After the dust settled from the US 2-1 loss to Jamaica Wednesday evening, the question that hung around after most of the fan angst had ebbed and flowed, then washed away temporarily with the train wreck that was Mexico’s 2-1 extra time victory over Panama, was did Klinsmann mismanage the US roster in the quarterfinals to where he cost his team the chance to advance?
Certainly, as the US was up 4-0 at the half, it was clear that players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley had no need to play an additional 45 minutes after such a grueling group stage. You could even make a pretty good argument that the US ought to have been able to beat a marginal Cuba side without their big guns.
Yet there they were, playing 90 minutes in a game that the US had well in hand by the third goal. Did Klinsmann really think that Cuba, a team that scored one lone goal in the group stage, was going to score even once against the US? Sure, confidence and momentum are important, but so is fitness and both Dempsey and Bradley are so very important to the success of the team.
And while Jamaica is a team full of confidence after their valiant effort in the Copa America and their surprising wins in the Gold Cup to date, and their two goals were ones that probably would have happened even if Bradley and Dempsey were rested for the entire game against Cuba, it was the response that came slow and sluggish that ultimately cost this team a chance to defend its title.
Luckily, the US won the 2013 edition and CONCACAF had empowered the off-cycle Gold Cup winners with a shot at the Confederations Cup, so in October they will take on either Mexico or Jamaica to see who represents CONCACAF in Russia in 2017. But this is still a loss that should sting some as Jamaica is good – and certainly better than the US gave them credit for, Klinsmann’s claims that Jamaica were the most prepared team in the tournament because of the Copa America experience notwithstanding – but they are not a team the US should lose to at home.
Now those overreacting by calling for Klinsmann’s job, please stop. This was a bad loss, to be sure, but you cannot throw away the successes we have seen under the German’s leadership just because of one loss to a team that, while it wasn’t Mexico, it was to a team that will be pushing hard to once again be in the Hex and that is playing well right now. The comparisons to Bradley’s ouster are plain silly – in that game, the US got flat embarrassed by Mexico and that team had none of the counterweight that Klinsmann’s recent success has given this team. Yes, it is surely upsetting, but it is not the end of the world. It is a coaching moment, one that hopefully everyone involved with the US program will take to heart so that this does not happen again.