LOS ANGELES – LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is rumored to be in the frame to replace United States men’s national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann after the Yanks suffered their second consecutive loss in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday. Klinsmann’s team followed up Friday night’s 2-1 loss to Mexico with a humiliating 4-0 loss to Costa Rica that could most accurately be described as a rout.
Even though the German tactician shifted back from the controversial 3-5-2 formation he’d deployed against Mexico to a more familiar 4-4-2, the U.S. were outplayed by a Costa Rica side that never for a moment looked as if it were out of its comfort-zone.
During the course of the 90 minutes played out at Estadio Nacional in Costa Rican capitol of San Jose, the U.S. managed but one shot on goal to the hosts’ nine.
In the wake of the loss Arena, who was previously in charge of the USMNT from 1998 to 2006, has been heavily linked with a return to the job.
While there have been widespread calls from fans and media figures for Klinsmann to be fired after a worst ever start to the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying, U.S. Soccer head Sunil Gulati refused to be drawn on whether the curtain would be brought down on Klinsmann’s tenure.
“We won’t make any decisions right after games,” said Gulati to Reuters. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation.”
However, with a four-month break before qualifying resumes, now would seemingly be an ideal time to replace Klinsmann. The 52-year-old, who won the World Cup with Germany as a player, has had an up-and-down tenure in charge of the U.S. He famously led the Yanks out of the Group of Death at the 2014 World Cup, registered wins in friendlies over powerhouses like Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, and spearheaded a good showing in last summer’s Copa America.
On the other hand, the U.S. failed miserably in 2015’s Gold Cup and lost out on a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Throughout his time with the U.S. Klinsmann has been dogged by criticisms he’s failed to truly take the team forward or build a team with any kind of recognizable style or consistency.
Critics would point to his 3-5-2 against Mexico on Friday as evidence of his tendency to tinker and experiment at inopportune times.
More worrying perhaps was the nature of Tuesday’s loss to Costa Rica. Even in the more familiar 4-4-2 formation, the U.S. looked flaccid in attack and uncomfortable in defense. Indeed, there were few positives to take from Tuesday’s loss, despite the U.S. boosting a player pool that’s arguably as good as it’s been at any time during Klinsmann’s time with the team.
While it’s true that the U.S. has never won on the road against Costa Rica, the humiliating nature of Tuesday’s loss did not suggest that this is a team ready to kick on and qualify for Russia 2018.
Rumors amongst well-placed media sources are circulating in the blogosphere about Arena being lined up as a replacement. The Galaxy boss led the U.S. to its best ever showing in a World Cup, a quarterfinal finish in 2002.
Arena, 65, is out of contract with the Galaxy. Although sources close to the club expect him to renew, the question of whether he can be lured back into the national team frame is an intriguing one.
Whatever happens regarding Arena, it does seem that Jurgen Klinsmann has taken this team about as far as he can. The hope among all but the most myopic of Klinsmann fan boys is that Gulati and the Federation will take advantage of the break in qualifying and appoint a replacement.
Written by Alex Baker. Photo by ISI.