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.

Boyd brace enough for USMNT v. Guyana

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Tyler Boyd scored a pair of goals including the 1,000th in United States men’s national team history as Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT opened its Gold Cup run with a somewhat misleading 4-0 defeat of Guyana in Minnesota late Tuesday.

Paul Arriola had a goal, an assist, and a shot that took two deflections including one off of Gyasi Zardes’ face in the win.

Weston McKennie had an assist in an impactful performance before leaving with injury in the second half. USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter said the injury was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Next up for the USMNT is a Saturday match-up with Trinidad and Tobago in Cleveland. Guyana will meet Panama, who beat T&T 2-0 on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

The United States had plenty of possession to start, and Christian Pulisic was looking lively. Though positioned centrally in the formation, he often drifted to the left to get the ball and work toward the middle.

It was Guyana who nearly struck for an opener against the run of play, lashing over the goal off a short corner. Gyasi Zardes thought he’d forced a goal moments later, but the offside flag was up.

Weston McKennie played a gorgeous through ball into Tyler Boyd, and Boyd sent a promising pass to the middle of the box only to see a shot blocked by the packed-in defense. Then Pulisic was stopped point-blank by Akel Clarke.

McKennie then set up Arriola for the opener, with the DC United man slapping the side of his right foot through the ball to sent it around Clarke and into the goal.

Boyd the stung a shot wide of the far post after missing with a low drive earlier in the match. Clarke then made an outstanding save on a Nick Lima drive — again set up in part by McKennie — before Boyd hit a ball into outer space.

A nervy moment early in the second half gave way to relief, as Boyd struck with vigor off a delightful ball from Michael Bradley. This was a “Bradley in his AS Roma prime” long ball, and Boyd delivered with a fine low strike.

Zardes then made it 3-0 with a header he knew little about:

Berhalter would soon remove Pulisic and Bradley, and then an injury forced his hand on the third substitution.

That one could echo deep into the tournament if it’s anything more than precaution, with McKennie exiting the field.

Boyd then scored another terrific goal. It looked even better than his first until replays revealed a significant deflection en route to the scoreboard.

Zardes later cued up Boyd for a chance at the hat trick, but the Kiwi-born attacked hit his shot into the outside of the goal. He could’ve had five goals.

3 things from USMNT’s win v. Guyana

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Injuries, early inefficiency, and a newcomer making a statement were the biggest talking points of the United States men’s national team’s first match of the 2019 Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

Christian Pulisic was back, but not on the score sheet, and was able to be rested over the final half hour or so, and the USMNT scored its 1000th goal in program history.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

Beyond that, here’s what we’re thinking after the 4-0 win.

Ouch, ouch, stop that, ouch: Injury worries

Weston McKennie started slow but eventually played a series of sensational passes en route to an assist on the night.

His industry moving forward and backward were remarkable on the night, but Schalke’s Swiss army knife had to leave the match with a leg injury with a quarter hour to play.

That’s a problem for a side which also saw Tyler Boyd pull up following his bid for a hat trick and is also without Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, and Duane Holmes in the midfield alone.

John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are also missing from a U.S. side hoping to make a serious bid for another final at the Gold Cup.

Berhalter said the injury that cost McKennie the final 16 minutes was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Tyler Boyd shoots his shot

No, he’s not the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.

Yes, he’s inspiring a bit of hope for the American Outlaws.

The New Zealand-born 24-year-old likes to shoot, and boy did he in bagging a brace on Wednesday.

Capped five times by New Zealand but now cap-tied to the USMNT by participating in this match, Boyd scored twice and could’ve probably scored two or three more on the day.

The son of an Kiwi father and American mother, Boyd delivered the goods in front of both of them in Minnesota.

“It’s for my family,” Boyd said on Fox after the game. “I’m really proud to be able to represent this country. To do it on this stage is an honor and a blessing. Just a dream come true. It’s been years and years and years of work. It’s been my dream since (I was) a kid. I don’t have the words to describe it.”

Boyd was injured — more on that later — but it looked like it could’ve been minor. His creativity and desire for the ball will be needed moving forward, as he was a fine complement to Paul Arriola in industry and desire.

It still wasn’t good enough

Do not forget that Guyana is the 177th ranked team in the FIFA rankings  — a lofty 166th in EloRatings — and the Yanks simply didn’t have the quality or understanding to pile up the goals.

The Guyanese held the U.S. in check for the first half hour before Weston McKennie and Paul Arriola teamed up for a classy goal, and Bradley’s link up with Tyler Boyd for the second was even better.

But Zardes’ goal was a blocked shot that unknowingly pinged off his pace to the point that the American striker appeared dazed for the duration of the celebration. And Boyd’s good-looking second goal took a turn off a Guyanese defender on the way into the net.

As it stands, this looks like a team that wouldn’t beat Panama and might struggle against anyone should Pulisic go down (and especially if McKennie stays down).

USMNT player ratings from defeat of Guyana

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The United States men’s national team was solid, but not particularly impressive in its 4-0 defeat of Guyana early Wednesday to start its Gold Cup.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

There were stars in this one, with Weston McKennie and Tyler Boyd finding their strides, but still a lot of question marks (in some ways due to the competition).

Let’s get into it. As always, “6” is the baseline for ratings: a passable performance.

Starting XI

Zack Steffen — 6 — Had very little to do, even in possession, as expected.

Nick Lima — 6 — Looking comfortable moving forward and was aggressive in defense.

Walker Zimmerman — 7 — Passed the ball well, but like his goalkeeper and fellow defenders, was largely untested.

Aaron Long — 6 — A step up from his nightmare against Venezuela.

Tim Ream — 6 — An okay cog in the back three after a rough pair of friendly losses.

Michael Bradley (Off 63′) — 6 — For the first 20 minutes, it was clear this was his first match in a month. But his game improved, capped by a remarkable assist to Boyd for the 1,000th goal in USMNT history. Fitting.

Weston McKennie (Off 74′) — 7 — A slow start, but on the night not only assisted a goal but played three or four world-class touch passes. Gregg Berhalter said the injury that cost him the final 16 minutes was a cramp. Let’s hope so.

Paul Arriola — 8 — His aggression and ambition paid off, as he rebounded from some questionable performances to get a goal and set up two others (*thou

Christian Pulisic (Off 63′) — 7 — Instantly the most dangerous player on the field, would’ve likely had a couple assists with a capable finisher up top.

Tyler Boyd — 8.5 — The former New Zealand international made a lot of fans tonight, scoring two goals, and was in position to score four or even five.

Gyasi Zardes — 5 — Credit the motor, but look forward to Jozy Altidore being back at full fitness.

Substitutions

Wil Trapp (On 63′) — 6 — Better than his miserable pair of friendlies.

Cristian Roldan (On 63′) — 6 — Looked more lively in attack, but given the opposition that’s not terribly impressive.

Djordje Mihailovic (On 74′) — N/A —

Tyler Boyd scores 1,000th goal in USMNT history (video)

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The 700th game in USMNT history has birthed the 999th and 1,000th goals in program history.

The Yanks led Guyana 1-0 at halftime of their 2019 Gold Cup debut on a Paul Arriola goal set up by Weston McKennie when they hit their milestone.

Fittingly, the goal was produced by a vintage ball from one of the program’s all-timers.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores, stats, lineups ]

Michael Bradley swept a delightful diagonal ball to a seemingly offside Tyler Boyd, who scored his first goal for the USMNT via a low driven shot across the goal and into the side netting.

The first goal came on Aug. 20, 1916 from a fella named C.H. Spalding, who later played baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Senators.

The 1,000th came via a New Zealand-born dual national who played last season in Turkey on loan from a Portuguese club.