USMNT Trashed in Costa Rica, #Klinsmannout?

The USMNT got thrashed by Costa Rica 4-nil last night to complete an embarrassing start to World Cup Qualifying.

In the last 16 months, Jurgen Klinsmann has steered the USMNT to an atrocious (and historically bad) 4th place finish in the Gold Cup, a failure to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, a loss in the CONCACAF Cup, back-to-back losses in the Hex (one a historic home loss to Mexico, and the other a ludicrous display). Yes he did manage to sandwich a surprising run to 4th place in the Copa America Centenario this past summer, but that sure looks like a slight hiccup on his runaway dumpster fire of a career.

If we’re lucky, Costa Rica’s Estadio Nacional may very well be Jurgen Klinsmann’s Waterloo (if you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll know I have favorite nouns and syntactical constructions. Some of my favorites are: “_____________, my favorite whipping boy,” and usually that blank is reserved for Caleb Porter or Klinsmann. But I also like “___________ was ___________’s Waterloo” as in Sporting Park was Sigi’s Waterloo). Seriously Klinsmann’s Waterloo feels about right. For those limited on their 19th Century European history, Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the First French Empire, lost the Battle of Waterloo thus ending almost two decades of a small man’s psychotic control over Europe. While Jurgen has abdicated Europe for sunny SoCal, he is a small man power tripping with US Soccer for what’s felt like 2 decades.

The wait may finally be over. Though all of our #jurgenout and #fireklinsmann cries have fallen on the deaf ears of US Soccer head Sunil Gulati, even Jurgen’s biggest apologist can’t deny the team has quit on the coach.


Things Fall Apart: The USMNT and a Shocking Upset

The USMNT plays Costa Rica tonight in San Jose, Costa Rica. And, after the second biggest shock of last week, things are not looking good for the United States.

The US were dramatically upset by Mexico on Friday. Having lost at home, in Columbus, birthplace of dos a cero, to our hated rival (more on that below), the USMNT is in a very early must-win game against the Ticos.

The CONCACAF schedulers started the Hex out with a bang. As I mentioned last post, the US plays the only other 2 winners of the Hex, Mexico and Costa Rica, in this tight window. We already failed our first test and, odds are, we fail tonight as well.

The Stars and Stripes will be hard pressed for a result in Estadio Nacional. We are 0-8-1 in Costa Rica, and the Ticos are on a tear, having won 5 straight international matches. Costa Rica is an organized, established team with a unique identity. They are a gritty, defense-first team and their 5-man backline was the talk of their unlikely World Cup 2014 run. The US, on the other hand, has an identity crisis.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a mess. He is a man banking on his past celebrity and his big name to cover his atrocious soccer mind. The man is a piss poor man-manager and an even worse tactician. He is just another blond blowhard who doesn’t deserve to be in a position of authority.

Jurgen, aside from again selecting an odd 11, put his men in a wacky 3-5-2 formation to start against Mexico. This was a lineup we hadn’t tried in nearly two years and results were as expected. A talented Mexican side attacked and easily found space around the disjointed and uncomfortable Yanks. We held on, despite an injury to Tim Howard, and were lucky to get into the break only down a goal.

Then things clicked. We regrouped to a comfortable shape and Bobby Wood went all medieval. The US enjoyed gorgeous ball movement, found the equalizer and, on a few occasions, very nearly the go-ahead goal. In the 89th minute, we were tied and looking good, until Rafa Marquez buried a set piece for the unlikely 2-1 win.

The result was frustrating, but zooming out it was a travesty. As Brian Straus at ESPN reports:

It not only was the Americans’ first loss in Columbus. It was the first home World Cup qualifying defeat since 2001—the run lasted 30 games—and the first home qualifying setback to Mexico since 1972.

Yes, that’s right. This was our first home WC Qualifying defeat since 2001, back when the shorts were baggy and Landon Donovan had hair (okay, he never had hair). The US had built a fortress and, for 15 years, always got a result at home.

Worse? The US was a bad abysmal soccer nation for decades. We failed to qualify for the World Cup from 1950 until 1990. For 40+ years we couldn’t punch our ticket and yet, from ‘72 on, we always got a result at home against Mexico, the clear-cut power in that era. One more time: for 40+ years we always got a result at home. That is until last night and Jurgen.

We, as US soccer fans, have taken to enjoying the narrative that the United States is an ascendant soccer power. We take heart in our recent string of advancing out of the Group in World Cup play, our, at times impressive, international ranking, and that famous, though musty now, Confederations Cup run in 2009. Even recently we had a very nice showing at the Copa America.

And yet I think we all have to admit: this is a major low point for US Soccer. This. Is. A Low. Point. For. US Soccer. We had just lost at home to Mexico last October in the CONCACAF Cup, and then followed that up with Friday’s shocking heart breaker.

As long as Jurgen is steward of the team, we’ll see boneheaded 18s, poor formations, and much bus-throwing-under. For many reasons, we gotta quit the ascendant America narratives.

Complicated Feelings for USMNT v Mexico

The United States Men’s National Team plays rival Mexico tonight in the opening round of the CONCACAF Hexagonal World Cup Qualifiers.

The Hex, for those less soccer literate, is the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. Six teams (hence Hex) all play each other in home and home series, totalling10 games for each team. The three teams with the highest point totals automatically qualify to represent the region in the following World Cup. The 4th place team advances to an interconference playoff.

The Hex is a year-long competition, lasting from this international break, 11/16, until 10/17. Only the US, Mexico and Costa Rica have won the competition since it’s inception in 1998, and the schedulers (and broadcasters) did the US no favors. We face Mexico and Costa Rica in this window. Starting off strong with a home win vs Mexico is key.



Home field advantage is very real, as studies have found that the roar of the home crowd objectively influences refs. Sounders fans don’t need to be reminded that in soccer this is especially profound, as the subjectivity of the ref can dramatically change a game (#geigered). One problem for the USMNT as it tries to become a world soccer power has been finding a stadium that feels like home when playing Mexico. Few cities overwhelming support the Stars and Stripes in this rivalry. Columbus, the birthplace of dos a cero and home to today’s match, is one of the few places where Mexican green doesn’t dominate the stands. In Columbus, the USA has never lost to Mexico.

Okay, I cannot act like this is easy to do, writing up this preview in a vacuum of political context. Tonight I will be cheering for America to beat Mexico because, of course, I want to see soccer grow in this country and the USMNT advance to the World Cup. However. In the heart of America, Mexicans will be facing a nation that elected a man who called them rapists. A man who threatens to build a wall, deport families, and jail immigrants. I find it very difficult to support America right now.

The reason the USMNT has a hard time finding homefield within its own borders is because of our inherent heterogeneity. We are a pluralist society. We were born of immigrants and two of our national touchstones, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Bell, epitomize inclusivity and tolerance. We celebrate a shared history and huge border with Mexico and that interchange of cultures is key to our American identity. Who doesn’t love burritos, piñatas, avocados and California? Some of our greatest cities were founded by Spaniards and stewarded by Mexico: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Albuquerque etc. What was once Mexico is now America, and vice versa. To imagine the United States could revert to something so white, intolerant and nativist is heartbreaking.

I lived in Los Angeles in early April 2002 when the US beat Mexico in a World Cup gearing-up friendly. Bush was president and the post-9/11 unity most Americans felt was waning. That spring we were already killing civilians in Afghanistan and the WMD rhetoric was just starting to percolate. Worse, Bush had recently declared he wouldn’t follow Geneva Conventions for enemy combatants captured in the fighting. I wasn’t as diehard a soccer supporter then, but I followed the sport. Being in L.A., I had more friends who supported Mexico in that match and, honestly, I felt bad for El Trí. I was ashamed of my country and embarrassed we won.

Things got more complicated that summer. The USMNT followed up that victory with one of the biggest wins in their history at the 2002 World Cup. We beat Mexico, dos-a-cero, in the Knockout Round for our signature win of the modern era. This all happened at the advent of the Bush Doctrine, and it greatly complicated my relationship to US soccer.

Tomorrow in the Heartland, it’s America against Mexico. In the afterbirth of Trump’s America, there’s little hope the feud stays on the pitch.

USMNT in the Semis!!

The USMNT played liked they gave a damn last night against Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals, earning only their 4th knockout win in a major tournament, ever.

It was the first time in a long time that the USMNT looked dominant. We belonged on the pitch against a quality foe. Lots to talk about and dissect. Today I leave you with this, poor spelling and all:

I'm not having second thoughts, yet.

I’m not having second thoughts, yet.

Copa America Nirvana: USMNT vs. Ecuador

Tonight in Sodo the USMNT host Ecuador in the initial game of the Copa America knockout round. And I’ll be there live for the thrilling capstone of my Seattle pack of games. As Mrs. Raving Green said shortly after Columbia fell to 2nd in Group A, “I feel like we won the Copa America lottery.” Tonight’s game is now the ticket to have.

After being wildly stoked for the Argentina game, the context of soccer in Seattle has shifted dramatically. Messi and Co. were somewhat of a disappointment on Tuesday, as Argentina handily dispatched an overwhelmed and underwhelming Bolivian side. Down 3-0 at the half, the Bolivians just bunkered. That was some pretty cynical football, to focus on not losing worse instead of trying to get one back( or, God forbid, earn a result). Of course I am jaded, as I would’ve liked to see a more open game.

The atmosphere was lackluster as well at the Argentina game. Sure, the stadium was packed to Sounders capacity at 45,000, but it was deathly quiet. The Peruvian supporters brought it the previous game with drums and a constant supporters section, and the stadium was barely a quarter full. But the USMNT in a knockout game of a major tournament in Seattle?? Tonight should be very, very different.

BOLD PREDICTION: Who saw the Stars and Stripes winning their group (especially after that ludicrous display against Columbia). Columbia totally slept on a CONCACAF foe and the Ticos made them pay (Hellz yeah Ticos! The end of the game was edge-of-the-seat-nail-biting action. Very rarely does the result of a soccer game physically affect your universe (your emotional and mental state, sure, but physically? Rarely.)). Though now I wish we’d placed second and faced Peru (the least deserving Group winner), as La Tricolor can play.

The Yanks should be fine as long as they hold steady. Losing Yedlin will hurt the attack, but could benefit the D. And our attack has been clicking lately. I am keeping my eyes, as is most everyone else in the American soccer cognoscenti, on John Brooks, who is absolutely having his coming out party. USMNT 2-1.

Now if only they’d fire Jurgen.

USMNT vs. Guatemala: Do or Die

The USMNT faces Guatemala in a must-win game today in Columbus, Ohio. Currently the US sits at third place in Group C in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. They sit behind Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. I repeat: they sit behind Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. If the Stars and Stripes can win today, they’ll be sitting pretty and looking to advance to the Hex, if they lose…. they are almost mathematically eliminated. How did we get to this point of desperation?

The USMNT has been in a wild funk lately. Remember rocking Ghana in Brazil? Remember Tim Howard standing on his head in an inspiring performance against Belgium? Remember when you felt good about the USMNT? I sure don’t.

Since demolishing Cuba 6-0 in the Quarterfinals of the Gold Cup last summer, the United States has been a sinking ship.

The USMNT is 1-4-1 since, with our only win over lowly St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ve lost some clunkers: to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semis, our first loss to them on US soil; and last Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Guatemala, our first loss in a 21-match unbeaten streak against Los Chapines). We’re also conceding the first goal in 9 of our 11 last matches.

One of those matches being the CONCACAF Cup at the Rose Bowl. That dispirited exercise resulting in a 3-2 to Mexico. The numbers are nicer to the game than it deserves, anyone who watched that game saw a listless American side thoroughly outplayed by El Tri. A win then would’ve expunged the poor Gold Cup performance and punched our ticket to the 2017 Confederations Cup (a tournament that we took silver in back in 2009). Instead we still wallow in eau de loser.

Today, the USMNT needs to beat Guatemala. We can beat Guatemala, but you just can’t take a US win to the bank anymore. In my entire conscious life as a soccer fan, the US has been dependable. Not great, but consistent. I was 4 the last time we missed a world cup (1986), and in the last 10 years we’ve been a power of CONCACAF.

The US made the semis in the 2002 World Cup and the Knockout Round in both 2010 and 2014. We’ve won 4 of the last 8 Gold Cups and qualified for 3 of the last 6 Confederations Cups. And yet now all that stands in jeopardy because of Jurgen Klinsmann.

Klinsmann has captained the ship like a drunk for almost 8 months now. His odd lineups and poor excuses keep piling up. Let’s hope we don’t have to suffer either this afternoon. A shame that. We have to rely on hope to beat Guatemala.

An Open Letter to Jurgen Klinsmann, Again

Good morning soccer fans. Welcome to the new reality, same as the old reality. The United States Men’s National Team is the joke of CONCACAF.

With the Stars and Stripes 2-0 loss last night to Guatemala, you may expect to see Tab soda, teased hair, VCRs and Pee Wee Herman. US Soccer hasn’t been this consistently awful since the 80s.

To better enumerate my feelings on the subject of Jurgen Klinsmann and the fate of the USMNT, I’d like to reacquaint you with a post I write almost two years.

Enjoy, An Open Letter to Jurgen Klinsmann.

USMNT Loses Again: #Jurgenout

The USMNT lost again last night.  An international friendly was the scene of the team’s latest embarrassment, 1-nil to Costa Rica. The Stars and Stripes are in more than a funk, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann is to blame.

Sure,the match wasn’t meaningful in a competitive measure and the Yanks only started a B+ lineup, but the state of the men’s game is now in full-blown panic. Many national sport writers are joining me on the #Jurgenout bandwagon. Starting with the lead up to Brazil and going into this weekend’s game, I’ve consistently expressed my supreme lack of faith in Klinsmann.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a snake oil salesman. He sells a shiny, positive vision of a dominant soccer team equipped with advanced metrics, technology and a psychological edge. He never delivers. He failed to do so at Bayern and now US Soccer. US Soccer President Sunil Gulati is so mesmerized by Jurgen’s pitch that he claims Saturday’s result has no bearing on Klinsmann’s job security. Normally back-to-back failures of this magnitude, the Gold Cup and CONCACAF Cup, gets your butt fired, just ask Bob Bradley.

Bob Bradley had an identical coaching record to Klinsmann in World Cups: 1-1-1 in the Group and an extra time loss in the Round of 16. Both played defensive, reactive styles of soccer and both lost the following year’s Gold Cup. Somehow Jurgen is still employed (and Bradley lost the Gold Cup to Mexico and still took silver, he didn’t bow out to a middling Jamaica squad and then finish fourth after squandering the 3rd place game.).

Jurgen Klinsmann is not only is failing win silverware, but is also wasteing a bumper crop of US soccer talent. Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidore (hell, even Landon Donovan) were in-prime studs last summer. The US sent its, arguably, best squad to a World Cup and did worse than an over-achieving 2002 team, and equal to a not-quite-ready-for-primetime 2010 team. Unless the young guns like DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green and company can really develop, it may be a while before we see a team as strong as 2014’s. And we have nothing to show for it.

Jurgen is also bad for his players physically and mentally. His affinity for “cutting-edge conditioning techniques” runs his teams ragged. As a Sounders fan, it’s obvious that Dempsey always comes back from USMNT duty a spent man. Even when we were a joke of a footballing nation, never once was the USMNT’s fitness questioned. But in light of allegations of harsh pre-competition training camps, the USMNT now tuckers out late in games.

We are establishing a habit of conceding late goals for the first time in its history. Saturday night’s loss, which was somehow close despite the run of play, is a testament to this. Before the end of regulation, Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson looked gas.

Mexico’s late goals can be attributed to both payers’ tired legs and sloppy defending. Johnson was directly responsible for Mexico’s second goal (Peralta beating Guzan to the opposite post). He had been leggy for a long while and, despite doing his best to play through it, but he couldn’t keep up. Jermaine Jones’s sloppy tackle gave El Tri the freekick in the 117th minute that started the sequence that clinched the game. Jurgen has yet to take responsibility for this unsettling tiring trend, and instead blames the US soccer culture or his players directly.

Jurgen is a narcissistic napoleon who plays mind games with his players. He’s already shattered the confidence of Omar Gonzalez, insulted Dempsey and Bradley, and now he’s throwing Fabian Johnson under the bus. Johnson took himself out of the game in extra time (see above, the man was cashed). Jurgen challenged him for doing so and kicked him out of USMNT camp. These are not the actions of a measured leader, let alone a competent coach.

We lost the Gold Cup. We won’t compete in the 2017 Confederations Cup. And yet… there is still time to get the ship righted before Russia 2018. #Jurgenout.


USMNT: The Days That Try Men’s Souls

The United States Men’s National team is at its lowest point in decades. More embarrassing than the faux denim kits of 1994 was our loss to Mexico in Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup.

In their biggest game since playing Belgium in the round of 16 at Brazil (and probably the most important US-Mexico game since 2002), the USMNT was thoroughly outclassed by their neighbor to the south, Mexico. The Yanks just let El Tri boss the game for large stretches. The possession was disgustingly lopsided. Mexico pushed a focused attacked that never let up while, while we barely held on. Once upon a time, a result like this was par for the course but the Yanks have since held a 3-0-3 record against Mexico. American supporters were getting used to a level of success and suddenly those expectations are very much in jeopardy.

The USMNT is suffering on the pitch, while soccer enjoys record success off it. I was temporarily out of the little soccer nirvana that is Seattle, visiting suburban D.C. for a friend’s wedding. Saturday night found us at a pre-nuptial’s festivity bowling. Amongst late college football games and booming music videos, the CONCACAF CUP played on 2 big screens at the bowling alley. I had expected a night of phone checking, but was thoroughly impressed.

Soccer is gaining traction in this country: the recent World Cup fever, the USWNT Olympic and World Cup victories, major EPL and Bundesliga TV deals, the rise of MLS and yet… the “flagship” team can’t beat Jamaica, Panama or Mexico when it matters? For soccer to hit its US tipping point, the USMNT must be successful. But potential soccer fans have been greeted with mediocrity on the pitch.

Let’s be real a second… the majority of Americans’ relationship to sporting teams is star-crossed. There’s a lot more suffering fans of Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Diego teams than the Yankees and Patriots. But when it comes to international competition, Americans expect success. The Stars and Stripes is a country of winners, be it basketball, gymnastics, hockey, or track.

Our lackluster soccer achievements have never been a problem because, you know, who cares about soccer? But that cognitive dissonance, stinking at the world’s game, while running the world, is finally ebbing. Many of us actually want to be good at soccer now. If the USMNT wants to capture the hearts and minds of US sports fans, losing key games in our region must end.


USMNT vs. Mexico: CONCACAF Cup Bold Prediction

This evening at the Granddaddy of them All, the Rose Bowl, the United States Men’s National Team faces off against Mexico in a one-game, winner-take-all match to decide the CONCACAF champion.

Both teams are bringing their “A” games. Jurgen has, thankfully, brought a top choice roster. Mexico’s interim manager, Ricardo Ferretti (who Sounders fans should remember as the coach of Tigres, whom Seattle beat in the 2013 CCL), has also brought a strong lineup despite injuries to key players. (Jose Juan Vasquez will be a key loss for El Tri). Neither team has been on its form as of late, but this rivalry brings out in the bets in North American soccer. Expect a wild one.

An addendum to yesterday’s post: After the USMNT barely bested a poor Peruvian side, Bob Ernisse, my partner on the Wrong Color Green podcast, and I had a disagreement about how best to support the Stars and Stripes. I said I was cheering for the US to lose a friendly ’cause I wanted Jurgen publicly censured. I want the US Soccer Federation to get the clue that he is bad for the USMNT and the development of the game in our country. Well.. Bob said I was being a traitor, that I should cheer on the team come hell or high water. That is a very short-term view.

I love the Stars and Stripes and feel our national team would be better served with a different coach. Why do we want a coach who blames poor performances on “conditioning” when the US has historically been among the best conditioned teams in international soccer? A coach who actively insults his best players’ decisions to ply their trade at home? A coach who openly holds that domestic league in contempt. A coach who lobbies young American phenoms, like Jordan Morris, to go to Europe where “the development is better.” Why do we want a coach who repeatedly fails to put his players in a position to succeed? Why do we want a coach who stewards America’s first loss to a CONCACAF opponent before the final of the Gold Cup for the first time in our history? Tell me that.

If losing friendlies now gets Klinsmann fired sooner (than say after an embarrassing flop in 2018), I feel that’s the best course of action for soccer in this country. Though, today, with so much on the line. I’ll suffer a media cycle or two of Jurgen love, if the Yanks can get past Mexico. Winning today allows the USMNT to compete at the highest level against the very best national teams in the Confederations Cup. That is something I always want to see.

Bold Prediction: This is a tough one to call. Klinsmann hasn’t exactly been Mr. Predictable. This is a strong roster and hopefully, Klinsmann makes a logical selection. I am really just shooting in the dark here, but I think we really want this. The Gold Cup was embarrassing and we have some proud, proud men on this team. Both teams will play close, waiting for the other to screw up. This is heated and a rivalry, and I think things get wild. I want to say Dos a Cero but we’d only be so lucky. I’m calling 3-2 Yanks, with a PK for good measure.

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