It’s not over yet; This much must be noted as we swim through the murky waters of reaction after the U.S. U-23 side blinked in the face of instant qualification to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Honduras got a pair of goals from Alberth Elis, a 19-year-old Olimpia player with a pair of caps for his senior team, as the U.S. road to Rio got much trickier after a 2-0 loss in Utah.
Now, the States need to beat either Canada or Mexico just to get a shot at CONMEBOL playoff qualifier Colombia.
[ MATCH RECAP: Yanks’ Olympic hopes take terrific blow vs. Honduras ]
Keep in mind that Colombia finished second in CONMEBOL’s qualification tournament, thanks to Brazil’s status as host nation. A side that did not lose in the South American Youth Football Championship, one with 19-year-old Chelsea star-in-waiting Joao Rodriguez and Juventus prospect Andres Tello, awaits the U.S. should it win the third place game.
What does this tell us about the Yanks under the guidance of Jurgen Klinsmann? And maybe the better question is does it tell us anything at all?
The States allowed a total of two goals in a three-match unbeaten group play, both after the 80th minute of play with multi-goal leads in hand.
Yet with the money on the line Saturday, the U.S. puked. Honduras was livelier, and worked the Yanks into such frustration that head coach Andreas Herzog was tossed from the contest.
[ EDWARDS: The case for firing Klinsmann with a loss vs. Mexico ]
So to the question at-hand: Should Klinsmann bear most of this burden, some, or not much at all? He took over the U.S. technical director position on July 29, 2011, when this entire roster was between the ages of 14-18.
That moves to 15-18 if you discount the youngest player, Spurs’ Cameron Carter-Vickers, who looked formidable in the qualifying tournament. Is that a realistic timeframe to implement major change, considering that the U-23s bombed out of 2012 qualifying in group play while being directed by Caleb Porter?
To rewind: With group advancement on the line, they drew El Salvador 3-3. El Salvador. The lineup for that final match has plenty of names MLS and USMNT fans will know well: Hamid (Johnson ’39); Sarkodie, Opara, Kitchen, Villafana, Diskerud, Okugo, Corona (Stephens 88′), Adu (Gyau 90+’), Boyd, Shea.
Klinsmann’s position as senior team coach is easier to quantify; results and player selection fall squarely on his shoulders. But should his guidance as technical director have made a bigger impact on this unit, one with six players getting regular minutes in MLS, a keeper amongst the most prominent in Norway, and players on the First Team set-ups in the top flights of Germany, Switzerland and Scotland?
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It’s hard to say, isn’t it? Yet if the senior team loses tonight against Mexico, it will be all hands on deck in discussing whether Klinsmann should stay in the U.S. set up (And if they win, somehow it’ll be, “The Confederations Cup is a minor tournament” and “Mexico wins are nice, but we’re supposed to beat them.”).
I admit to being on the fence with Klinsmann, somehow, which is hard to do when most voices seem diametrically opposed; Either the German hero is working with a substandard pot of ingredients to put together an elite side, or he’s poisoning everything that’s good and holy about the U.S. Soccer universe.
There are no easy answers here. For those who think it’s simple, I ask how? For sanity’s sake, let’s hope for a big “W” tonight.