No one’s going to wake up this morning and say, “Gee, on second thought I’m glad Jurgen Klinsmann’s US team again fell apart in a match’s final frame.”
But after an evening and morning of reading massive Klinsmann-devouring vitriol regarding Colombia’s 2-1 comeback win against the Yanks at Craven Cottage on Friday, I was left wondering whether there are alternate explanations for calling the German-born coach a loser.
[ USMNT: PST’s match recap LIVE from Craven Cottage ]
After all, so many of those comments continue to bring up Landon Donovan’s name as if his World Cup roster omission somehow set in play a series of events that will not only keep the US from ever winning again but forced its players to lose to Colombia on purpose in order to shame Klinsmann.
So what if we debate a few more topics that perhaps shift the blame back to realistic circumstance:
1) The equalizer was an awkward at-best play and not a sign of mass failure
Analyst Taylor Twellman said that Teofilo Gutierrez did not play the ball, which is a little cringe-worthy for me. Teo doesn’t touch the ball, knowing he was offside, but advances toward it enough that Brad Guzan had no choice but to respect the chance that:
A) he might’ve been onside, or
B) he may’ve been offside but it won’t be called.
This allows enough of a deviation in aggression from the keeper that Carlos Bacca is able to more easily round him. Was it a banner moment for the US? No, but it sent a Colombia-heavy Craven Cottage into an uproar that set the stage for the late winner.
2) Klinsmann is finding his team. He won’t make five second-half subs in any game that matters
Colombia ties the match in the 60th minute. Let’s say this is a Copa America Centenario knockout round. Do you think Klinsmann’s first subs are two inexperienced 2.Bundesliga players? Nope. They could end up still being Bobby Wood and Alfredo Morales (doubtful), but they will be those two players with the experience of playing Colombia at Craven Cottage.
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You could easily argue that the only substitute Klinsmann made on Friday that he would’ve tactically made in a game that mattered was DaMarcus Beasley for Greg Garza (both of whom looked fine). If you think he’s bringing in Julian Green, whose mark scored the match-winner, for DeAndre Yedlin with four minutes to play in a big game, then you’ve got a deathwish for Klinsmann. Perhaps he brings on more offense when the team is on the front foot, but the States were having trouble with their retreating line and had Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler and Matt Besler available. The Green move was for experience.
So, yeah, by the time subs came in this game was not about winning. He has a little over a week to see combinations he wants. This was one of those opportunities.
3) A strong lineup from No. 3 in the world Colombia had a home-ish crowd against the tinkered-with U.S.
If your argument was that you wanted a full-strength USMNT to make a statement against Colombia, you were in a bad spot right from the jump. Tim Howard’s on sabbatical, Michael Bradley’s recuperating from injury, Clint Dempsey’s exhausted and prepping for the MLS Cup semis and Omar Gonzalez is hanging back in L.A. for a similar reason.
Colombia was without Radamel Falcao, but they were without him for the World Cup in a run that could’ve easily lasted past their loss to Brazil. Juan Zuniga was missed, for sure, and Fredy Guarin is a talent, but Colombia managed a far better side than what the States could put out there.
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Frankly, the States held their own against a motivated, nearly-full-strength Colombia. They did this with starting an 18-year-old forward, subbing on four guys with zero experience and playing young Mix Diskerud in a role that took on the responsibility of both Dempsey and Bradley considering Kyle Beckerman’s relative lack of offensive flair.
So, yeah. I’m pretty calm about the whole deal. Those who like the job Klinsmann is doing will pull enough from this match to defend him. Those who think he’s ruining American soccer will talk about his poor lineup decisions and late-match collapses. Those in the middle will likely think he and his team could’ve done better but were playing the No. 3 team in the world without many first-choice players.
Lose to Ireland, though?
P.S. Nothing against Guzan, but I think Howard stops the game-winner.