Dust settles but questions remain for USMNT, Klinsmann’s future

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Do you want him in, or out?

It’s not your decision, but many fans of the U.S. national team, and U.S. Soccer as a whole, have been debating the future of Jurgen Klinsmann as the head coach of the USMNT and the technical director.

[ MORE: Klopp’s top targets emerge ]

Klinsmann, 51, has now been the head coach of the U.S. for over four years. In that time he has won a Gold Cup (2103) and led the U.S. to the last 16 of the World Cup (2014). Those, plus a smattering of impressive friendly wins away in Europe, have been the highlights, but plenty of lows have continued to roll in over the last few months, as questions regarding whether or not the German coach is the right man for the job have continued to linger, and now they’re festering.

[ MORE: The end for Klinsmann? ]

President of the U.S. Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati, has already said Klinsmann’s job was safe regardless of the outcome of the CONCACAF Cup match, which the U.S. lost to Mexico 3-2 after extra time on Saturday. That scoreline flattered the U.S. as they sat back in a defensive shell (something we saw throughout the World Cup in Brazil and against many of the elite nations they have faced over the past four years) and couldn’t cope with the constant attacks launched by El Tri. The loss provided plenty of people with ammunition to say: Klinsmann has to go.

That is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a defeat to a bitter rival, but the rearing of a violent under-current which has been sweeping through USMNT fans for quite some time and has manifested into a wave of negativity against Klinsmann, the playing style he promotes, his staff and his players.

[ MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Klopp’s unveiling

The latter two parties can certainly not escape the blame, but like any coach of any team worldwide, the buck has to stop with Klinsmann amid the lack of progress over the past four years since Bob Bradley was fired for a Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, also at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Klinsmann stated that winning the Gold Cup this summer was crucial. The U.S. finished fourth in its second worst-ever performance. He also stated reaching the Confederations Cup was crucial. Those hopes were dashed by Saturday’s defeat. And then there’s the hope of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, which hang by a thread after Andi Herzog’s side were beaten by Honduras in the semifinal of the qualifying tournament on Saturday, just hours before Mexico beat the U.S.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USA 2-3 Mexico ]

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT

Many can’t argue that Klinsmann is capable of building successful youth programs and systems for teams to flourish long-term. Look what he did in Germany before and during the 2006 World Cup, as Die Mannschaft immediately bore the fruits of his and Joachim Low’s labor with a third place finish, and then replicated that achievement at the 2010 World Cup before winning it all in 2014. Klinsmann helped put that in place and with plenty of promising young players selecting the U.S. over other nations, plus improvements being made across the infrastructure of U.S. Soccer, his role as technical director of U.S. Soccer seems a natural and good fit.

However, the percentage of games he has won as U.S. boss has now dipped to 55.25 percent, which is lower than his spell in charge of Germany and his 44 games at Bayern Munich, and there needs to be some more accountability. That is the biggest concern for fans and those observing the U.S. national team. Increasingly Klinsmann doesn’t seem to be taking the blame solely on his shoulders and amid the constant lineup changes and lack of continuity in who he selects (and comments about whether they play in MLS or Europe) in which formation, the USMNT has become a rudderless ship drifting into the murky waters of obscurity on the international stage. The lack of identity on this team is troublesome and leaves the outlook for the future looking bleak. Will the next three years under Klinsmann be like that last four? He has previously stated that the target at Russia 2018 must be to reach the semifinals. Right now, that seems a long way off.

Speaking in his post-game press conference after the loss to Mexico, here’s what Klinsmann had to say, via MLSsoccer.com, about how the U.S. can move on from a disappointing spell.

“A loss is always difficult to swallow, there’s no doubt about it, especially when there’s a lot at stake,” Klinsmann said. “It means that you have to work even harder than you ever did before in order to turn the results around and make things happen….

“We have to get out group together and rethink the next couple of months,” he continued. “Obviously, we’re going into World Cup qualifying already in November, and we have to kind of sit together and discuss things–who we’ll be counting on, how we want to build toward the next couple of games. There’s not much time in between, because World Cup qualifying is World Cup qualifying. So there will be a lot of conversations coming up in the next couple of days.”

A lot of those conversations, from fans at least, will be about Klinsmann’s future as the national team’s head coach. Those are just and fair, as Klinsmann has failed to get any more out of a player pool with largely the same, if not more, talent than Bradley had between 2007-11.

The calls for Klinsmann to move on from being the head coach of the USMNT and move “upstairs” to continue in his role as a technical director are growing.

What this U.S. side needs now is re-invigoration, fresh ideas and a new approach. The overwhelming feeling from the masses is that after four years of stagnation, Klinsmann is no longer the right man to push this program forward.

Cruzeiro relegated from Brazilian top flight for first time

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Brazilian side Cruzeiro was relegated from the top flight for the first time in the club’s 98-year history following a 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras on the final day of the season.

Cruzeiro required victory and a loss by Ceara at Botafogo to stay safely in the Brazilian Serie A, but neither came to pass.

Palmeiras midfielder Ze Rafael scored in the 58th minute to send the visitors on their way, with fellow midfielder Dudu finished things off in the 84th minute. Referees ushered the players off the field immediately after the conclusion of the match as Cruzeiro fans rioted in the Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

Cruzeiro finished 17th in the 20-team table, three points back of Ceara in 16th. In the Brazilian top flight, the bottom four teams are relegated. CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai were also relegated. Cruzeiro had won the Brazilian Serie A as recently as 2013 and 2014, winning four titles in its history. They also have six Copa do Brasil titles, most recently winning the league cup in 2017 and 2018.

Flamengo ran away with the championship, finishing on 90 points, 16 points clear of second-placed Santos and third-placed Palmeiras who both finished level on 74 points. Palmeiras had challenged for the title, but fell off at the end of the season with a five-match winless run through November.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Arsenal

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Two struggling London sides meet Monday when West Ham United hosts Arsenal (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The sides might’ve expected they’d be within close proximity at this point on the fixture list, but two wildly disappointing seasons means the three points between the Gunners and Irons comes with the former in 11th and the latter 16th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s been nine matches since Arsenal beat someone, 11 since it happened in the Premier League. West Ham hasn’t been much better, winning once in its last 10.

Freddie Ljungberg has yet to win as Arsenal interim boss, while West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini could see his current stint in London end without more results like the Nov. 30 win at Chelsea.

Monday versus Arsenal would qualify.


Injuries/suspensions

West Ham United: OUT —  Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid. QUESTIONABLE — Michail Antonio.

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Rob Holding.


Probable lineups

West Ham United: Martin; Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Fredericks; Rice, Noble, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Snodgrass, Haller.

Arsenal: Leno; Kolasinac, Sokratis, Luiz, Bellerin, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette.


What they’re saying

West Ham’s Antonio sees an opportunity: “The only three teams that are really performing are Liverpool, Leicester and Man City. Everyone else is getting beaten, and it means we’ve had a missed opportunity so far this season. We started the season off brightly, the best start we’ve had for four years, but then we’ve had a slump. Everyone’s having a slump and this is our slump. Now it’s time for us to start turning up. We’ve been in this situation before and we know how to dig in and pull ourselves up again.”

Arsenal’s Ljungberg on setting targets: “I don’t think we should stop talking about the top four, but for us it’s about concentrating on what we’re doing here now and not look up, down, sideways. We just need to work on our own game and our own confidence.”


Prediction

Really, you wouldn’t want to predict anything from these sides right now besides goals. We’ll give an edge in desperation to the hosts and a 2-2 draw.

La Liga: Sevilla held at Osasuna, Getafe maintains UCL fight

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Sevilla was held to a 1-1 draw at 10-man Osasuna on Sunday, giving both Real Madrid and Barcelona space at the top of the La Liga table.

Munir El Haddadi put the visitors 1-0 up just 11 minutes in, but Ezequiel Avila struck just before halftime to share the points. Sevilla was held to just two total shots through the opening 45 minutes, and despite Osasuna defender Oier Olazabal being shown a second yellow card with 29 minutes to go, Sevilla still managed just 11 total efforts through the 90 minutes, with four on target.

Getafe continued its battle for a top four spot as they won 1-0 on the road at Eibar. Angel Rodriguez bagged his eighth goal of the season to secure the win, cropping up in the 67th minute to finally put Getafe through. They had been turning the screw for some time, forcing Marko Dmitrovic into a pair of big saves just before the opener which came from an absurdly tight angle after Angel had rounded the goalkeeper. The win leaves them fourth, level with Real Sociedad on 27 points.

They were allowed to close the gap after Real Sociedad was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at 14th placed Real Valladolid. The visitors put just two of their 14 shots on net, and dropped to fifth thanks to Getafe holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Athletic Club also fell back in the race for a top four spot, dropping a 3-2 decision on the road at Real Betis. Joaquin scored a first-half hat-trick, with all three goals coming in the opening 20 minutes to give him five in his last three games. Inaki Williams brought Athletic Bilbao one back before halftime from the spot, and Yuri Berchiche made things interesting with a minute to go, but that was all they could muster as the visitors fell to sixth on 26 points, above Atletico Madrid on goal differential with the two yet to play head-to-head.

Celta Vigo made it interesting as Iago Aspas scored a man-down goal, but Leganes held on for a 3-2 win over the 10-man visitors. Oscar Rodriguez had a first-half brace to help the hosts to a 3-0 lead, but Nestor Araujo and Aspas helped Celta Vigo make things interesting. Still, a 71st minute second yellow card for halftime substitute Gabriel Fernandez hampered the visitors in their efforts for a comeback, leaving Celta Vigo in the relegation zone, a point back of safety, with Leganes is four points behind them in 19th.

Gerrard reacts to Rangers’ Old Firm heartbreak in final

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Steven Gerrard lined his Rangers side up for success, but fate was cruel to the Liverpool legend.

Rangers lost the League Cup Final to their Old Firm rivals on Sunday despite out-shooting the Bhoys by a 16-5 margin, winning a penalty, and playing almost a half-hour up a man.

[ RECAP: Rangers 0-1 Celtic ]

“To a man we were very good … by much the better side,” Gerrard said. “But unfortunately that’s not what gets you a trophy.”

But Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster stopped Alfredo Morelos’ penalty, three minutes after goal scorer Christopher Jullien was offside on the lone goal of the game.

Scotland doesn’t yet use VAR, and Gerrard doesn’t love VAR but he likes it more than he likes Scottish officials.

“There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR,” he said, via the BBC. “I’d be a liar if I said I was 100% in favour of it, but the one thing I do know is that officials up here need support.”

Now he has the task of getting his men to rebound ahead of its biggest non-derby in ages, as Rangers need at least a draw against Young Boys at home on Thursday to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds

“It’s a bit raw right now… It’s up to me to pick the players up. One thing I will say is I’ll stay with these players on the evidence of today because they gave me absolutely everything. We might have to suffer a bit short-term. I need to pick them up a bit physically and mentally for Thursday which is huge but our day will come on the evidence of today.”

Gerrard has done a very good job with Rangers, who are two points back of Celtic in a two-horse race for the Scottish top flight title. Celtic has won eight-straight titles to improve their total to 50, four less than the Rangers.