Fabian Johnson was sent home from U.S. national team camp on Monday after receiving a “severe word” from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Mexico.
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Klinsmann felt that Johnson, who started and played 111 of 120 minutes of Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup defeat, wasn’t sufficiently injured to be removed from the game when the 27-year-old left back requested he be subbed out. Speaking in a press conference Monday, Klinsmann went on to say Johnson could use the additional free time to “rethink his approach about his team,” perhaps implying Johnson isn’t fully bought into his coach’s message.
That’s as far as U.S. Soccer’s official account would go into the matter. We turn to Brian Sciretta for the rest of the story:
Today will likely go down as the day Klinsmann officially “lost the locker room,” as the old saying goes. It’s one thing for Klinsmann to constantly blame his players for their collective shortcomings (meaning that of the players and coach), while taking little or no real responsibility himself. It’s completely different for Klinsmann to publicly call out a player of Johnson’s stature for, essentially, making up an injury in order to quit on the team.
That that player is Johnson, one of Klisnmann’s very first German-American recruits from 2011, only shows how severe the fracture(s) inside the USMNT camp may very well be (becoming). Creating a divide between “them” and “me” was only going to take so long before an explosion of Monday’s proportions occurred.
It’s sad that Johnson, one of the USMNT’s most consistent performers, has been chosen as Klinsmann’s latest scapegoat. So many of the tales told by Klinsmann’s former players (see: Germany and Bayern Munich’s Philip Lahm) are rearing their ugly heads once again with the USMNT.
As I stated in this space last week, Klinsmann isn’t going anywhere before his contract expires in 2018, so it’s almost pointless at this time to continue harping on all the things he’s done wrong over the last four years. Instead, I’ll politely suggest he attempts to build a bond between players and coach that was once, under previous USMNT coaches, a source of inspiration for what were largely considered “overachieving” teams. With the largest-ever player pool currently at his disposal, imagine what Klinsmann and Co. might be able to accomplish with him and his players all pulling in the same direction.