In their first four matches since posting a 5-2 smackdown of Japan in July's World Cup Final, the U.S. Women's National Team swept the entire slate by a combined score of 28-2.
If you're an American soccer fan, you're wishing that the FIFA Women's World Cup -- also known as the World Cup -- was a perpetual contest, a self-replenishing starry-stripey highlight reel of virtuoso hulk-smashing. Every week, every month. You'd be in want of nothing, what with all the crouching Morgans and hidden Hollidays. There would be a SportsCenter Top Ten every Friday just for Carli Lloyd. There would be no time to score looping headers with Abby Wambach in FIFA 16 because you'd be too busy watching the Gator alum do it in real actual life.
And, at long last, the often-stupefying J.P. Dellacamera would finally, mercifully go hoarse.
Unfortunately, the only U.S. team playing for real results these days is that odious fixer-upper of a men's squad. Saturday's devastating 3-2 knife-twist at the hands of El Tri cements the Americans' status as no-better-than-second-best in the North American confederation. Clint Dempsey has still never scored against Mexico, Michael Bradley has still never played in a game that clinched a trophy, and Jurgen Klinsmann continues to confound at the helm of a flagging, flailing soccer brand.
The only human being with an interest in U.S. Soccer not currently fretting in public about Jurgen Klinsmann's eminently disappointing post-World Cup run is the gaffer himself.
When American socceroos went into a tailspin following this summer's stunning exeunt from the Gold Cup at the hands of Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, Klinsmann was quick to suggest that his squad had learned a lot from what was, in every respect, an abject failure. (In any previous Gold Cup, U.S. Men had never been eliminated by anyone other than Mexico. Ever!)
If that sentiment was true, it didn't show up on tape: as our colleague Kevin McCauley noted, Saturday's CONCACAF Cup saw Mexico complete 244 passes in the attacking third. The Americans? 92.
If you didn't watch the game, I'll let you guess who dictated the proceedings and produced more (and better) chances on goal.
What did this team learn since bowing out of the Gold Cup, exactly?
Stars and Stripes FC's Rob Usry was frank in his conclusion: first of all, Mexico -- never timid about making a managerial change -- is still just better.
Devotees will recall Raf's scathing rebuke of KlinsMania on the pages of Hudson River Blue back in July. Grant Wahl basically wrote the
buddy-buddy good-time-Charlie version of that exact piece on Sunday (no need to link to it; if you haven't already read the Wahl bit, just read Raf's piece instead, because this is HRB, son). The important thing to note is that nothing has changed since July, and really, nothing has changed since the U.S. Men bowed out of the World Cup a full year earlier.
Over the summer, the embattled gaffer turned to an American youth movement that fell flat on its face. If you recall:
- Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks were an unmitigated disaster in central defense, and granted zero relief to Brad Guzan in goal.
- Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin were shuffled around the formation liberally, and never found comfort in the wide positions.
- All this occurred while the effervescent Jordan Morris wasn't even on the squad, yet Alan Gordon was??
- Kyle Beckerman was an ineffectual force at the base of midfield.
- The Jozy Altidore-Clint Dempsey strike partnership was disjointed and lacked service.
- Compared to the lively runs of El Tri, the Americans were absolutely outclassed in buildup play. The difference in creativity and intent was nothing less than a chasm.
To that third point, Yedlin came on for Zardes in the 78th minute, bringing a spark of energy and coherence with him. He assisted on Bobby Wood's extra-time equalizer. So, why wasn't he brought on earlier?
These are questions that the U.S. coach will never be able to answer satisfyingly, as his post-match press conferences seem to grow more inane and oblivious, to the point of satire, with each new iteration.
Seriously, have you watched the man speak after a teeth-gnashing loss? His statements have grown downright unbecoming.
Unfortunately for USA fans, nobody volunteers for a demotion; the idea that Klinsmann would conceivably agree to step down as coach but stay on as technical director -- a job he's handled reasonably well by U.S. standards -- represents an amateurish kind of wishful thinking.
Klinsmann holds all the cards in his relationship with U.S. Soccer; we know that's true because the excessively mild-mannered Sunil Gulati handed him the whole deck. As with any professional relationship worth millions of dollars, Klinsmann won't step aside until his contract ends or he's fired. And U.S. Soccer simply doesn't have the financial muscle to fire Klinsmann, buy him out of his remaining deal, hire a new tech director and coach, pay them, and start all over.
In other words, Klinsmann is here to stay through the end of the 2018 World Cup cycle, as per his contract. Let me tell you what's going to happen: the U.S. will qualify for Russia, advance out of its group, and lose in the Round of 16.
Is that progress? Here's a hint: the 2002 team, which Klinsmann groupies conveniently forget, were an uproarious non-call away from a World Cup semifinal. That Bruce Arena-coached team should be the measuring stick for this subsequent generation of U.S. sides. If any other person were in charge of the USMNT, that would indeed be the case.
From the beginning, Klinsmann has been untouchable wearing that U.S. polo.
When Landon Donovan bagged his famous winner at the death against Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, ESPN's Ian Darke famously cheered, "GO, GO, USA!" These days, the real need isn't simply to go as much as grow.
For months now, the evidence has constituted a preponderance: Jurgen Klinsmann is the wrong coach to oversee the next U.S. growth spurt. But -- in every sense of the phrase -- he isn't going anywhere.