Ahead of the U.S. national team squaring off against Trinidad & Tobago in 2018 World Cup qualifying on Tuesday (Watch Live, 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC Universo and online via Live Extra), head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has issued a defiant response to doubters of his U.S. regime.
In simple terms he said: “back off.”
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Speaking to U.S. Soccer’s in-house media channel, Klinsmann gave a two-minute 42-second response to a question about the youth national teams.
The German coach, as you can see from the video above courtesy of our partners at Yahoo, has taken exception to widespread criticism of the youth teams which comes on top of mounting criticism of his national team after the CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico and the fourth-place finish at the Gold Cup in the summer.
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Below is Klinsmann’s full response regarding critics of not only his team but the U-23, U-20 and U-17 national teams he oversees as technical director of U.S. Soccer.
“I think we can be proud of ourselves in what we’ve done so far, the last couple of years – in ALL age groups. I think this is what a lot of people unfortunately forget quickly. Because suddenly we came out of the Group of Death in Brazil, I don’t know, people now expect maybe miracles, expect you to get easily into the final four of a World Cup or final eight, or have our Under-20s win the World Cup in New Zealand or our Under-17s win the World Cup in Chile. And that’s not gonna happen. Because this is only a process that over many, many years will hopefully one day end in big, big successes.
“All of our programs made big strides, made big steps forward, and this is something where our coaches like a Tab Ramos and Andi Herzog with the 23s right now or even a Richie Williams [with the Under-17s] that was eliminated in the first round in Chile – which was the most, by far the most, difficult group he was in – and now we’re going through a tremendous learning experience and brought our players to another level in their individual stages. So this is pretty cool to see. I think the Under-20s with Tab [had an] outstanding World Cup in New Zealand [but] lost it on a penalty shootout against the world champions in the quarterfinals.
“So when you hear a lot of people talking some things are going wrong because you lost maybe two or three games recently, then that’s a bit immature (laughs). That’s simply wrong. There’s a lot of work ahead of us in all our areas but there’s also a lot of excitement because our players are hungry for improvement. And hopefully, with that game [a two-legged playoff against Colombia] the under-23s have in Brazil, the second one will do maybe even a result that’s better than the first one. But even if not, they’re making strides.”
So, what do you make of that?
True, getting out of the Group of Death at the 2014 World Cup was a great achievement but I think it is fair to say that neither fans or the media in the U.S. expected the Stars and Stripes to go on and reach the final or win it. With Klinsmann saying that a semifinal spot is the aim for the 2018 World Cup in Russia — a tournament which will define his tenure — that currently seems like a long way off after the disappointing performances in the Gold Cup this summer, the loss to Mexico reinforcing that the U.S. isn’t the strongest team in its own region and the general struggles of the youth national teams to compete with the elite nations.
It will take many more years for the U.S. to become a soccer powerhouse, if it ever does, but is dismissing criticism as immature and laughing about it the way to handle things?
The players in the full national team know they have to step up and improve their performances, they’ve said as much, which had seen them lose five of their last six games before the blowout win over St. Vincent & the Grenadines last Friday. The young U.S. teams have done better of late by reaching the last eight of the U-20 World Cup but the U-23 side were hammered by Brazil in a recent friendly and failed to qualify for the Olympics automatically from CONCACAF qualifying.
Currently in the Caribbean for the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in Port of Spain against T&T, the U.S. will face its toughest test of the first round of 2018 World Cup qualifying with the Soca Warriors coming off a strong Gold Cup showing and a superb win in Guatemala last Friday to open up their qualifying campaign.
If Klinsmann’s team don’t get a positive result (a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world, mind) then expect plenty more criticism to fly his way after these comments regarding the USMNT and the youth system.