March 26, 2017


The USMNT's demolition of Honduras showed just how bad Jurgen Klinsmann was at his job (Kevin McCauley,  Mar 25, 2017, SB Nation)

... playing for a bad tactician for five years is exhausting. The players figured out he didn't know what he was doing in 2013, then had to keep playing for him for three more years. At some point, you can't talk yourself into giving your all for an incompetent manager anymore, especially when his incompetence is making your job harder. It's deflating. The American players should not be criticized for quitting on Klinsmann, but instead praised for continuing to play their hardest for him even after figuring out that he was a snake oil salesman.

It's also hard to play for a manager who says one thing then does the other. For instance, Klinsmann regularly talked about the lack of technically sound players in the American player pool and insinuated that he didn't have the talent to play a pretty passing style. (Trashing your own players is another bad motivational tactic.) But there were guys who could pass hidden in plain sight, and Klinsmann ignored them.

Klinsmann refused to give Darlington Nagbe a sustained run of games, and he wouldn't give Jorge VillafaƱa a chance at all. Here's what the team's left flank looked like in the first half of the Honduras match under boring, long ball, classic 4-4-2 Coach Arena:

Starting Nagbe and VillafaƱa was not a stroke of genius from Arena. It's something that fans and media -- laypeople without top level managerial experience -- have been begging Klinsmann to try for two years.

Ultimately, Arena kept it pretty simple on Friday night. His team selection was smart, but not anything outrageous. He just selected in-form players then put them in positions they have experience playing in, in a shape that gave the team balance in all areas of the pitch.

An underrated aspect of management is making sure your players don't think you're an incompetent jerk. If your players feel like you don't think they're good enough and that your tactics don't make any sense either, you've lost a lot before they've even stepped on the pitch. It didn't matter how good Klinsmann's motivational speeches were in the locker room if players knew he was going to put them in a position to fail tactically and then tell the media they're crap when the game is over.

Nagbe was actually pretty disappointing and Arena still had Geoff Cameron out of position, which meant Bradley was periodically lost, as usual.   

But he and his successor are almost inevitably going to be considered geniuses just because they get to play Pulisic, who's not only the best American player ever but is going to be the first to be in the conversation for best player in the world.  (Pulisic, Altidore, Dempsey and Lletget going forward looked like a legit World Cup contending attack.)

The key though was that Pulisic and John Brooks were the only players that don't play domestically, rather than the teams Jurgen used to trot out which seemed an attempt to justify his stooping to the USA job by pretending that players from foreign leagues were superior and like he was in charge of a European/South American squad.

Posted by at March 26, 2017 8:13 AM