For the first time in my life, I saw something "blow up" on Twitter. Mainly because I've only had an account for the better part of a week however, and since I am only following soccer websites, writers and analysts, the bombshell that was dropped on the USMNT was bound to get noticed.
That bombshell came from AOL Sporting News' Brian Straus. It is one of the [single greatest peices of journalism] I've ever read. In fact, I want you to stop reading this stupid blog and go read it if you haven't already. Click the link. Then comeback and finish this. Here's the link again.
Just about every major soccer website in the USA has been reacting to this story since it came out yesterday afternoon. There are a lot of varying opinions but I hope mine is a simple one. Jurgen Klinsmann is, as of right now, on the hot seat. And his preperation style must change. Immeadiately. Not his player selection (save for one defender...), not his line-ups (as long as it's a 4-4-2), but establishing a gameplan for qualifiers needs to happen. Now.
For those of you saying that it's just a bunch of unnamed sources, this is 22 unnamed players (a minimum of 11 players in MLS), staff and others associated with the USMNT. This is not a few poeple airing dirty laundry about Jurgen Klinsmann, this is not a case of if there's smoke there's fire. This is a full blown, 10-alarm blaze that is threatening the USA's qualification for the 2014 World Cup.
The most alarming part of all of this appears to be Klinsmann's general lack of tactics. I'm pretty sure that most of the players in camp are getting conditioning and nutritional help from their club teams. National teams have only a few short days/practices to decide on a formation and gameplan for an upcoming qualifier or friendly. So if all this talk about Klinsmann spending time on condidtioning (January camp aside, where I'd expect some conditioning work for the MLS guys in the offseason) and other "non-soccer" stuff is true, then the USA could be staring at one point in The Hex through three games.
That is a far cry from the heightened expectations Klinsmann put on the USMNT when he took the job. He wanted to change the USA into a more technically skilled side, much like his 2006 Germany team that finished third in the World Cup. And Klinsmann does bring up some good points in this article, some like these changes won't happen overnight and some that I think are lost in translation. When Klinsmann says he wants the USA to play like Spain, I want to believe that Klinsmann means he wants the USA to play at the level of Spain. And four years ago, the USA did just that. How? By being tactically organized, playing good defense, countering well and finishing the few chances they get.
It was called boring soccer. Bob Bradley soccer. It was the soccer Klinsmann want to get away from. It was the type of soccer that the USA could never win a World Cup playing. It's also the soccer that the USA is the best at. Why? Because that's the type of players we have. We don't have a Lionel Messi type player and the USA might never have a player like that. You can't change the talent pool that you have right now. Right now, you have the best generation of players the USA has ever had in its history. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra. Theses guys have been playing for the better part of the last decade. You're not chaging what they are, what the USMNT is right now. What you have is a very technically sound group of players who when organized, are very tough to beat. And I think up until recently, the rest of the world knew it. Not anymore. Not after struggling in the semifinal round of CONCACAF vs. Jamaica and Guatemala. Not after Brian Straus' bombshell.
I said before this tournament started that the USA needed four points from it's first three games. Draw at Honduras, Win vs. Costa Rica, Loss at Mexico. Basically, defend your home turf and sneak results on the road when you can. The USA started with the three hardest opponents in the region and two of those games on the road. This is about the worst case scenario to start qualifying from. Add in Landon Donovan's sabbatical, Tim Howard's injury and the first choice defense being unavailable, and perhaps we shouldn't be shocked if the USA has one point through three games.
With all this being said, the fact remains that the USMNT will have to survive this story and survive the next two qualifiers. That's all I can ask them to do right now. It's early enough in The Hex to where I'm not going to push the panic button immeadiately after the USA doesn't win against Costa Rica. But this needs to be a wake up to Klinsmann and the rest of the USMNT coaching staff. Pick a formation (here's a hint, it's a 4-4-2) and give players defined roles. If that means Dempsey is going to be up front as a striker, fine. If that means Eddie Johnson is a left midfielder, fine. But that means they should be practing at that position leading up to the game.
If for some reason this blog should find the USMNT and/or Jurgen Klinsmann, I have a message for you. Or rather, Carlos Bocanega does, who [posted on his Facebook page.] I don't care about Bocanegra's form with Racing Santander (whom he hasn't played for in almost two months), that man is the captain of the USMNT. And Klinsmann had better get him back into the squad for the June qualifiers.
That is if Sam's Army doesn't run him out of town by next week.