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U.S. NATIONAL TEAM

November 21, 2016
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE OLD
Arena expected to replace Klinsmann

By Michael LewisBigAppleSoccer.com Editor

Jurgen Klinsmann isn't laughing too much today after he was given the pink slip by U.S. Soccer.
Jurgen Klinsmann isn't laughing too much today after he was given the pink slip by U.S. Soccer.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The tumultuous tenure and reign of error of Jurgen Klinsmann is over.

Klinsmann, the former World Cup winner with Germany, was fired as head coach and technical director Monday after the United States dropped its opening two matches of the CONCACAF hexagonal of World Cup qualifying.

Former U.S. coach Bruce Arena, a Franklin square, N.Y. native who guided the Americans to a pair of World Cups, including into the 2002 quarterfinals, will be named Klinsmann's successor as early as Tuesday, according to sources.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati decided to make the decision after the Americans dropped the first two games of the CONCACAF hexagonal of World Cup qualifying earlier this month. They lost to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio Nov. 11 before they were humiliated by the Ticos in Costa Rica four days later, 4-0.

"Today we made the difficult decision of parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann, our head coach of the U.S. men’s national team and technical director," Gulati said in a statement.

"We want to thank Jurgen for his hard work and commitment during these last five years. He took pride in having the responsibility of steering the program, and there were considerable achievements along the way."

During the thrashing in San Jose, Costa Rica, the USA performed in the second half as though it had given up. It appeared that Klinsmann had lost the team.

That result placed the Americans last among the six final teams for Russia 2018 with a minus five goal differential, behind Trinidad & Tobago.

The USA's next qualifier is at home against Honduras at a venue to be determined before the team travels to Panama four days later.

The two losses turned out to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

While he guided the Americans to the 2014 World Cup, he left a string of controversies and underwhelming performances.

Among them:

* Leaving U.S. soccer icon Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup.

* Finishing fourth at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, after less than quality performances and results against Jamaica in the semifinals and Panama in the third-place match. It was the worst finish by a USA team at a Gold Cup it has hosted.

* Losing the CONCACAF Cup to Mexico in October 2015, which determined which country would represent the confederation at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup

* Tinkering with his lineups way too much. Across his tenure, Klinsmann would change lineups and move players in and out of the lineup.

In a Sunday interview with The New York Times, Klinsmann, sounding desperate, criticized and insulted American soccer fans.

"I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann was quoted by the newspaper. “What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional, and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport. I still believe we will get the points we need to qualify, and I am even confident we could win the group.

“The fact is, we lost two games. There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”

The last two games showed Klinsmann's weaknesses. In the Mexico loss, the first time the Americans lost to El Tri in five matches in Columbus, Ohio, Klinsmann deployed a 3-5-2 formation in the opening half before resorting back to his usual 4-4-2 in the second half. In the Costa Rica defeat, the team looked lost in the second half.

Named U.S. coach July 29, 2011, Klinsmann compiled a 55-27-16 mark. In 2013, he guided the team on a record-setting 12-game winning streak, the longest in its history. The 16 victories and .761 winning percentage in 2013 are all-time U.S. men's national team marks in a calendar year. The Americans advanced out of the Group of Death and reached the Round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup. They took fourth place in Copa America Centenario this past summer.

"Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes," Gulati said. "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.

"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. 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.

"There has never been a greater time for soccer in this country, and with the support and efforts of the millions of fans, sponsors, media and friends, we look forward to continued progress in the game we all love."

In Arena, the USA will get an experienced coach who has been there and done that -- twice in fact.

The Brooklyn-born Arena directed the red, white and blue to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, doing a masterful job putting out a viable Starting XI despite injuries and suspensions. The Americans were eliminated by Germany, 1-0, on a controversial hand ball.

The USA did not fare as well in 2006, as it went out in three games in Germany. Arena was not retained for a third cycle and left under acrimonious terms with Gulati. Obviously, a decade can bury old wounds.

After his national team stint, Arena signed with the Red Bulls only weeks after the USA was eliminated. His stay in New York did not last very long as he was bounced after the 2007 season. After some time as a TV analyst, Arena returned to coaching in 2008, taking over the Galaxy reins.

Arena attended Nassau Community College and Cornell University. He eventually hooked up with the University of Virginia, where he led the Cavaliers to five NCAA Division I championships. That success led to Major League Soccer. Arena directed D.C. United and the LA Galaxy to a total of five titles, most recently in 2014.
 
 
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