While U.S. Soccer ponders head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s fate, one would imagine the man would have a little humility while his current employment hangs in the balance.
Instead, he doubled down on an exhausting narrative that provides reason enough to make a change.
Klinsmann has never respected U.S. fans. No, he has repeatedly dismissed the opinions of the fans and media as inexperienced, foolish, and naive. He’s continually reiterated that “we have a ways to go” and repeatedly speaks about “educating the country” as a required part of the growth of the national team.
So after two embarrassing losses to begin CONCACAF’s final round of 2018 World Cup qualification, his job under heavier scrutiny than ever before, he continued to beat the same dead horse he has for years.
“The fact is, we lost two games,” Klinsmann told Sam Borden of the New York Times Sunday evening. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”
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These “people” Klinsmann is referring to include a host of intelligent, well respected journalists across the country who have publicly called for change following the 4-0 drubbing to Costa Rica. Those “people” also include a wide berth of fans from various backgrounds, many of whom have followed the national team pridefully and astutely long before Klinsmann took charge.
It’s true that soccer in the United States has seen a recent popularity boom, with plenty of new fans who are beginning to seek out the sport and learning its intricacies. What’s not true is that those who have been here all along – and even those recently aboard – are somehow doing it wrong. As with any sport, there are a wide spectrum of mindsets across the US fan demographic. Klinsmann continues to blanketly dismiss the opinions of this country’s masses as stupid and irrelevant, when in fact they are the most important of all.
“I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann told the New York Times. “What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport.”
If the 52-year-old German wishes to degrade those with dissenting opinions by dismissing them as “emotional” and rash, we shall indeed “stick to the facts.” The facts are, Klinsmann managed the United States to its worse start to a Hex ever. The facts are, Klinsmann managed his team to its first home defeat in World Cup qualification in 11 years at the country’s most fortified soccer stronghold. The facts are, Klinsmann’s United States embarrassed itself in last year’s Gold Cup, owning the worst finish for the country ever in the competition. The facts are, the U-23 team has missed the last two Olympics under his watch. The facts are, the United States coughed up qualification for the only Confederations Cup of his tenure. If Klinsmann wishes the fans “stick to the facts,” well, the facts are actually quite damning. The undeniable fact is, based solely on paper, the United States has regressed during his time in charge, and both fans and media are fully capable of recognizing that stark reality.
It’s time the United States gets rid of the man who will never respect U.S. fans, and time they hired one who understands them, and will garner motivation for his professional success not from personal gain or for written legacies, but from those whom the entire process boils down to. Club pride can be earned through performances on the field, but managing a national team requires a specific identification with those who feel drawn to the flag and the crest of their home nation. Klinsmann not only cannot identify with the United States fans, but he can’t even bring himself to respect them.
So while there are plenty of on-field reasons to question his abilities – which we apparently aren’t qualified to discuss based solely on our national allegiances – add one more tick mark to his rapidly growing list of transgressions. A man who does not appreciate the fans whom he has been charged to lead is in fact no leader at all.