Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest comments on USMNT criticism shows how delusional he can be

Jurgen Klinsmann has had differing opinions on people who criticize the US Men’s National Team and US Soccer. On one hand, Klinsmann seems to welcome criticism because it shows that more and more Americans are interested and he can turn that criticism into a positive to find out where the team needs to improve. On the other hand, Klinsmann doesn’t think highly of people criticizing him and accounts that with a lack of soccer intelligence among those who follow American soccer. Now, Klinsmann’s latest comments really take things to another level.

In this video provided by US Soccer and posted by Yahoo, Klinsmann goes on the offensive on those who dare criticize him and the team. Throughout his response, in which he takes no responsibility as to why the USMNT entered World Cup Qualifying on their worst run since 1976 and worst home losing streak against CONCACAF teams since 1965, he says it’s “immature” and “wrong” when people claim things are wrong based on a few games.

Here is the entire transcript of Klinsmann’s comments, transcribed by Yahoo:

“I think we can be proud of ourselves in what we’ve done so far, the last couple of years – in ALL age groups. I think this is what a lot of people unfortunately forget quickly. Because suddenly we came out of the Group of Death in Brazil, I don’t know, people now expect maybe miracles, expect you to get easily into the final four of a World Cup or final eight, or have our Under-20s win the World Cup in New Zealand or our Under-17s win the World Cup in Chile. And that’s not gonna happen. Because this is only a process that over many, many years will hopefully one day end in big, big successes.

“All of our programs made big strides, made big steps forward, and this is something where our coaches like a Tab Ramos and Andi Herzog with the 23s right now or even a Richie Williams [with the Under-17s] that was eliminated in the first round in Chile – which was the most, by far the most, difficult group he was in – and now we’re going through a tremendous learning experience and brought our players to another level in their individual stages. So this is pretty cool to see. I think the Under-20s with Tab [had an] outstanding World Cup in New Zealand [but] lost it on a penalty shootout against the world champions in the quarterfinals.

“So when you hear a lot of people talking some things are going wrong because you lost maybe two or three games recently, then that’s a bit immature (laughs). That’s simply wrong. There’s a lot of work ahead of us in all our areas but there’s also a lot of excitement because our players are hungry for improvement. And hopefully, with that game [a two-legged playoff against Colombia] the under-23s have in Brazil, the second one will do maybe even a result that’s better than the first one. But even if not, they’re making strides.”

Okay, I know that is a lot so let us analyze this piece by piece.

For starters, Klinsmann assumes that just because the USMNT got out of the Group of Death in Brazil that fans expect to get into the Semifinals of the 2018 World Cup. Now I may forget things quickly according to Klinsmann, but I do seem to remember him saying that their goal was to make the Semifinals of the 2018 World Cup. Now a goal is different from an expectation, but if you didn’t believe you could do that Jurgen, don’t say it at all because you can’t help people from making that connection and have that be the expectation since you said that yourself. I like the optimism but Semifinals is a bit of a stretch even for most USMNT fans to expect.

I will give Klinsmann some credit and agree that the U-20 World Cup as a whole, was a great result for US Soccer. Despite a misstep or two, the United States held their own and lost in penalties in the Quarterfinals against eventual champion Serbia. On the U-17 side, faced an insanely tough group facing eventual and back-to-back champion Nigeria, host Chile and a Croatia team who beat Germany in the Round of 16. To get a single point out of that group didn’t particularly look good but since the team wasn’t in the World Cup two years ago, that was still an improvement.

The U-23 team though looks as stagnant as before and it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon. They lost to Honduras in the U-23 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament and thus were sent to have a home-and-away series against Colombia for the final Olympic Qualifying spot. For preparation, the U-23 team played a couple friendlies against Brazil in Brazil. It’s great that they tested themselves against arguably the best U-23 team in the world in their own country but they were dominated in just about every facet of play in their 2-1 and 5-1 losses respectively. The goal for the U-23 team is simple, qualify for the Summer Olympics. They didn’t qualify for London 2012 and need to beat Colombia to qualify for Rio 2016. Not qualifying for Rio would be a failure and a sign of not improving. I can’t possibly imagine a scenario in which that isn’t a failure, especially when it appears that other CONCACAF nations like Mexico and Honduras are improving their development teams at a far faster pace than the United States.

Now as the USMNT enter World Cup Qualifying, there is a legitimate debate on whether or not this team has been better since Jurgen Klinsmann took over in 2011. Some of that is tough to determine since we may not know the results of some long term changes until long after Klinsmann retires but some things can be discussed. Since the CONCACAF Gold Cup four months ago, the USMNT is 5-2-4 including borderline embarrassing performances against Jamaica and Panama in the Gold Cup and a slightly improved performance in a losing effort against Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup. And before anyone gets on me that the USMNT has more wins than losses in that stretch, keep in mind that three of those wins were against Haiti, Cuba and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I don’t even want to imagine the reaction from fans if the USMNT didn’t win against either of those teams.

I am not looking at Jurgen Klinsmann as the one and only sole reason why US Soccer is in the current shape it is in. It is not 100% Jurgen Klinsmann’s fault that the teams are struggling. Many areas of US Soccer like players, development and lack of talent (among others) are contributing factors of US Soccer’s struggles. That doesn’t mean Jurgen Klinsmann is immune to blame and criticism. When the younger teams can’t seem to meet their goals, when the USMNT cannot win important games they are supposed to win and are breaking records in futility that were set during the “dark ages” of US Soccer, some criticism is justified and some of that criticism deserves to be directed at the Manager and Technical Director of US Soccer Jurgen Klinsmann.

Just like President Harry Truman’s motto, “The Buck Stops Here,” Klinsmann needs to acknowledge that things aren’t going to plan and he may be a reason (among many) as to why. That doesn’t mean Klinsmann needs to take 100% of the blame but he needs to take more than the 0% of blame he currently, and has been, accepting. If Jurgen Klinsmann actually believes the things he says in public, then Jurgen Klinsmann is delusional if he thinks he is above criticism. The USMNT has seen some highs in Jurgen Klinsmann’s four years as USMNT Manager and some lows as USMNT Manager. Klinsmann has received deserved praise (including from me) for those highs, now that the team is at its lowest point in the Jurgen Klinsmann era, it’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to receive criticism just like anyone else would get if they were in the same position. The great benefit for Klinsmann is that he has time between now and “the Hex” to right the wrongs and get back to being a team who can compete and qualify for the FIFA World Cup.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp