11/20/16 Time for Klinsmann to go?, Champs League Tues/Wed, MLS Conference Finals Tues/Sun,

 

Okay – so I have waited over a week since the horrifying loss at home to Mexico in Columbus and the meltdown in Costa Rica before writing.  I wanted to give myself time to calm down before joining the Masses in US Soccer calling for the dismissal of the GERMAN.  Those who have read my notes in the past – know I gave up on “the German” aka our US Men’s National Team coach Juergen Klinsmann long ago. Yes I will admit I was excited 6 years ago when we brought Klinsy in.  I was ready for more progressive soccer, a more attacking style of play.  But that is not what he has delivered.   I am not sure what I hate more – how horrible he is as a game day decider and manager or how smug and more intelligent he is than the rest of the soccer world.  You see Klinsy – despite the fact he has been seriously questioned at every head coaching job he has had – is untouchable in his mind.  His team loses and it’s the players fault, or it was part of the master grand plan to change things.  Listen I appreciate that he has brought in a lot of young players and given looks to a lot of players (especially players who have US parents overseas – read all our German players.)  On paper they are some of the best players we have Brooks, Johnson, Chandler, Johanson. But I think all the tinkering, the uncertainty with the players, the not confiding in players to build a base of players who trust him.  This guy has pulled idiotic move after idiotic move over the past 5+ years (Wondo for Landon in Brazil – really??).  The questionable moves have been countless, the wins impressive at times (Sweet 16 World Cup), Germany, Spain all friendlies mind you, COPA Final 4 appearance. The losses devastating – Gold Cup, losses to Jamaica, Guatemala, first home loss in Columbus, first home loss in home Qualifying, Gold Cup knocked out at Quarterfinals.  Klinsy continues to simply belittle the US fan – and act like we are stupid because we question him like any other coach in the world.  Listen in England heck in any other country playing competitive soccer – he would have been fired after the Gold Cup debacle.  Now – in this man’s opinion its time to cut ties and insure that we not only qualify for the World Cup in Russia – but that we build a good young, cohesive team of players that represent the jersey and play with the heart and skill and guile that American’s have always played with.  Sorry Klinsy you German –  your time should be over !!

MLS gets the Conference Finals started Tuesday night with the All Canadian battle of Montreal and Toronto with US stars Bradley and Altidore starting at 8 pm on ESPN.  Seattle and US youngster Jordan Morris host Colorado who will be without Timmy Howard at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1 – expect a full house in Seattle of over 45K!  Still the best atmosphere in US soccer in my mind.  Sunday Colorado will host the return leg at 4 pm on ESPN, while Toronto host their 2nd leg game next Wed eve 7 pm on ESPN.

Back to Champions League play this week with a few big games on the docket Tues/Wed in Match Day 5 –  The winner of Juventus and Sevilla advances to the knock-out round.  Leicester City and Monaco can advance with home wins as Bayern Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Man City, Benifica and Porto can advance with road wins.   The top seed is at stake for Arsenal as they host PSG Wed at 2:45 pm on Fox Sports1.

Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

USA

Those Questioning me Don’t Know Soccer – Klinsy Says –ESPNFC

Klinsy thinks You US Fans are Dumb –Stars and Stripes

Its Time for Klinsmann to go – Grant Wahl SI

Is it time for Klinsmann to go?  Peter Nolan – Got Soccer

More Reasons for Klinsy to go – FCYahoo

13 Worsts for Klinsy as US Coach

No Positives in Blowout Loss –ESPNFC Doug McIntyre

US Loses – Pressure on Klinsmann – Grant Wahl SI

What now ?  Jason Davis – US Soccer Players

Defensive Lapses doom US – Leaves Klinsy future in doubt –EPSNFC

Embarassing Player Ratings –ESPN

McBride – No Fight in this US team? Video

Klinsy Takes Responsibility for loss Video – 1st time ever  ??

US Asst Coach Tab Ramos Saw Pulisic when he was 11 – Wahl Pod Cast and Story

Despite Injury expect Jones to be there – Wahl SI

MLS

Playoff Schedule

What you Need to Know – Montreal vs Toronto

What you Need to know – Seattle vs Colorado

Altidore a Key player in Toronto run to Conference Finals

What if Jordan Morris didn’t Come to Seattle?

Alonso’s Play could lead Seattle to Finals

Lampard confirms he’s leaving NYCFC

Keene Leaves LA as best DP ever

Lampard and Gerrard were a Bust – ESPN FC

Champions League

Champions League This Week What to Watch For

Who can Go Thru on Matchday 5?

Arsenal v Paris

Sporting v Real Madrid

Sevilla v Juventus
Monaco v Tottenham

Celtic v Barcelona

Europa League Thurs What to Watch for

World

Mexico, Osario – cap tumultuous year with point vs Panama and 4 overall

Spain Late Push shocks England

Pep Guardiola’s Surprising Ban on Player Revealed No Sex after midnight

PLAYOFFS

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Sun, Nov 27

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Colorado vs Seattle 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal  vs Toronto  vs 2nd Leg

GAMES ON TV

Tues, Nov 22

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

 Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm ESPN3            Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

Sat, Nov 26

7:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Man City

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Hamburger vs Werder Bremen

10 am NBCSN                Liverpool vs Sunderland

10:15 am                          beinSport Real Madrid vs Sporting Gijon

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Chelsea vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sport2 Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Nov27

7 am NBCSN                   Stoke City vs Watford

9 am  beIN Sport        Genoa vs Juve

9:15 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Bournemouth

11:30 am NBCSN         Man United vs West Ham

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Sociadad vs Barcelona

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

1 pm beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Leonesa –Copa Del Rey

3 pm beinSport            Man United vs West Ham – League Cup

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Toronto  vs Montreal 2nd Leg

Fri,  Dec 2

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Napoli vs Inter

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         Mainz vs Bayern Munich

Sat,  Dec 3

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Barcelona vs Real Madrid  

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea  

 Champions League – This Week’s Games !!

 TUESDAY’S MATCHES

Ronaldo returns home
Needing two more goals to reach his century in UEFA club competitions (and with 95 in the UEFA Champions League alone), Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back ‘home’ to Sporting CP with Real Madrid this week. Where better to bring up a milestone than the club where he started his professional career? The 31-year-old’s late free-kick helped turn round a match Madrid seemed destined to lose on matchday one before Álvaro Morata’s added time header sealed a 2-1 win.
Sporting v Real Madrid

Reus fit to feature?
Unable to face Bayern on Saturday due to a heel problem, Marco Reus could make his long-awaited return from an adductor injury as Dortmund look to strengthen their grip on top spot in Group F. “It’s a joy to see him in training,” says coach Thomas Tuchel, with Reus yet to feature this season, and his extravagant gifts could prove valuable against a Legia side that has improved since their 6-0 matchday one loss to BVB. Jacek Magiera has replaced Besnik Hasni in the hot seat and, after their remarkable 3-3 draw with Madrid, the race for a UEFA Europa League berth remains on.
Dortmund v Legia

Can Leicester lift the trophy?
Prior to this season, Leicester had not won a single game in European competition since 1961. However, as Claudio Ranieri’s side proved by winning the Premier League last season, the form book somehow does not apply to them. A draw would confirm their round of 16 place, and – with few expecting them to return to this competition any time soon – move them a step closer to the most improbable title success of all. Could it happen?
Leicester v Club Brugge

Sevilla out to scratch seven-year itch
Top of Group H and still unbeaten, Sevilla need just one point to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009/10 – when they finished ahead of Stuttgart, Unirea and Rangers. Jorge Sampaoli’s attacking juggernauts have won their last three games in the section since drawing a blank against La Vecchia Signora on matchday one. Beating the Italian champions would also confirm top spot – so what can possibly go wrong? 
Sevilla v Juventus

Spurs hoping to turn corner
Tottenham travel to Monaco having finally ended a run of seven games without victory when a Harry Kane double sparked a 3-2 comeback win against West Ham at the weekend. It was the club’s first success in any competition since 2 October – and it could hardly have come at a better time, with Spurs needing all three points to bolster their Group E prospects. “It was fantastic to see Harry Kane score again,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino. “For me, he’s one of the best strikers in the world.”
Monaco v Tottenham

WEDNESDAY’S MATCHES

Big guns meet in north London
Top spot will be the prize on offer when Arsenal reacquaint themselves with Group A rivals Paris Saint-Germain on home turf, having rode their luck before claiming a 1-1 draw in France on matchday one. That result left a bitter taste in Parisian mouths, but Unai Emery feels it will be a different story this time around. “There are things we will change, mainly because we are a better team now,” said the Spaniard, who is hopeful Ángel Di María will be fit to feature. “It’s a game with big actors, great football players – that’s the beauty of it.”
Arsenal v Paris

Atleti aim to bury derby gloom 
“Losing bothers me,” said a rueful Diego Simeone after his Atlético side went down 3-0 in the Madrid derby on Saturday. “It’s not good. I’m hurting for everyone.” The pain of that result was acute, but the Colchoneros can pick themselves up by extending their record as the only team in the group stage with a perfect points tally. Already through following their last-gasp defeat of Rostov last time out, they will aim to make it five wins from five at home to PSV.
Atlético v PSV

Celtic eye 2012 repeat
Celtic fans will be dreaming of a 2012 repeat when Barcelona come to town. It was a famous European night at Celtic Park in the group stage four years ago as goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt sealed a memorable 2-1 victory. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, may still be having nightmares about his side’s 7-0 loss at Camp Nou on matchday one. “You can park two double-decker buses in front of goal, but the world’s best players always find the space,” he said.
Celtic v Barcelona

Maradona mark in sight for Napoli’s Hamšík
Marek Hamšík has underlined his goalscoring credentials in November with goals against Beşiktaş in the UEFA Champions League and Lazio in Serie A – and for Slovakia against Lithuania in the European Qualifiers. Another strike against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday would move Napoli’s captain level with Edinson Cavani in third place in the club’s all-time scorers’ list with 104 goals, and edge him closer to Diego Maradona’s record of 115. The 29-year-old said: “I will never be like him, but beating his record would be special.”
Napoli v Dynamo Kyiv

Şenol Güneş’s art lesson
Beşiktaş welcome Benfica looking to leapfrog their fellow Eagles into the top two in Group B – and mindful that they will be through with a win if Napoli fail to beat Dynamo Kyiv. That would be an ideal scenario for Şenol Güneş, who raised a few eyebrows in Istanbul recently by making a bid to become the Henry Moore of football management. “I get asked what I do to mould players, but actually I don’t do anything,” he said. “I just scrape away their rough patches like a sculptor. Dealing with players and laying down principles in a team is the same as educating children. I think it’s something I’m good at.”
Beşiktaş v Benfica

Five teams are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16, and 12 more go into the fifth set of group fixtures on 22 and 23 November able to join them with a match to spare. UEFA.com explains the permutations.

  • Through: Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Atlético Madrid, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund
  • Can qualify on matchday five: Benfica, Napoli, Beşiktaş, Barcelona, Manchester City, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Leicester City, Porto, Sevilla, Juventus
  • Cannot finish in top two: Ludogorets Razgrad, Basel, PSV Eindhoven, Rostov, Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Legia Warszawa

 

 

 

USA’s dire start to the Hex shows it’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go

QUICKLY All of the evidence piling up points to one logical outcome for U.S. Soccer: The time has come to move on from Jurgen Klinsmann.

GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016 Sports Illustrated

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — It’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go.Whether the U.S. men’s national team coach’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, ends up agreeing with that opinion remains to be seen. But Gulati certainly didn’t give Klinsmann a clear vote of confidence in the moments after the U.S.’s dumpster-fire 4-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica on Tuesday.“We won’t make any decisions right after games,” said Gulati inside the Estadio Nacional as red-clad Tico fans celebrated with glee outside. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation. Obviously it’s not a good start to the Hex, and today in particular was not a good performance.”The U.S. was putrid across the board in the second half, conceding three of the four goals and failing to execute on basic defensive aspects like putting pressure on crosses and marking the recipients of those crosses closely. The midfield gave the ball away too easily. John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler and Omar González all had poor games, but this was a total team effort when it came to the failure.Did some U.S. players quit on Klinsmann in the second half? It’s not 100% clear, but the fact that question needs to be asked says a lot in itself.  Here are the facts: The U.S. is in last place in the 10-game CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal with zero points from the first two games—the first time the U.S. has ever lost the opening two games of the Hex (covering a span of six World Cup cycles). Thanks to the comically forgiving tournament format, the U.S. still isn’t in any acute danger yet of missing World Cup 2018. Four of the six CONCACAF teams are likely to make Russia 2018, the top three automatically and the fourth in a playoff exactly one year from now against the fifth-place team from Asia. (Have you ever visited Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates in November? Well, the U.S. might get that chance.)  How low is the bar for qualifying for Russia 2018 from the Hex? Well, keep in mind that Mexico won just two of 10 Hexagonal games in 2013—two of 10!—and still qualified for World Cup 2014. So it’s possible to say now that the U.S. is playing historically bad soccer to start the Hex, and yet chances are still good that the Americans will reach the World Cup.  “When you lose two games, there’s obviously some concern,” Gulati said. “But Mexico qualified [for 2014] with 11 points. There’s a lot of points left on the board, 24 to be exact. As I’ve said the last two cycles, the sequence of games matters a lot, and we’ve had what one would consider our two toughest opponents early … I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have any points and it was some of the other opponents.” The conventional wisdom has always held that Klinsmann would only be fired if and when the U.S. was eliminated from qualifying for World Cup 2018. But now the calculus has changed.It’s time for him to go because Klinsmann set up his team to fail against Mexico with a major formation switch that should have been tested first in a game with lower stakes, a formation switch that left his players unsure and disjointed as a unit. It’s time for him to go because the U.S. was not just beaten but overmatched against Costa Rica, and it’s a giant red flag anytime you’re wondering if the players have quit on their coach.  It’s time for him to go because you can imagine other coaches, including realistic replacements like Bruce Arena, getting more out of the same players than Klinsmann is for a paycheck in excess of $3 million a year. And it’s time for him to go when the captain, Michael Bradley, says other teams have a “clear idea” of what they’re being asked to do, one implication being that the U.S. does not.

Is Klinsmann the right coach to lead this U.S. team forward?“We’ll sit down tomorrow and look at things,” said Gulati.When asked if the results against Mexico and Costa Rica will influence the way he examines the coaching situation, Gulati replied: “Well, do facts matter? The answer is yes. It’s simple. The analysis is always different based on results and what you see. It’s not specific to the coaching situation, it’s just in general. It would be the equivalent of asking Jurgen, ‘Is your view of all the players different today than it was four days ago?’ Of course it would be when you lose two games.”After the U.S.’s 3-2 loss to Mexico in October 2015 capped a miserable year-plus following the World Cup, we suggested that U.S. Soccer would be better off letting Klinsmann keep his job as U.S. men’s technical director and bringing in another person to coach the team.  That idea still makes sense. Klinsmann is a big-picture guy whose talents lie in formulating a long-term plan. But I also think such a move is unrealistic, both on Klinsmann’s end (it’s doubtful he would accept such a demotion) and on that of a new coach (who would be doubtful to accept the job with Klinsmann still hanging around).After Tuesday’s game, Klinsmann called it the most painful loss of his five-year tenure as the U.S. coach. But does he still think he’s the right coach to lead the U.S. team forward?“I think so,” he said. “But I obviously understand when you lose two games, and especially two World Cup qualifiers right after each other, that there will be a lot of your comments. That is just part of the job. It’s part of the game. I told the team at the end, the last cycle we lost here too, so we gave away these three points here as well. We didn’t give away the three points at home against Mexico, so now we are three points behind what we did in the last cycle, and we won the group with 22 points at the end of the day.”“We know we have to come back right away in March against Honduras at home and then away [at Panama].”The crazy thing: If the U.S. were to beat Honduras 3-0 at home in their next qualifier in March, the U.S. would probably be in fourth place—and the fourth place team from CONCACAF is likely to make the World Cup.But the four months that stand between now and March would be plenty of time for a coach to come in and get familiar with everything needed to move forward with the U.S. team. Arena is no stranger to World Cup qualifying, and his contract with the LA Galaxy is set to end next month.Arena would help the U.S. rediscover an identity, one that has eluded this team since the end of World Cup 2014. It’s time to thank Klinsmann for his work. He got the U.S. out of a difficult World Cup 2014 group, and he steered the Americans to the Copa América semifinals this year. He did a terrific job recruiting dual-nationals and spotting prospects like Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Klinsmann also happens to be a really good guy and a World Cup-winning legend as a player.  But it’s time for him to go.

Jurgen Klinsmann thinks we’re being harsh (for treating him as he asked us to)

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 16 hours ago

After almost every outlet covering soccer seriously called for his firing last week — Yahoo Sports included — United States men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has hit back in a pair of interviews.On Sunday, he told the New York Times that all the critics  were “being disrespectful” and “ignoring the facts,” never mind that the USA lost both its first two World Cup qualifiers in the final round of games that will determine who goes to Russia. And that if you were to actually explore those facts, they would not be kind to Klinsmann or his record.Earlier in the weekend, Klinsmann said to Reuters that “When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off.”Klinsmann is, of course, well within his rights to defend himself. It’s just that in the context of his very own utterances and admonishments, his riposte does not just ring hollow but also hypocritical.Here’s Klinsmann speaking about the need for American soccer culture to hold its national team accountable in 2014:

“If you miss an easy shot in a game, you want the player to go to the supermarket or the butcher shop the next day and have a fan ask them why they missed that shot,” Klinsmann said then at South by Southwest, per USA Today’s For The Win blog. “We’re not there yet. But in the big leagues in Europe and South America, if you miss a shot, you’re held accountable for it. Then you don’t miss it anymore. This is something that will grow over time. The more it grows, the more often fans see [players] in the street and tell them, ‘You were crap yesterday.’ And this is important.”You can trifle with the psychological underpinnings of this motivational technique, but Klinsmann isn’t necessarily wrong about this. A certain social responsibility has helped drive players and national teams to strive for better. Public culpability can be a valuable tool, especially when you’re representing your country. This is a theme he has harped on again and again, for year after year. It’s just that when he has been criticized when results are slow in coming or altogether absent, Klinsmann seems capable of absorbing no criticism at all. Instead, he’ll invariably argue that his critics don’t understand the sport. And that they’re being “disrespectful.”“The fact is, we lost two games,” he told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.” Ah, another Klinsmann trope: If you think he’s doing a bad job, you know nothing.America, as Klinsmann seems to be arguing, needs to mature as a soccer nation to the point where the national team is closely scrutinized. But when his own shortcomings and failures are pointed out, they can’t possibly be coming from someone qualified to deliver that assessment. Or so goes his impossible logic.“A lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport,” Klinsmann said to the Times. But then this is true of every team everywhere. And there comes a point – which is now – where what matters “inside the team” doesn’t really matter when the performances on display and the adjoining results are as bad as the USA’s have been.In both interviews, Klinsmann spoke of the need for patience with a team in transition to find itself. These are odd requests to make, since we’re almost 2½ years into the new cycle, two major tournaments have come and gone since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Americans have already played eight qualifiers and Klinsmann has been in charge for well over five years. He’s not exactly been desperate for time.He also made sure to tell both the Times and Reuters that he’d spoken to President Obama at a German state dinner over the weekend. In the Reuters interview, with the author of the comically one-sided, fawning and uncritical Klinsmann biography “Soccer Without Borders,” the German head coach claims to have received the backing of the outgoing president.“He said, ‘Coach, it didn’t go well in Costa Rica, but it’s only the start of the World Cup qualifying and you’ll get back on the right track,’” Klinsmann claimed. “He understands that it’s a long qualifying process.”We’ll just have to take his word for it. Even though his words tend to be meaningless when they no longer serve Klinsmann himself.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports.

Is it Time for Klinsmann To Go?

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Peter Nolan

If Sunil Gulati won’t dismiss Jurgen Klinsmann then U.S. Soccer must replace its President with someone who will after the Americans were humiliated 4-0 by Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Coming on the heels of Friday’s 2-1 loss in Columbus to Mexico, the U.S. has now lost the first two games of the Hex, the final round of World Cup Qualifiers.With eight games yet to be played, there is still time for the Americans to right the ship and qualify for Russia 2018, the question emerging from this performance is this; is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for that job?The U.S. has never won in Costa Rica, so it was always going to be a big ask for the visitors to come away with a point, never mind three, but no one could have foreseen a beatdown of this magnitude.After last week’s inexplicable switch to a formation his team had essentially never used before, Klinsmann reverted to his team’s familiar 4-4-2 against the Ticos. But the coach’s stubborn insistence on staying with Tim Chandler and Matt Besler as his fullbacks seemed a curious one, and neither player repaid Klinsmann’s confidence.But his fullbacks were simply one part of the larger problem. Central defenders John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez played as if they had been introduced in the locker room immediately before taking the field, with Brooks mystifyingly bad on the night.Despite surrendering four goals, emergency goalkeeper Brad Guzan was probably the best American at the National Stadium last night and Tim Howard’s replacement almost got his team to the half with a clean sheet. Almost.Montreal Impact backup Johan Venegas ruined that plan when he sullied Guzan’s clean sheet in the 44th minute after he beat Brooks to the ball when Gonzalez allowed Christian Bolanos all too much time and space to play in his cross.Klinsmann made no changes at the half and his players did nothing with that reprieve. Bolanos, another MLS man with the Vancouver Whitecaps, made it 2-0 in the 68th minute when he powered a header past an abandoned Guzan.U.S. midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were unable to generate any semblance of an attack throughout, with Jones especially prone to turnovers. Some, GotSoccer included, had called for Sacha Kljestan to start this match for Jones, who had to be feeling the effects of two energetic performances after his recent return from injury.Klinsmann stayed with Jones, understandably perhaps, but with the U.S. crying out for someone, anyone, to help gain some meaningful possession and complete a pass or two, Kljestan continued to sit.When Klinsmann did finally go to the bench he removed Christian Pulisic, who with Bobby Wood had provided the few dim rays of hope for the U.S on the night.Lynden Gooch showed some fight when he checked in for Pulisic and the Sunderland youngster could not be implicated for what was about to transpire.Joel Campbell, who had begun the night on the Ticos bench, entered the match in the 67th minute and within 11 minutes Campbell had doubled the U.S. deficit.Both of Campbell’s goals were gifts from the inept American defense as the U.S. did something generally unheard of from the U.S. MNT; it quit. It was not a pretty sight and afterward, Klinsmann told the press “I take responsibility and it is no problem. It is a learning experience for us.”It was an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move from the U.S. manager, who has been criticized in the past for his habit of calling out his players publicly.But it is too little and it is too late. Klinsmann took over this team in 2011 and the time for on the job training has passed. Gulati chased Klinsmann for years before he finally convinced the German legend to replace Bob Bradley, and as recently as Friday night Gulati continued to back his coach and technical director.But Klinsmann got one thing right in Costa Rica, this is responsibility and it is time for Gulati to hold him accountable. And if Gulati won’t, then U.S. Soccer has the responsibility to find someone who will.

  Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for his firing ‘don’t understand soccer’

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for him to be fired in the wake of two World Cup qualifying defeats “don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann said he was not worried about losing his position in an interview with the The New York Times, who cited sources as saying U.S. Soccer could decide the coach’s future as soon as this week.  “I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann said. “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 U.S. is at the bottom of the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after losing the first two of 10 games, 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 away to Costa Rica.But Klinsmann, who earlier on Sunday told Reuters he was “1,000 percent certain” the U.S. would still qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, dismissed the criticism that has come following this month’s result. “The fact is, we lost two games,” Klinsmann told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann denied that his players had given up on him despite the lopsided defeat at Costa Rica, where the U.S. has always struggled to perform.”There was nobody giving up at that time,” Klinsmann said. “That was a normal emotional situation when things go wrong. When they get the second goal there, it was like a knock in your neck.”I played those games many, many times. The whole stadium goes bananas. It’s totally human to put your head down for a second. And then they counter us for two more.”Those games will always happen. We just couldn’t stop it, but the players did not stop trying.”Klinsmann looked toward the larger picture and stressed that he and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, with whom the Times reported the coach would meet in the coming days, had an understanding about long-term goals.”I always made it clear to Sunil, if you really want to move up to the top 15 in the world, you need to have consistency in what you’re doing,” Klinsmann said. “If you react emotionally, you will become a roller coaster.”

 WHAT NOW FOR THE USMNT?

NOVEMBER 16, 2016

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Nov 15, 2016) US Soccer Players – If you find yourself surprised by the USMNT’s performance in Costa Rica on Tuesday night, you haven’t been paying attention. This USMNT–the USMNT that fell behind to Mexico thanks to a disastrous opening half and saw it’s unbeaten run against El Tri in Columbus come to an end as a result and then laid a massive egg in San Jose against the Ticos in a truly depressing soccer showing–is the new normal. 4-0 is the new normal. This is Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT.Off of the disappointing loss to Mexico on Friday, the Americans headed to Costa Rica licking their wounds and with more than a few questions about the direction of the team. Klinsmann’s 3-5-2 gambit to open the Hex had gone so poorly that any chance at building confidence into the match against another CONCACAF power, on the road, was dead on arrival. Rafa Marquez’s late headed not only gave Mexico a win in Columbus, it drove home the reality that the US is spiraling into dysfunction.That dysfunction was on full display Tuesday night. After escaping the first-half unscathed by sheer luck and Costa Rican benevolence, the US collapsed into a fiery heap in the second-half. Players all over the field looked bereft of the necessary energy and confidence needed to even make a draw possible in San Jose, much less a win.It’s true that the United States has never won in Costa Rica. So on that front the loss shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The Americans have gone to Central American full of confidence in the past, only to see their hopes of three points on the road dashed. Costa Rica’s unique brand of fast, physical play combined with a rabid home crowd is hard to handle. Steaming into San Jose on limited power made this game nearly a foregone conclusion.It’s not the loss that’s makes the game worth talking about. It’s the evidence, for all to see, that this team has quit on Klinsmann. The defensive showing was so atrocious it doesn’t seem real. Talented players, players who can boast of being regular starters in high quality, respected soccer leagues made egregious error after egregious error. Costa Rica has dangerous attackers who don’t need help from the opposing defense to put the ball the back of the net, but they’ll certainly take it.The Americans went to San Jose bearing gifts. If this was a diplomacy mission, then job well done.It wasn’t, of course. It was a soccer game, and one that will have the American soccer media asking difficult questions about Klinsmann’s job security for the next four-plus months. The USMNT won’t play another qualifier until March. That leaves plenty of time to ponder (again) whether Klinsmann is the right man to lead the United States forward.When asked after the game about whether he would consider a coaching change, Sunil Gulati did the usual. He suggested the organization would take some time to sit down and think about the result. That’s probably wise considering the humiliating nature of the scoreline and the dander that is up across American soccer. However, even a ponderous consideration of the USMNT situation doesn’t change the troubling fact that Klinsmann’s team isn’t just failing, it’s failing in embarrassing fashion.How the players are doing at club level resonates. They’re playing excellent soccer domestically. The player pool can’t be turned over any time soon, so at some point the excuses made on Klinsmann’s behalf stop carrying any weight. Other USMNT coaches have put out more competitive teams with half the talent the current boss has at his disposal. The argument that Klinsmann should stay on the job because there’s some notion it’s not his fault is defeatist at the very least. There’s no benefit to holding onto a losing coach. Especially when there’s at least some chance someone else, bringing a fresh set of eyes and a new voice, could improve upon the current state.The are reasons US Soccer might not want to let Klinsmann go. His contract buyout is likely significant, presenting a financial problem for a nonprofit organization that has other teams and programs it has to fund. By signing Klinsmann to a contract extension before the 2014 World Cup, US Soccer locked up the man they thought would transform their men’s program. Instead, they seem to have painted themselves into a corner now that the promised revolution is clearly not coming.Gulati also said when asked about Klinsmann that “facts matter.” The fact is that the United States was never in the game against Costa Rica, four days after they gave away their psychological edge at home against their biggest rival. The facts dictate that Klinsmann should be in serious jeopardy.As for the man himself, it’s hard to tell if he’s even sure anymore. When asked whether he’s still the right man to lead the USMNT forward towards Russia, Klinsmann replied “I think so.”  Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.

Pressure squarely on Klinsmann after Costa Rica thrashes USA in World Cup qualifier

QUICKLY Jurgen Klinsmann is facing the heat after Costa Rica destroyed the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in

San Jose. GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — Costa Rica demolished the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, throwing the continued tenure of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann into question and raising concerns that the Americans may not have what it takes even to qualify for Russia 2018.The brutal loss was the second in a row to start the Hexagonal, the first time the U.S. has ever done that in six editions of the Hex. The remarkably forgiving format—four of the six CONCACAF teams will likely qualify for Russia—means the U.S. still has time to recover and reach World Cup 2018, but it won’t have a chance with continued performances like this one.The Costa Rica goals came from Johan Venegas, Christian Bolaños and two from Joel Campbell, with the last three coming in a 10-minute span in the second half, which blew the game wide open.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

 

Sunil Gulati has a decision to make

On Friday before the Mexico game, the U.S. Soccer president went out of his way to say that the U.S. hasn’t fired a coach during World Cup qualifying since 1989 and didn’t expect to this time around either. But the loss to Mexico, keyed largely by Klinsmann’s overly risky decision to change up the U.S.’s formation, and a truly abominable performance on Tuesday in Costa Rica have to make you wonder if Gulati is rethinking that statement.There’s plenty of time between now and the next World Cup qualifiers in March for a new coach to come in and get settled, and it just so happens that former U.S. coach Bruce Arena, the most likely coach to come in if a change was made, is out of contract with the LA Galaxy at this point. Will Gulati consider making a move? 

The U.S. misses Geoff Cameron

Cameron is more than just the U.S.’s best center back. He’s also the vocal leader when he’s on the field, organizing the back line and setting up everyone else to take their defensive cues off of him. Cameron doesn’t get enough credit for that, but maybe he will now that the U.S. has lost two straight World Cup qualifiers without him on the field due to injury.The U.S. was a step slow all over the back line on Costa Rica’s opener, from Omar Gonzalez’s lack of pressure on the cross to the space John Brooks gave Venegas on his header. There were other breakdowns on that play, including Jermaine Jones’s poor backpass to Brooks, but it wouldn’t have played out that way had Cameron been on the field.Things just got worse on the succeeding Costa Rica goals: Brooks had an awful night, and Timmy Chandler continued to underperform in a U.S. uniform. Cameron makes other U.S. players better—especially Brooks, who was terrific next to Cameron in Copa América but struggled mightily on Tuesday.

 The U.S. central midfield needs something to change 

Klinsmann stuck with Jones for a long time in this game—too long. Consider: Jones had played close to one full game in 13 weeks due to injury when Klinsmann went with him ahead of Sacha Kljestan against Mexico. At least Jones had plenty of energy against Mexico, but that was absent for much of Tuesday’s game, and he continued to have difficulties completing passes (even some that were unchallenged). Jones should have come off for Kljestan at halftime, but that didn’t happen either.Bradley hasn’t been perfect by any means, but a partnership with Kljestan would have worked better in these games. A lot needs to change between now and next March. Jones and Chandler will be suspended on yellow cards for the next qualifier against Honduras.Will Klinsmann still be around to choose their replacements?

 No positives for Klinsmann or players after U.S.’ shocking loss to Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — There’s a tendency among athletes and coaches, regardless of sport, to try to look on the bright side after a crushing loss. It’s just how they’re built. The highs can’t be too high, nor the lows too low.It’s an attitude that can rub fans who live and die with their teams the wrong way at times. There’s a memorable scene in Nick Hornby’s famous football tome “Fever Pitch” where Hornby, an Arsenal lifer, comes to the upsetting realization that he cares about the results far more than his heroes on the field do.Generally, though, it’s a healthy approach for any professional to take, which is why hearing U.S. players and manager Jurgen Klinsmann talk following the Americans’ 4-0 shellacking by Costa Rica on Tuesday was so jarring. There wasn’t the faintest attempt to accentuate the positive after this one. Basically, there were no silver linings to be found.”We just weren’t good enough,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said after the Yanks suffered their worst defeat yet in a place they’d dropped eight straight heading into the match, the last four by multiple goals, to start the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with back-to-back defeats.”On a night like this, there’s no point in trying to look at it any other way,” Bradley continued. “You have to be big enough and strong enough to just be able to say we weren’t good enough. In terms of understanding what the game was going to be about, knowing how we needed to play in a game that had so much on the line, we didn’t have a good enough night. The reality was we weren’t good enough, and a good team in an environment like this makes you pay.”Did the Ticos ever do that. Backed by more than 35,000 red-clad supporters at Estadio Nacional, the home team took the lead two minutes before halftime when Johan Venegas nodded Cristian Bolanos’ cross past Brad Guzan.Once Bolanos doubled Costa Rica’s advantage with just over 20 minutes to play, the contest was effectively over for an American squad apparently still reeling from Friday’s last-gasp loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio.”I think they really gave us a psychological knock with that goal right before halftime,” Klinsmann said. “But still, you cannot then give away three more in the second half.”Klinsmann was unusually contrite in his postmatch news conference, calling the rout “the defeat that hurts the most in my five years” at the U.S. helm. He even publicly blamed himself for his role in the outcome, something that he has almost never done no matter how much his curious tactical or personnel decisions impacted a particular result.”There’s always things that you think about and say you should have done differently, you should have maybe sent in different players or different formation,” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely you question a lot of things that you have done, and I take full responsibility.”Still, it’s not as though the manager’s rare mea culpa absolves his players of blame. While the Americans have never boasted an elite squad in the 26 years since the returning to the global stage by qualifying for the 1990 World Cup and the six events since, they’ve usually punched above their weight in large part because of a never-die resolve.That determination was nowhere to be found on Tuesday, and especially after the second goal went in.”First, you have to come out here and play for the shirt,” Jozy Altidore said. “You can say whatever you want about tactics or formations, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have the desire to compete and win matchups, the rest doesn’t matter.”Both Altidore and Bradley talked about the need to “look in the mirror” and “have honest conversations” before the U.S. convenes for March’s suddenly crucial contests at home against Honduras and away in Panama. Whether Klinsmann is still in charge then remains to be seen.U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who said last week that he expected the coach to remain the coach at least through the end of qualifying, stopped short of guaranteeing that Klinsmann would keep his job after Tuesday’s performance.”We won’t make any decisions right after games,” Gulati told reporters. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation.”Whoever is on the sideline, though, it will be up to the players and the players alone to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves when qualifying resumes next year.”Nothing is lost yet, not even close, and anyone that thinks that is sorely mistaken,” Bradley said. “In moments like this, it does you no good to point fingers and to be looking around trying to figure out who you can throw under the bus.”After the darkest four days in recent national team history, that’s about as bright as it’s going to get.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 Defensive lapses doom U.S. in Costa Rica as Klinsmann’s future left in doubt

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The United States responded to last week’s loss to Mexico by imploding against Costa Rica in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Estadio Nacional, getting dismantled 4-0 by the Ticos on goals by Johan Venegas, Christian Bolanos and Joel Campbell’s second-half brace. Here are three quick thoughts on the match.

  1. Costa Rica thumps U.S. at home yet again

After Friday’s defeat to El Tri in Columbus, Ohio — Mexico’s first win in qualifying in the U.S. in more than four decades — much of the talk in the lead-up to this match was about the opportunity the Americans had to make some history of their own. The Yanks had never won in Costa Rica, going 0-8-1 all-time, including eight straight losses in the country’s capital city. Each of the past four matches between the teams resulted in a multiple-goal defeat for the visitors.But while the U.S. started better than it did during its last visit to the Costa Rican capital three years ago, when it was down 2-0 before the game was 10 minutes old, the final result this time around was significantly worse. It didn’t matter that coach Jurgen Klinsmann went with the same lineup and 4-4-2 formation that had the better of the play against Mexico in the second half in Columbus. The Ticos still dominated the match in every way. The Americans managed just one shot on target all night.More damning was the fact that they didn’t show the resolve that one would expect from a team with its back against the wall. Of all the losses in San Jose over the years, this one was far and away the worst.

  1. Defensive errors doom U.S.

Just when it looked like the Americans might get to halftime with the game still scoreless, Venegas headed the hosts in front two minutes before the break. The frustrating thing from a U.S. point of view was that the wound was largely self-inflicted.Jermaine Jones, a turnover machine all night, put center back John Brooks under pressure with a poor back-pass to begin the sequence. With Timmy Chandler caught upfield, Omar Gonzalez, Brooks’ partner, gave too much space to Ticos attacker Bolanos, who was able to turn and pick out the too-loosely marked Venegas, who easily beat Brad Guzan from point-blank range.That Venegas was Brooks’ man only added insult to injury. The German-American also lost Mexico’s Rafa Marquez in last week’s Hex-opening loss to El Tri, and he looked shaky from the opening whistle, giving the ball away needlessly time and again.The first goal was a psychological blow as much as anything, and it gave the Costa Ricans all the momentum heading into a second half in which they left no doubt about which team was the superior side. Bolanos ran by Chandler for the second. Another Brooks turnover gifted Campbell a breakaway that he coolly slotted past Guzan before the Sporting Lisbon star added a second moments later to complete the USA’s truly embarrassing performance.

  1. Was this Klinsmann’s last game in charge?

The morning of Friday’s loss to Mexico, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to remain in charge of the national team through at least the end of qualifying. But after the Americans started the Hex with two ugly losses for the first time in program history, Gulati will have to give serious consideration to letting the German coach go.Klinsmann’s lack of tactical acumen and odd lineup choices have confounded his players throughout his five-year tenure, but those players always seemed to bail their manager out by turning in a big performance when his back was against the wall. Not on this night.This was arguably the worst defeat the Americans suffered under Klinsmann, and it turns March’s home match against Honduras — a match that Chandler and Jones will be unavailable for because of the yellow cards they picked up in San Jose — into a must-win. Four months is a long time to dwell on a result like this one.If Klinsmann is the wrong guy, and the evidence now is overwhelming, the salary left on his contract that runs until the end of 2018 can’t be enough to save him. If Gulati is going to pull the trigger on the coach he spent five years luring before finally landing him in 2011, the time to do it is now.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazin 

John Brooks, Timmy Chandler found wanting in humiliating Costa Rica loss

The United States World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 is in a serious condition after an alarming 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Tuesday night.

The Americans were poor from back to front for the entire 90 minutes, as the Ticos avenged the 4-0 walloping the U.S. served them in the Copa America Centenario.

The U.S. now sit rock bottom of the Hexagonal after two games and will have a long time to chew on this defeat until qualifying resumes next March.

Positives

There were very few positives, but in the spirit of selecting one, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood showed some creativity in the rare instances that they touched the ball.

Negatives

Too many to count.

The U.S. midfield failed to generate positive play and were unable to maintain possession due to the constant Costa Rican pressure. How many times was the U.S. able to string together four or five passes?

The number of errors committed by the defense was astounding, with John Brooks in particular having arguably his worst match ever in a U.S. shirt.

Manager rating out of 10

3 — You can understand why Jurgen Klinsmann opted to go with the same 11 players who featured in the second half against Mexico, but by half-time it was abundantly clear that tweaks were needed.

With the U.S. starving for a Sacha Kljestan in midfield or a DeAndre Yedlin on the wing, Klinsmann stuck with his starting XI until it was too late. The manager has a history of rallying his team when the chips are down, but the complete opposite happened in San Jose.

Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Brad Guzan, 6 — Made a pair of huge early saves to deny Johan Venegas and Bryan Ruiz. Was faultless on the goals. Did not get much help from his defenders.

DF Timmy Chandler, 2 — Another struggle for Chandler in a U.S. uniform. A noticeable lack of communication with Omar Gonzalez on the right side of defense. Had a second half slip that nearly gifted a goal. Was beaten by Christian Bolanos for Costa Rica’s second. Sprayed his crosses everywhere. Dismal.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 4 — Got burned by Ruiz early on and had to be bailed out by Guzan. Looked indecisive. Was beaten on a number of headers and allowed Bolanos the time and space to serve up the assist on the Venegas goal.

DF John Brooks, 2 — The titanic defender who was the best player for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario was missing in action on Tuesday night. This was the worst version of the player who performed so poorly at the 2015 Gold Cup. Got nutmegged early on by Venegas but was rescued by Guzan. Errors aplenty throughout and was at fault for the Venegas and Campbell goals. An abysmal display.

DF Matt Besler, 4 — The Sporting KC man was playing out of position and considering the situation, he performed as well as he could. Could only look on helplessly as Campbell got behind him and Brooks for Costa Rica’s fourth.

MF Fabian Johnson, 4 — Spoiled two free kick chances in the first half. For a team that likes to use the set piece as a weapon, Johnson elected to fire one into the wall and then ambitiously tried to beat Keylor Navas on the second. Failed to offer service to his forwards. Anonymous in the second half until his substitution.

MF Michael Bradley, 5 — Not enough positive balls. Seemed like Bradley was either playing balls back or was having to track back after a U.S. giveaway. Corner kicks did not threaten. Was a safety valve when the U.S. ran out of ideas when going forward, which was often.

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Gave away possession a lot and also lost a number of duels. Picked up a silly yellow in the first half. The U.S. needed more from the veteran.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Quiet at start, Pulisic earned one of the free kicks wasted by Johnson. Also sent in the dangerous cross for Wood. Didn’t touch the ball much, but offered hope when he actually had it at his feet.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Altidore was left frustrated by Costa Rica’s physicality. His pleading of teammates to push up higher at end of first half summed up his evening. Also doomed by heavy touches.

FW Bobby Wood, 6 — On his only real chance of the first half, was unable to get on the end of a Pulisic cross at the near post. At the end of the first half he made a great run and served up a cross himself that ran right in front of the goalmouth. With more help you wonder what he could have done.

Substitutes:

MF Lynden Gooch, 5 — Replaced Pulisic in the 70th minute. With the match lost, tried to summon a consolation goal from the left.

MF Sacha Kljestan, N/R — Came on for Jones in the 73rd minute but never had a chance to leave his mark.

MF Graham Zusi, N/R — Replaced Johnson in the 77th minute. Just a few touches.

Spain’s late push shows Southgate how far England have to go

LONDON — This is how it goes for England, a team seemingly locked in a loop of unending misery. High hopes, great promise, then a kick in the teeth just as the scent of success begins to fill the nostrils.As Isco raced away to celebrate his 95th-minute equaliser for Spain, five minutes after Iago Aspas had seemingly scored nothing more than a consolation goal for Julen Lopetegui’s team, the story of the England football team had been condensed into 90 minutes at Wembley.Gareth Southgate’s players had been bright, energetic and confident. They built a 2-0 lead through Adam Lallana’s ninth-minute penalty and Jamie Vardy’s diving header from Jordan Henderson’s cross early in the second half.Yes, they were forced to endure lengthy periods of Spain dominating possession, but rather than cave in, as England teams have done in the past against superior opposition, they were solid. They held on and displayed the threat going forward that comes with pace and purpose in attacking positions.Then came the sucker punch, with England letting their guard down, failing to display the nous and game management required to succeed at the highest level. Southgate’s glorious coronation as the national team’s new permanent manager was dealt a painful dose of reality.That is no bad thing, however.Southgate, perhaps as early as next week, will be confirmed as Sam Allardyce’s full-time successor after four games in interim charge, and it might work in the 46-year-old’s favour that England’s frailties have been exposed, just as misplaced optimism had begun to grow during an unbeaten run against the collective might of Malta, Slovenia and Scotland.England went to school against Spain and were ultimately taught the lesson that nothing comes easily at the international level.There was really nothing to get excited about against the mediocre opposition England had faced under Southgate prior to Tuesday night, but a game against the dominant force of world football over the past decade will have given Southgate reason for optimism as well as cause for concern.”We played one of the best teams in the world, and I can’t have asked for any more,” he said. “But maybe not winning will be better for us in the long run, knowing what we have to do at this level.”Southgate is a smart cookie — not one to fall for hype or the misplaced arrogance that has often contributed to England’s failings — so he will use Spain’s late fight back to his advantage.He came closer than most to helping England end their wait for silverware with Terry Venables’ team at Euro ’96, and he has admitted to learning key lessons from that experience, in terms of the mindset required to end England’s days as also-rans.Can Southgate inspire this generation of England players to the success that the likes of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson all failed to deliver since the turn of the century?There is quality to work with; the emerging talents of John Stones, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are as promising as any comparable youngsters in the world game. Adam Lallana’s development into a goal-scoring midfielder at international level is another plus.The freedom of movement and pace delivered against Spain, by the likes of Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott, were similar to that which contributed to the 3-2 March victory against Germany in Berlin, when Hodgson’s young team sparked the kind of optimism and excitement that prompted many to believe England could win Euro 2016.That proved to be a false hope, but the ingredients in that victory remain, and at any level, pace and movement are a problem for even the best teams; Lopetegui admitted after the game that England’s “pace and quality on the break” were a concern for his players.One significant absentee against Germany and Spain was Wayne Rooney. Southgate has already displayed the single-mindedness and strength of character to drop the England captain, against Slovenia last month, and he might now be ready to contemplate going without Rooney on a more permanent basis.The 31-year-old, who is neither a forward nor a midfielder, slows the team down and makes England far too predictable. His leadership qualities are valued by Southgate, but Rooney no longer merits a place in the team.Alli, absent through injury against Spain, is a better option in the No. 10 role, while Harry Kane, Rashford, Vardy and Daniel Sturridge are all ahead of Rooney in an attacking sense.Meanwhile, given Jordan Henderson and Dier once again impressed as a midfield pair at Wembley, Southgate is likely to find it harder to accommodate Rooney than leave him out.Results and performances are the ultimate acid test, and neither has been good with Rooney in the team in 2016, so to take England forward, Southgate has to make the big call when the squad next meets up in March.”There is a lot of potential,” Southgate said of his squad after Tuesday’s game. “But there is a long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be a top team.”The building blocks are there, however, and Southgate insists he has shown the credentials to take the job permanently. “I’ve proved that I can handle big occasions,” he said. “Until this run, under this spotlight and in matches like Friday’s against Scotland under intense pressure, you’re never sure how it is going to be. But I’m pleased, and I think the remit we were given has been fulfilled.”The job will only get more difficult, but if anybody was under any illusion as to the size of Southgate’s task, Spain at least did him the favour of bringing that reality into sharp focus.Mark is a Senior Football Writer for ESPN FC.

Neat Note from the Indy 11 owner – mighty classy!!  I thought his handling of the Spring Trophy – bringing it into the stands for the BYB members to touch was one of the coolest things I have ever seen an Owner of Pro Team do!!  Congrats to the 11 !!

Fellow Indy Eleven fans,

With the end of a successful season fresh in everyone’s minds, on behalf of everyone at Indy Eleven I wanted to give our sincerest thanks for your support both on Sunday night at The Championship Final and throughout a historic 2016 for Indiana’s Team.From the first game of the year, a revamped roster fed off your passion and looked to match your intensity, resulting in a remarkable 19 games without defeat at Carroll Stadium in all competitions, including claiming the Spring Season NASL title with a 4-1 victory over Carolina in June. Adding a victory in our first playoff game in club history in front of a sold out crowd made for a perfect ending to a season full of wonderful memories at home.Following that, competing in Indy Eleven’s first NASL Championship Final in New York cheered on by hundreds of fans who had made the trip from Indiana was a special moment for a club only in its third season. Coming within a penalty shootout of taking the NASL Championship to end the year only heightens our focus to build from this foundation and come back with even more desire to win the NASL Championship in 2017.

The special connection between you and our players have made “The Mike” the toughest place to play in the NASL. That’s a relationship we cherish and look forward to building on even more moving into next year.Along with the magic made on the field, there are strong measures of growth for Indy Eleven off the field to take away from 2016. This includes the formation of the Indy Eleven Soccer Foundation, providing support for community projects such as Indianapolis Public Schools’ soccer program, an improved training facility at Grand Park and the debut of the Indy Eleven NPSL development squad. 2016 truly has been a landmark year for Indy Eleven.As we acknowledge these accomplishments, know that your club is working every day to fulfil our mission to win championships with and for the community. Both Indy Eleven and you, our tremendous fans, have grown a lot in three short years, and with your continued support we know bigger and better things are ahead both on the field and in the stands. We hope you will be there to #CueTheSmoke with us every game at “The Mike” in 2017.

Indy Forever,

Ersal Ozdemir
Owner, Indy Eleven Professional Soccer

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

 

Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com , Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

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