The case for firing Klinsmann if Mexico beats USMNT

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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?

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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 Gonzalez 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.

Ronaldo matches record in 1,000th game as Juve beats Spal

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MILAN (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo shows no sign of slowing down as he marked his 1,000th official match by scoring a record-equaling goal to help Juventus win 2-1 at Spal in Serie A on Saturday.

Ronaldo scored for an 11th straight league game, matching the Serie A record set by Gabriel Batistuta in 1994 and equaled by Fabio Quagliarella last season.

Ronaldo also hit the crossbar with a free kick late on and had an early goal disallowed.

Aaron Ramsey doubled Juve’s lead in the second half before Andrea Petagna got Spal back into the match with a penalty.

Juventus visits Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Wednesday.

Serie A leader Juventus extended its advantage to four points above Lazio, which visits Genoa on Sunday. Third-place Inter Milan is also playing a relegation-threatened team on Sunday as it hosts Sampdoria.

Spal remained firmly bottom of the table, eight points from safety, after a fifth successive defeat.

Ronaldo thought he had given Juventus the lead in the fifth minute but it was ruled offside on video review.

However, the Portugal forward did get on the scoresheet six minutes from the break, rushing in at the far post to volley Juan Cuadrado‘s cross into the roof of the net.

It took Juventus until the hour mark to double its lead when Paulo Dybala sent in a delightful through ball for Ramsey, who lifted it above Spal goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

Spal reduced the deficit nine minutes later after Juventus defender Daniele Rugani fouled midfielder Simone Missiroli. After a lengthy wait and the use of video review, a penalty was awarded and Petagna fired it into the bottom right corner.

AC Milan was playing at Fiorentina later. Bologna drew 1-1 at home to Udinese earlier.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

WATCH: Jose Luis Morales stunner shocks Real Madrid, hands Levante win

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Levante stunned Real Madrid 1-0 on Saturday, toppling Zinedine Zidane’s men from La Liga’s throne and handing them their first league loss since October, with a goal that is fitting for the importance of the situation.

Captain Jose Luis Morales, 32, sprinted down the left flank before finding Nikola Vukcevic’s lofting, through ball. The rest is history, really:

Morales’ first goal of the season is a big one for Levante – both on a results and emotional sense – moving them eight points behind sixth-place Sevilla. But it, undoubtably, works in Barcelona’s favor the most, who reclaimed the league’s top spot after Madrid’s loss and their 5-0 of Eibar.

Gabriel Jesus indirectly speaks about City future amid goal-scoring performance, Juventus links

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In the eye of transfer rumors linking him to Serie A leaders Juventus, Gabriel Jesus perhaps delivered one of Manchester City’s most gratifying goals as of late.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The Brazilian striker’s short-range unbalanced shot in the 80th minute proved to be City’s winner on Saturday against Leicester City, solidifying a six-point lead on the Foxes, who squandered a handful of chances throughout the night.

Jesus was quick to redirect praise to teammate Riyad Mahrez, who to many, was player-of-the-match quality at King Power Stadium. The Algerian winger’s wizardry was on full displaying, especially in the sequence leading up to the defending champions’ winner. From the BBC:

“Always when I go on I try to help my team-mates and find space,” Jesus said. “[Riyad Mahrez] has a lot of quality and I thought ‘go’ because I know he has the quality to give me the ball, he gave a very good ball and I can score.”

Despite not being directly questioned about the Juventus link, Jesus indirectly made it clear that, like manager Pep Guardiola, who confessed his future stands in Manchester, he hopes to respect his contract at the Etihad.

“It is important for us, for the club,” the 22-year-old said about Guardiola confirming his stay at City. “We have a contract, we want to stay, of course it’s important.”

From City’s future Champions League ban, to Guardiola’s rumored departure, to the Leicester match, the topic of conversation around the club now revolves around their Round of 16 showdown with Real Madrid midweek.

It seems the storm has passed and the sun is starting to shine over the Etihad, and Guardiola senses that.

“The preparation after 12 days off was good, we have played two good games, and it’s good to prepare for Madrid with these good opponents,” he said. “We are playing the kings of the competition, we will see, we will try to enjoy it and do our game.”

Bundesliga wrap: RB Leipzig, Dortmund keep pace with Bayern

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There were plenty of young American players on show Saturday as the Bundesliga title race continues with at least three contestants.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

RB Leipzig smashed Schalke and BVB took care of business at Werder Bremen to stay close to Bayern Munich.

Borussia Monchengladbach slipped a bit off the pace with a draw, but still has a match-in-hand on the three teams ahead of it.

Werder Bremen 0-2 Borussia Dortmund

Erling Haaland scored his 40th goal of a season spread between BVB and Red Bull Salzburg to salt away a two-goal win a relegation-threatened Bremen.

Dan-Axel Zagadou scored BVB’s other goal, with Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hazimi getting assists. Dortmund is four points back of leaders Bayern and three back of Leipzig. They face Bayern on April 4 and Leipzig on May 9.

American teen Giovanni Reyna followed up his first UCL assist at midweek by making another substitute appearance. He completed all 12 of his passes, making one key pass and winning 2-of-3 duels in 13 minutes.

Fellow USMNT man Josh Sargent played 11 minutes for the hosts, converting his only dribble attempt and winning his only 50-50 while registering an interception.

Schalke 0-5 RB Leipzig

Five different players scored for the visitors in a humbling of David Wagner‘s top four hopefuls in Gelsenkirchen.

Marcel Sabitzer’s last name sounds like a weapon, and he put Schalke on notice with a bullet after 55 seconds before Timo Werner, Marcel Halstenberg, Angelino, and Emil Forsberg joined in on the fun.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie was subbed off in the 55th minute with the score 1-0, so he was spared a bit.

Elsewhere
Bayern Munich 3-2 Paderborn — Friday
Hertha Berlin 0-5 Koln
Freiburg 0-2 Fortuna Dusseldorf
Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Hoffenheim
Bayer Leverkusen v. Augsburg — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Wolfsburg v. Mainz — Noon ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Union Berlin — 2:30 p.m. ET Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 23 15 4 4 65 26 39 8-2-2 7-2-2 49
 RB Leipzig 23 14 6 3 61 25 36 7-3-1 7-3-2 48
 Borussia Dortmund 23 13 6 4 65 32 33 8-3-0 5-3-4 45
 Mönchengladbach 22 13 4 5 43 25 18 8-2-1 5-2-4 43
 Bayer Leverkusen 22 12 4 6 38 29 9 5-4-2 7-0-4 40
 FC Schalke 04 23 9 9 5 32 32 0 5-5-2 4-4-3 36
 1899 Hoffenheim 23 10 4 9 34 36 -2 5-1-6 5-3-3 34
 SC Freiburg 23 9 6 8 31 33 -2 5-2-4 4-4-4 33
 VfL Wolfsburg 22 8 7 7 28 28 0 3-5-3 5-2-4 31
 Eintracht Frankfurt 22 8 4 10 37 35 2 6-3-2 2-1-8 28
 FC Augsburg 22 7 6 9 34 45 -11 5-3-3 2-3-6 27
 1. FC Union Berlin 22 8 2 12 27 35 -8 6-0-5 2-2-7 26
 1. FC Köln 22 8 2 12 33 42 -9 5-1-5 3-1-7 26
 Hertha BSC Berlin 23 7 5 11 27 43 -16 3-2-7 4-3-4 26
 FSV Mainz 05 22 7 1 14 31 48 -17 3-1-7 4-0-7 22
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 23 5 5 13 23 46 -23 3-2-6 2-3-7 20
 Werder Bremen 23 4 5 14 25 53 -28 1-2-8 3-3-6 17
 SC Paderborn 23 4 4 15 29 50 -21 2-1-9 2-3-6 16