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U.S. Soccer doesn’t have to fire Klinsmann (But we get it if they do)


Patrick Smith

Did one of the most disappointing days in United States Soccer history seal the fate of Jurgen Klinsmann as U.S. Soccer mastermind?

His detractors will call the 3-2 loss to Mexico in Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup final the last and most painful nail in Klinsmann’s coffin.

His supporters? They can only shrug and claim the hammer’s bad, or the nails are crooked.

[ MATCH RECAP: Mexico 3-2 (aet) USMNT ]

“Let us run to the hardware store. It’ll only take a year. The Copa America Centenario is next summer and we’ll have some nails if you need them after that’s over and done with, but maybe you won’t?”

The United States doesn’t need to fire its head coach, but we doubt there’s anyone who can make a case it would be unjust (It’s unlikely he will be fired, for what it’s worth).

Klinsmann made a big show of saying the Gold Cup mattered, and qualifying for the Confederations Cup was imperative.

After going out in the semis of the former, and getting embarrassed by Mexico in the latter, it’s hard to imagine he can make a case for keeping his job or -- at the very least -- fulfilling any of his 2015 goals.

There’s something poetic about 2.Bundesliga striker Bobby Wood nearly rescuing the game for Klinsmann. Wood is the fulfillment of his coach’s thesis statement, that there are players out there who need just a bit more time to develop than you, the average soccer fan, understands.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings from a beat down in California ]

At the root of the American soccer problem is Klinsmann as a head coach. Maybe he’s got the right idea as a technical director. He certainly recruits players like a champ.

Yet Klinsmann has found himself outfoxed as tactician, time and again. This time, it was a Mexican caretaker manager keeping the seat warm for Juan Carlos Osorio.

Even when he gave fans what they wanted, essentially the same lineup as the World Cup group stage, it failed them and him.

In fact, this loss feels a lot like the loss that got Bob Bradley canned, the 4-2-fall-from-ahead Gold Cup final loss to Mexico, and Bradley had a heck of a lot on his U.S. resume.

[ WATCH: Three extra time goals in a wild USMNT loss ]

U.S. Soccer needed an overhaul in its development, and the German machine combined with American athleticism sure seemed like the right way to go.

But in terms of man management, of in-game play, Klinsmann has not been the man to implement it. Many of his big wins have come by last-minute heroics more than 90-minute control.

He hasn’t thrilled in player selection, but he’s mostly used the best ingredients available to him to make wildly inconsistent meals.

Does U.S. Soccer need to fire Klinsmann? No. But the case for keeping him is wobbly, and hardly keeping any of the water its carrying. The seeming Olympic flameout won’t help.

[ MATCH RECAP: Yanks’ Olympic hopes take terrific blow vs. Honduras ]

There’s a friendly against Costa Rica in New Jersey on Tuesday, one that will be uncomfortable at best. After that, World Cup qualifiers start in November, and the U.S. looked nothing like a Hex dominator on Saturday.

Maybe it’s time.

Follow @NicholasMendola