-term knees injuries to Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, City have a clean bill of health.

Tuesday’s full UEFA Champions League schedule

Atletico Madrid v. Bayer Leverkusen — 12:55 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Dinamo Zagreb — 12:55 p.m. ET

Tottenham Hotspur v. Red Star Belgrade — 3 p.m. ET
Manchester City v. Atalanta — 3 p.m. ET
Galatasaray v. Real Madrid — 3 p.m. ET
Juventus v. Lokomotive Moscow — 3 p.m. ET
Brugge v. Paris Saint-Germain — 3 p.m. ET
Olympiacos v. Bayern Munich