2015 Gold Cup

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

7 Comments

The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to FIFA.com ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Klinsmann names 23-man roster for Mexico showdown

4 Comments

Jurgen Klinsmann has named the U.S. national team’s 23-man roster for next Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup clash against Mexico, with CONCACAF’s place in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on the line.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Few surprises can be found in Klinsmann’s squad, though the omission of LA Galaxy defender and one-time defensive stalwart Omar Gonzalez is bound to cause something of an uproar, especially given the inclusions of Brad Evans (versatile to play four positions along the backline) and Ventura Alvarado (one appearance for Club America since August), who struggled badly during the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, playing its part in necessitating the playing of this one-game playoff.

John Brooks has been dropped by Klinsmann after struggling much of the summer, though he had shown marginal improvement in post-Gold Cup friendlies. In other news, midfielder/defender Fabian Johnson returns to the national team after missing last month’s friendlies due to an injury suffered playing for his club, Borussia Monchengladbach.

[ MORE: U.S. U-23s hammer Cuba, 6-1, to advance in Olympic qualifying ]

FULL ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

If you’ve ever criticized Jurgen Klinsmann or his USMNT, you don’t understand soccer

39 Comments

That was a fun headline to write, probably because saying something so outlandish as the above must have given this writer the briefest glimpse of what it must feel like to wake up and get to be Jurgen Klinsmann, a man eternally above criticism and accountability, every single day.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Yes, US national team fans’ longest-running nightmare — Klinsmann himself, that is — is at it again. Speaking ahead of the USMNT’s final set of friendlies before their massive CONCACAF Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10, Klinsmann had a few things to say about his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold and the ensuing criticisms lobbed Klinsmann’s way (examples of criticism found HERE, HERE and HERE):

“[The semifinal loss to Jamaica] was definitely our best game, [but] there were these [officiating] calls. Everybody was saying, ‘Yeah, that’s true, it’s crazy.’ Three days later, it was a loss against Jamaica, two mistakes on two set pieces, and suddenly it was bad coaching. People see the result and they think, ‘That must have been really bad.’ ”

Criticisms of the USMNT’s performance at this summer’s Gold Cup began long before they bowed out to Jamaica in the semifinals (HERE, HERE and HERE), so let’s get that out of the way first and foremost. It doesn’t take a great deal of intelligence to look at the final score and get all up in arms over a defeat. You can lose while playing well — as they did against Jamaica — just as you can obtain positive results while playing poorly — as they did in three of four games before the Jamaica defeat.

We don’t, however, hear Klinsmann pointing to the constructive conversations so many attempted to engage in during the tournament’s early stages as a sign of understanding the game and attempting to push it forward. Instead, Klinsmann insisted day after day in July that his side was playing well and coming along quickly, despite every evidence to the contrary, simply because they were winning. But, that sounds like what Klinsmann just criticized everyone else for doing, is it not? Is Klinsmann a hypocrite, or increasingly desperate for excuses?

[ RELATED: Previewing USA vs. PeruHow will the USMNT line up vs. Peru? ]

Would it be unfair to ask Klinsmann why he’s failed to deliver on a number of his promises and objectives when he took the job in 2011? For instance, why does the USMNT still play a reactive style of soccer when he promised a progressive, possession-based style? Why is his team’s fitness, so long the USMNT program’s calling card, suddenly an issue under his guidance? Why, with a larger player pool (his own doing, admittedly), more power as head coach and technical director and a huge investment of money, has the program plateaued on the accomplishments of his predecessors, and in some instances, regressed?

These are issues we would love to talk about, for Klinsmann to impart his infinite knowledge upon us, if only he would accept them as legitimate queries.

“It’s a good thing you have so much comments and opinions because it shows you that a lot more people care. They care about the game, they care about the national team. They care about saying their opinion. Do they understand really what happened in the Gold Cup? Some of them absolutely do and a lot of people don’t. I take it, it’s not a big deal. But it also explains we have a long way to go to educate people on the game of soccer still in this country.

Also apparently too dumb to understand soccer: Bayern Munich fans, who wanted Klinsmann out halfway through his first (and only) season in charge; Phillip Lahm, a World Cup winner, a UEFA Champions League winner, a seven-time Bundesliga winner and the harshest critic to date of Klinsmann’s coaching abilities; and an entire team’s worth of current and/or former USMNT players.

“I am having fun being measured by every game and judged by every game.”

Except in his mind, his work, no matter the results — the program’s worst Gold Cup finish in 12 years be damned — Klinsmann remains above judgment and criticism as he shuns responsibility and blame, scapegoating anyone and everyone around him. In his 48 months in charge of the USMNT, the following groups or individuals have been at fault for his side’s shortcomings at various times: American soccer’s youth development setup, his own players, Major League Soccer, referees, and now, the fans.

Complete list of people not once responsible for the USMNT’s shortcomings over the past 48 months: Jurgen Klinsmann.

Ex-Mexico manager Miguel Herrera in hot water yet again, this time for political tweets

1 Comment

One day, when he’s 65 or 70 years old, Miguel Herrera will look back on the turbulent life he’s lived to that point, and when he recalls this week most recently completed, he’ll hardly feel as if it were one of his best.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

Not only was the fiery 47-year-old relieved of his duties Tuesday as manager of the Mexican national team following an alleged punch to the neck of a reporter in the Philadelphia airport, but it was announced Friday that Herrera is under investigation for a series of tweets that possibly violate election laws, which prohibit campaigning on election day and several days before.

Herrera’s tweets in question, from the AP:

On election day (June 7), Herrera tweeted “Don’t forget to vote, let’s go with the Greens” and “The Greens fulfill (promises)” – apparent references to Mexico’s small Green Party.

Electoral laws say campaigning should stop just before an election, to give voters time to think.

In recent comments to Fox Sports, Herrera said he hadn’t been paid to send the tweets, saying he did it “out of conviction.” But he acknowledged it was an “act of stupidity on my part” to have sent them.

According to the federal prosecutors’ office, they plan to question Herrera but have thus far been unable to locate him at his home.

CONCACAF president to review refereeing department after Gold Cup fiasco

5 Comments

CONCACAF’s refereeing department could be in line for something of an overhaul in the coming months and years, as the North and Central America and Caribbean confederation announced Monday that acting president Alfredo Hawit (Honduras) will review the region’s heavily scrutinized referee department following a series of controversial and game-altering incidents at the recently completed 2015 Gold Cup.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Following the second semifinal matchup, between Mexico and Panama, CONCACAF released a statement that said referee Mark Geiger’s decisions during the second half severely altered the outcome of that game. Geiger’s status with the Professional Referee Organization has been and will continue to be unaffected.

From the CONCACAF release:

The designation of President Hawit to lead this review process was approved unanimously by the CONCACAF Executive Committee at an in-person meeting on Saturday, July 25, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Committee based its decision on Mr. Hawit’s 24-year experience in referee administration .

“The foundation of our game is fair play, and we must take the required steps to reinforce the importance of this principle,” President Hawit said in a statement. “This review will allow the Confederation to take the next step towards improving refereeing across the region.”

According to the CONCACAF release, the review, which the organization says is already underway, will include a “detailed evaluation of refereeing standards throughout the region,” as well as “an assessment of processes for determining referee assignments for each match.”