Condescending Klinsmann Calls Critics "Disrespectful"
November 21, 2016
THERE IS NO DOUBT that Jurgen Klinsmann has had a rough week. Unless you were living in a cave on the moon this past month, you know all this.
But just when you think the public perception of Klinsmann could not have gotten any worse, he went and gave a pair of interviews to Reuters and the New York Times that highlighted his very real shortcomings.
After reading both pieces I have come to the same conclusion that many others have: Klinsmann must go.
The coach is defensive and condescending to his critics who have all made compelling cases for his removal. Worse of all, he just comes across as out of touch.
The ugly nature of that loss
The interview with Reuters was comical because it was written by Erik Kirschbaum, who also wrote a puff piece of a Klinsmann biography where he said Klinsmann's 2014 U.S. side was arguably the best U.S. team ever. But Kirschbaum doesn’t do Klinsmann any favors in the piece. By not questioning the German coach, he allows Klinsmann to be Klinsmann, and as a result the U.S. men's national team coach and technical director comes across as badly out of touch.
There is a lot to go through in this piece but let’s start at the top.
"We lost the two opening games and played the two best teams right away,” Klinsmann told Reuters. “We have eight more games to get the points needed to qualify. We’ve always reacted strongly when things were nerve-wracking."
Yes, the U.S. played the two best teams to open the Hexagonal. The problem, however, is not that they lost but it is how they lost. Against Mexico, Klinsmann’s opening formation—a misguided 3-4-3—was the killer and the team was lucky to not be behind 3-0 before mercifully switching to a 4-4-2 after 25 minutes.
Then, against Costa Rica, the performance was so bad that it looked like the team gave up on Klinsmann (although Klinsmann disagrees). The U.S. team has hit rough patches before under Klinsmann but nothing like this never at such a stage as important as the Hex.
Another interviewer might have pressed Klinsmann on the status of the locker room or what can be done differently. Instead we are just left with Klinsmann’s blind statement that the team always reacts strongly when in a tough spot. Of course he can say the two losses are bad but he seems unwilling to admit that there is something fundamentally wrong.
Right now, the vast majority of U.S. players are performing far worse for the national team than they do for their clubs. Nearly every player has seen his game fall off a cliff when arriving in national team camp. The result is that you have an MLS bench player like Johan Venegas taking a Bundesliga star like John Brooks to the woodshed. Why are U.S. players not the ones raising their games these days? Why are the players not hitting their individual potential? Is Klinsmann even exploring the player pool enough to find the right players that will thrive on the international stage?
Mexico barely qualified for the 2014 World Cup but it was still a good team. There is absolutely no reason why the U.S. team couldn’t find itself in a similar situation this cycle. Confidence is crucial and Mexico showed this. Dropping the first two games of the Hex in horrible fashion is quite a bit worse than “slightly wrong.”
Qualification is in jeopardy and to fix this requires not only winning but also correcting very serious problems in the team. There is no leadership, chemistry, or confidence.
His Condescending Tone
Klinsmann came across as very defensive in the two interviews, and the coach lashed out on his critics. The problem is, his arguments are non-existent. Instead, he just insults his critics' lack of soccer knowledge and dismisses their point of view.
In the Reuters puff piece, he offered this:
"When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off,” Klinsmann said. “In the long run, that’s going to make the development of the team difficult.”
He was even feistier in the Times.
“I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann said. “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. I still believe we will get the points we need to qualify, and I am even confident we could win the group...The fact is, we lost two games. There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”
This is all particularly amusing when you consider his comments from a 2014 interview about wanting his players to have more pressure. He is now calling the pressure he is receiving “disrespectful.”
"If you miss an easy shot in a game, you want the player to go to the supermarket or butcher shop the next day and have a fan ask why they missed that shot,” Klinsmann said in 2014. “We are not there yet. But in the big leagues in Europe and South America, if you miss a shot, you're held accountable for it. Then you don't miss it anymore. That is something that will grow over time. The more it grows, the more often fans see [players] in the street and tell them, 'You were crap yesterday.' And this is important."
It’s not a bad thing if Americans aren’t harassing their players in the grocery store but the truth is that Americans understand the game far more than Klinsmann thinks. When he was hired in 2011, he preached change and was seen as the man to take the U.S. to the next level. What has happened this cycle, however, has been total regression. Americans are seeing it.
The 2015 calendar year was a disaster. At the Gold Cup the Yanks were outshot by Honduras, Haiti, and Panama twice as they stumbled to a fourth place finish—without even facing Mexico. Then, against Mexico at the CONCACAF Cup, Klinsmann's team lost to a clearly superior Mexican team. The 2016 campaign had some positive moments at the Copa America but now it ends on a very ugly note on its most important stage.
Klinsmann makes it seem as if he has a plan but he doesn’t bother to share the plan with anyone and repeatedly suggests that anyone who does not see his progress doesn’t know soccer. He urges that we all just need to be patient and is now insulting those who dare to criticize him.
The problem is that most people are coming to the conclusion that there is no plan and the team is in bad shape. Many of his former players in Germany and Bayern Munich were critical of Klinsmann and Americans are gradually coming to understand why.
"The team is still finding itself."
In the Reuters piece Klinsmann also made a comment that the team is still finding itself. But again, this is where Kirschbaum lets the reader down in the interview because Klinsmann has been the head coach fore more than five years.
Shouldn’t the team have found itself by now? When does he expect this team to find itself? Does Klinsmann take any responsibility for the team not having found itself at this important juncture? Isn't that a big part of his job?
As Sunil Gulati prepares to make an important decision about Klinsmann's employment status, it is statements like this one that should be a cause for concern.
It's Time for a Change
Klinsmann should go. His time is up and there really is nothing to suggest he is the best person for the job heading into the now must-win games of 2017 that will determine if the U.S. goes to Russia.
Klinsmann’s hire was met with such optimism—he was supposed to be the man who would elevate the U.S. men's soccer program to another level. Now supporters are just hoping the team scrapes by to qualify for the World Cup out of CONCACAF—a feat that multiple coaches have achieved dating back to the 1980s.
The United States might not have a long history in the sport but American fans are smart. They know not to be reassured by Klinsmann’s claims that he is “1000% confident” the U.S. is going to qualify. Supporters are also right in seeing that while this team can eke out results here and there, there is nothing proactive, attractive, or engaging about the way the team has been playing in recent years. Fans are also right to feel insulted by Klinsmann’s recent comments. They know that this team is regressing and he doesn’t give the team its best shot to even make it to Russia.
It's time for a change. Klinsmann had his chance and he didn't get the job done. Enough.
Share your take in the Comments section below, soccer people.