Even? No. But Klinsmann right to see positives in loss to Colombia

USMNT Jurgen Klinsmann

by PATRICK MacDONALD

Op-Ed: I’m not a Jurgen Klinsmann fan. No seriously, I’m not a fan.

However, I’m actually going to defend the man today.

Let’s be clear: his management this past Friday night was far from perfect. Whether it be his side’s lack of attacking urgency, their out of sync passing, or his experiment of putting forwards at wing that seems to work in friendlies, but never comes together when the games get real, the man’s certainly not a master tactician.

But he did get one thing right: his positive spin on a 2-0 loss to Colombia.

Seriously!

“[The media] put the bench mark on the results, but playing [Colombia], who they are and the quality they have, we were absolutely even,” Klinsmann said. “It was a totally even game here.

“Obviously the penalty decision was a major point in this game but it is what it is,” Klinsmann said. “You can’t change it any more. He gave him a penalty. He didn’t give any in the second half to Clint but that’s the referees decision.”

Now was it a “totally even” encounter? Hardly. But it wasn’t the blowout perceived by so many people in the wake of Friday’s result.

Clear your mind of the instinctual Klinsmann hate for a moment and look at Friday’s encounter for what it was. As Klinsmann hints, this was a match that could have been a 2-2 draw if not for two nice saves by Colombia. Hell, take out the Colombian set pieces and you have a 2-0 victory.

Isn’t that a major positive? Something many seemingly have forgotten as they frothed at the mouth Friday night is that Colombia is the number three team in the world. Does anyone remember last year’s Gold Cup when CONCACAF minnows were running the U.S. off the field? To not give up a goal from the run of play against Colombia is a hell of an accomplishment, especially for a defense that, for the better part of two years, looks like it’s been playing on roller skates.

The defensive progress is all because Klinsmann finally seems to have decided on a backline. He seems to finally have realized the err in his ways of the rotating centerbacks, starting Cameron in his regular club spot, and a much improved John Brooks next to him. Ditching the Yedlin-in-an-advanced-role experiment and utilizing the youngsters true talents is also paying dividends. The result is a backline manned by regulars of the Premier League and Bundesliga — something many national teams can only dream of.

Yes, Fabian Johnson playing out of position at left back is the one drawback. His best national team performances have come on the wing. And with the way the U.S. attacked on Friday, there is an argument he may be needed up top. However, he’s also the best left back in the U.S. player pool.

The hard truth is left back has never been a position of strength for the U.S. Once upon a time, Liga MX benchwarmer Jonathan Bornstein actually started two World Cup matches because the U.S. was so thin at the position. Perhaps one day, Brek Shea can finally realize his full potential and nail down the role. For now, it’s either Johnson or Edgar Castillo — and I’m going with the former.

Now Klinsmann wasn’t the only one who had arrows slung his way. The other familiar whipping boy for U.S. fans — Major League Soccer — also took it’s fair share of lumps, specifically, for what the league has supposedly done to Michael Bradley.

Don’t know if you’ve heard, but he sucks now.

Please, just stop.

Michael Bradley had a bad match Friday night, no doubt about it, but it’s not the continuation of poor national team form brought on by playing in MLS — a tired narrative trotted out by those who refuse to believe the league is improving. It’s just one bad game. All players have them, and Michael Bradley was well overdue. Yes, Bradley has been “bad” for the U.S. for the better part of two years. But aside from the last couple of games, a majority of those matches were spent in a #10 role — not his strongest position. Now that Bradley is in a more natural six role, Friday night’s match will prove to be the exception to the rule.

Mark it down.

Of course, third best team in the world or not, losing still sucks. But there is still a silverlining here. After all, everything since Friday night has gone the U.S.’ way. Paraguay and Costa Rica fought to a listless draw with neither defense looking fearsome, managing to keep the match scoreless on the back of inept offense. The two teams botched chances the U.S. would bury. Despite the opening loss, six points doesn’t look far fetched based on the display produced Saturday.

With second place always the likely landing spot for the USMNT, they now seem destined for a date with Brazil in the quarterfinals. Even that spectre of doom took a hit Saturday as Brazil and Ecuador played to a 0-0 draw — draw that many are arguing should have been an Ecuador W if not for a bad call negating a goal.

Let’s not forget, only a week and a half ago, the U.S. defeated Ecuador soundly in it’s second Copa tuneup. That should give fans some hope should the U.S. make the knockout stages.

So what can Klinsmann change to ensure six points? He can certainly improve his lineup selection, but at the same time, it would be a massive mistake to blow the whole thing up and start over. Constant roster turnover has been nothing but detrimental to the U.S., and would be a disaster at this stage in tournament. This isn’t FIFA 16 and God is not at the controller ensuring victory.

Therefore it makes sense to change it up at the position of biggest need — the wing. He maybe 17, but it’s time to give Pulisic a start. Gyassi Zardes and Bobby Wood are not wingers. Even getting one true winger out there can make a world of difference. Take the age out of the equation and Pulisic gives you a regular starter from the Bundesliga’s second place side. One change for now is all you need. An overhaul could result in taking two steps back for every step forward.

Again, Klinsmann is immensely flawed. But over the past few friendlies and on Friday night, he’s got it about as right as he ever has. Of course, he has a penchant for changing on the fly and he could very well hurt the U.S. with a bizarre lineup shift in the coming matches. Should he do that and fail to escape the group stage, it will be time to cut ties, as it had been after the Gold Cup, CONCACAF Cup, and that listless loss to Guatemala. After all, Klinsmann publicly set a goal of the semifinals for this tournament. Failure to escape the group would be a catastrophe.

Then again, the guy is teflon. He’ll keep his job regardless. Not like it matters since the discussion will never come to that. The U.S. will escape the group and have a chance at a favorable quarterfinal matchup.

In short, there is still reason to believe.


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  • Truthsauce

    Good read but … It seems that every single piece about USMNT is always about JK, what he should’ve or could’ve done. That’s cool. But why o why do USA soccer media refuse to talk single the players? You know, the folks on the pitch. I gave not read one thing calling Cameron out for his inexcusable falling asleep. Not one. It seems the media is literally protecting these boys, refusing to allow them to grow up. If you can’t hold the RIGHT folks accountable no football fan who knows just a little about the game will take you or any USA media seriously.

    • The Truth

      I agree! Just once I want to see Michael Bradley called on the carpet for his poor passing.

    • Dogn Tarn

      Klinsmann is in the spotlight regardless! Because he’s supposed to be in the spotlight.
      He can only be the generous or the big failure. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      Klinsmann has more players in the top divisions of the world than any previous coaches. MLS is still suck, but MLS is far better than 5-10 years ago. Klinsmann must produce much better result (that is according to logic)!

      In the past, the USMNT was suck big time; but there was always the “fighting spirit”. Players were fighting until they collapsed on the field. They accepted the fact that Brazil can rape them, Germany will do three-some on them, others will do anal or doggy style with them blah blah. But they will get up and fight!!!!!!!

      Now a day, the USMNT was less suck (but still suck); however, we LOST the “fighting spirit” entirely.

      However, I still believe in what Klinsmann said “take two steps back, and one step forward”. Which implies that the USMNT will suffer, will have many many bad bad bad games/tournament, before it produces one GOOD game/tournament.

      And in order to accomplish that, t would take sometimes. For how long? Hell knows.


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