USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann says he was left “angry” after traumatic World Cup qualifying losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to start Hexagonal play, but he also thinks that fan and media reactions have been harsh.
Klinsmann told Erik Kirschbaum of Reuters that “It’s important to put this in the right perspective” after a late 2-1 loss to Mexico and subsequent 4-0 drubbing in Costa Rica.
“We lost the two opening games and played the two best teams right away. We have eight more games to get the points needed to qualify. We’ve always reacted strongly when things were nerve-wracking. This team is always capable of reacting. We’ll correct this with the two games in March and we’ll take one game at a time from there to get our points. I’m 1,000 percent sure we’ll qualify.”
The U.S. has games against Honduras and Panama scheduled for March. Both those teams have wins thus far, with Honduras topping Trinidad & Tobago, while Panama defeated Honduras and drew with Mexico. The U.S. is currently bottom of the table, without a point and below Trinidad & Tobago with a worse goal difference.
Despite the dire situation, Klinsmann believes that the reaction to the two early losses, which included a number of calls for his job, were too critical.
“When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off,” the German told Reuters. “In the long run, that’s going to make the development of the team difficult. It’s important to stay calm and be patient.
“There are definitely issues to be addressed but there is no reason to exaggerate them or panic,” Klinsmann added. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and there are always many reasons why certain things happen, both positively and negatively. It’s important to have the end result in mind. And the big picture is the overall development of the team in the four-year cycle between two World Cups. You have to be ready to take some setbacks during that phase.”
Despite Klinsmann’s calm demeanor, those setbacks suffered early in the Hex are indeed serious. Last time through, with teams looking to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, the third and final automatic qualifying spot was given to Honduras with 15 points. To match that this time around, the United States has eight matches to garner the at least four wins likely needed to reach that point total. Four years before that, the third and fourth places both finished on 16 points looking towards the 2010 World Cup, with Honduras earning the final automatic berth and Costa Rica needing to advance via the intercontinental playoff.
In addition, it seems Klinsmann may be molding his words to fit the occasion. In his biography, also written by Kirschbaum, Klinsmann said, “Our players who go to England, Germany, Spain, or France get used to the pressure and are used to getting criticized if they have a bad game. They hear about it from the local people in the supermarket or in the shops or on the streets. The pressure is everywhere. They’re used to having to justify themselves for their performances all the time.”
“If an MLS player has a bad game, we want them to be accountable for that,” Klinsmann continued in his biography. “We want them to be pestered by the people in the supermarket or the baker or the butcher because that’s the way people react to the game all over the world where soccer is the number one sport.”