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Michael Lewis

March 26, 2016
Klinsmann era has been a failure and it's time for him to go

By Michael Lewis Editor

USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is under fire after the USA's performance and result in Guatemala City.
USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is under fire after the USA's performance and result in Guatemala City.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The last time I looked, Jurgen Klinsmann still was head coach of the United States national team.

That's too bad, because he should have been replaced over the winter.

The Americans' descent into World Cup qualifying hell was well documented with a confounding 2-0 loss at Guatemala Friday night. It was the first time in 13 tries that the Central Americans prevailed over the red, white and blue.

Yes, two mistakes were turned into goals and the Guatemalan goalkeeper, Paulo Motta, stood on his head.

Well, that's what soccer is all about -- not making mistakes, stupid mistakes, and finding ways to beat the opposing keeper.

When a team must chase the game, it plays differently. Sometimes players force the issue, try too hard and with so much pressure, fail to convert their opportunities as opposed to if the game was level.

How monumental was the loss?

On the road, the USA traditionally will lose qualifiers to Mexico and Costa Rica and even sometimes to Honduras. The Americans will find ways to accrue points on the road against other Central American and Caribbean teams and Canada.

Let's put Friday night's result into perspective:

* The USA, which has grown into a CONCACAF power, has qualified for seven consecutive World Cups, starting in 1990, Guatemala has never been to the big dance.

* The Americans had their 21-game unbeaten streak against Guatemala come to a halt.

* At times, the game reminded me it was being played in San Jose, Costa Rica, rather than in Guatemala City.

As we all know, this is not a one-time deal. The national team's malaise started last summer during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, when the USA lost to a Caribbean team on American soil for the first time in decades in the semifinals.

Klinsmann had excuses for that debacle and I will not waste space delineating them.

The Americans were outplayed in a one-shot playoff loss to Mexico for a ticket to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Then came a 6-1 home qualifying win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a scoreless draw at Trinidad & Tobago, which has taken on greater significance now that the USA has dropped into third place in Group C. The top two teams in the group will advance to the hex (incidentally, the Americans' final two semifinal-round matches will be played at St. Vincent and at home against T&T, which on paper the USA should accrue points, but now, who knows?).

In case you were wondering, the last time the USA failed to advance to the hex was during qualifying for the 1986, when the Costa Ricans branded a 1-0 defeat on the Americans in Torrance, Calif. in 1985. Since then the USA has dropped only one qualifier at home, a wild and crazy 3-2 setback to Honduras in Washington, D.C. in 2001, a confrontation that kicked off in the morning due to TV conflicts with college football.

Bottom line:

I can't believe this has to said for a semifinal round home match that doesn't have any of the traditional CONCACAF powers such as Mexico and Costa Rica:

Anything but a win cannot be tolerated. A draw will be considered a defeat, especially in the stadium that has given us four dos a cero qualifying wins against El Tri since 2001.

And heaven, forbid, should the USA drop that game.

With Copa America Centenario on the horizon, the powers that be at U.S. Soccer want a good showing -- ie. not be embarrassed -- which would mean at least a second-round finish in the group to reach the quarterfinals.

If a team is playing poorly and in disarray against CONCACAF competition, how will it fare against the likes of Colombia, Uruguay and Costa Rica come June?

In 2011, I thought that Klinsmann would bring the team to greater heights and improve the level of the team.

Sorry, I have not seen it in 4 1/2 years.

The Jurgen Klinsmann era has been a failure and it is time for him to go.
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