US Soccer announced on Monday afternoon that Jurgen Klinsmann, manager and technical director of the US men’s national team, has been fired from his positions. Klinsmann, in charge since July 2011, was let go after the USMNT made their worst-ever start in the World Cup Qualifying hexagonal stage, in which they lost their first two games by a combined 6-1.
Losses at home against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, and away at Costa Rica, in which the team seemed to quit in the second half of a 4-0 defeat, were apparently the final straws that cost Klinsmann his post. With just 8 games remaining to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the US is in the bottom spot in the hexagonal, level with Trinidad and Tobago with zero points, but with a worse goal differential.
“While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction” US Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a press release. “With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup.”
In his five years at the helm, Klinsmann oversaw one World Cup, two CONCACAF Gold Cups, and this summer’s special edition of the Copa America. The US did well to get out of their World Cup group in 2014 against Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, but the Americans were ousted in the Round of 16 by Belgium. While escaping a tough group was an accomplishment, the Americans were out-shot and arguably out-played in every single game. Tim Howard set a new World Cup record for saves in the knockout round match against Belgium.
And after winning the 2013 Gold Cup, the US had their worst-ever finish in a Gold Cup in 2015, finishing in 4th place. Klinsmann’s side had little trouble qualifying out of their group, but a loss to Jamaica in the semifinals was the first time that the US had ever lost to the Reggae Boyz on American soil. That performance was followed up days later as the US fell in penalties to Panama in the third place game.
A chance then to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup - something Klinsmann emphasized as vital whenever asked - was wasted, as the US lost 3-2 in extra time to Mexico in October 2015, with Mexico advancing to Russia in 2017.
An opening game loss to Colombia in this year’s Copa Centenario was cause for concern, but the US responded with wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay to finish top of their group on goal differential. The US then held off Ecuador 2-1 in the quarterfinals, before getting lambasted by Argentina 4-0 in the semifinals.
Klinsmann got the US through the previous round of World Cup qualifying, but even that came with problems. A poor performance at Guatemala saw the USMNT make history again, with their first-ever competitive loss against Los Chapines. With the narrow margins in CONCACAF’s fourth round, the US faced a near must-win game just to get into the Hexagonal.
A switch in formation to a 352 that had been used for just 45 minutes in Klinsmann’s reign saw the US played off the field in the first half against Mexico. A return to a more familiar 442 helped the US back into the game, but Rafa Marquez’s late header doomed the US to their first home loss against El Tri in generations. That was followed by a loss in Costa Rica that could have easily been worse than the 4-0 scoreline indicates.
A replacement for Klinsmann at either position has not been named yet, though many outlets are reporting that former USMNT boss Bruce Arena will return to the program.