The U.S. men's soccer team is in trouble as it heads into two huge World Cup qualifiers (Friday vs. Costa Rica and next Tuesday vs. Mexico). Just how much trouble -- and how much it revolves around coach Jurgen Klinsmann -- is subject to debate, and the subject of a lengthy takeout piece by The Sporting News.
It goes well beyond the situation with captain Carlos Bocanegra, who is not on the roster for these next two matches. Per Sporting News:
Over the past several weeks, Sporting News has spoken to 22 individuals with ties to the U.S. national team or its members—including 11 current players based in MLS or abroad. The remaining sources make their living in American soccer and have reliable relationships with players, coaches and executives. Sources were offered anonymity in exchange for their anecdotes, observations and opinions. Those identified by name are Klinsmann and three players who spoke shortly before Sporting News commenced reporting this story.
What emerged over the course of these discussions was near unanimity regarding the players’ flagging faith in Klinsmann, his staff and his methods, along with the squad’s absence of harmony.
In conversation after conversation, the same themes emerged:
— Klinsmann and chief assistant Martin Vasquez either lack the tactical acumen and game-day chops to successfully lead the team or fail to communicate their wishes effectively.
— Too much time and too many resources are spent on initiatives that don’t translate to the field.
— Constant lineup changes and building resentment over the perceived importance and attitude of the German-born players are harming team chemistry.
This group isn’t on the same page with its coach or each other, and the World Cup campaign might be in peril unless that changes. Sources painted a picture of a coach whose big ideas might not fit a team he could be in danger of losing.
All of that could add up to a team crumbling at the worst possible time and missing out on qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Give the rest of the piece a read. It's worth it.