US Soccer has fired its national team coach and technical director Jürgen Klinsmann on Monday.
The decision itself does not come as a surprise, given the two humiliating defeats (2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 away to Costa Rica) that the team started the final round of World Cup qualifying with. The surprise is in the timing, about two weeks after the matches in question.
Nonetheless, these two games once again exposed Klinsmann’s tactical incompetence. He tried formations that the players were not suited for and played some of them out of position.
There certainly are times for coaches to try new ideas. But the start of the final round of World Cup qualifying, against one’s biggest two regional rivals is not one of those times. His biggest mistake of all was to lash out at his players publiclly after the Mexico encounter.
The charge of tactical incompetence is not one made out of the blue. Former players of Jürgen Klinsmann both from the German national team and Bayern Munich (his only two previous coaching jobs), have said the same thing.
Most prominent among them, Philipp Lahm who roughly stated in his memoir that the now-departed US coach focused too much attention on fitness in training and too little of it on tactics. There are rumors of other ex-players saying that Klinsmann does not understand tactics.
Despite all the negatives, there is no doubt that the coach has made an attempt to radically change his teams and to make them adopt a different soccer philosophy.
As US Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in his statement about the decision to relieve Klinsmann of his duties,” He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.”
There is a tendency in American soccer circles to embellish his accomplishments. He has led the US national team to historic victories, away to Mexico, against Germany and vs. the Netherlands, but those were all meaningless friendlies.
The team also advanced from the group stage at the 2014 World Cup, but that group was by no means “the Group of Death, “that many claim it was.
Many American analysts also said that he had paved the way to the German national team’s current success while he was there.
This too is false; in fact, the German soccer association had started a bottom-up rebuilding process after their group stage exit at EURO 2000. Klinsmann personally had quite little to do with that, during his time there from 2004 to 2006.
His disastrous run as Bayern Munich coach, which lasted less than a full season also shows that he is overrated here.
In terms of the job Jürgen Klinsmann has done with the US from the summer of 2011 to now, it will probably go down in history as mediocre.