By Alex Baker
LOS ANGELES – After a dispiriting 0-2 loss away to Guatemala on Friday night, the USMNT heads into Tuesday’s second leg in Columbus in need of a victory to keep its World Cup qualification on course. While a win Friday could’ve paved the way for automatic entry into the Hexagonal round, the U.S. instead suffered its first loss to Guatemala since 1988.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s constant tinkering with lineups and formations has brought about a pervading sense of in-cohesiveness that was clearly on display Friday. Admittedly, part of the problem can be put down to injuries to key players like John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Matt Besler.
But it’s the decisions to deploy players like DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco out of position that have left pundits and fans perplexed. The margin for error for making it into the Hex is getting pretty slim. And yet Klinsmann – who won the 1990 World Cup with Germany as a player – still persists with the incessant lineup tinkering he’s been engaged in, basically since he took charge back in 2011.
When the 2014 World Cup came around, the former German national team manager seemed to have a good idea of what his best lineup was and largely stuck with it as he led the U.S. out of the Group of Death. But that accomplishment is fast fading into the middle-distance, and the U.S. could soon be treading dangerous waters in terms of qualifying for Russia 2018.
With only four points from three matches, the Americans are third in a group from which only the top two teams will pass to the next round.
The debate around whether Klinsmann remains the right man to take the U.S. forward is raging louder than ever at the moment. Being humiliated by a team ranked 95th in the world by FIFA does little to aid his case.
It would be hyperbole to call Tuesday a ‘must-win.’ But a win would go a long way toward not just getting qualification back on track, but restoring confidence and morale. Let’s hope Jurgen Klinsmann can start off with getting his lineup straight.
Photo by John Dorton.