Jürgen Klinsmann, USMNT head coach of five and a half years, was fired last week after two consecutive defeats during 2018 World Cup qualifying.
The United States lost to both Mexico and Costa Rica by a combined score of 6-1 to start the hexagonal qualifying round, and now face an uphill battle to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow.
But the United States’ World Cup qualifying performance was hardly the sole reason for Klinsmann’s dismissal, as the U.S. had been struggling for quite some time since the Copa América earlier this year.
Moreover, after bowing out of the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, Klinsmann’s U.S. side failed to win the 2015 Gold Cup; a tournament in which the U.S. had won four of the last seven outings.
Aside from two meaningless friendly victories against Germany and Holland during the summer of 2015, Klinsmann was largely unable to find a signature win the past two years.
Klinsmann finished his time with the U.S. having achieved a 63.78 win percentage; second highest among all U.S. head coaches. Klinsmann’s 55 wins also rank second in United States history.
Quickly after the firing of Klinsmann, the United States appointed Bruce Arena, former manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy, as the next head coach of the USMNT.
Arena, who also coached the United States National Team between 1998 and 2006, will be tasked with digging the Stars & Stripes out of their two game hole in World Cup qualifying.
In Arena’s eight years as the head coach, the U.S. employed a very conservative approach, over-emphasizing defense over offense. In most games against superior competition, Arena would routinely “park the bus” and try to score on the counter; a strategy many fans openly criticized.
Arena’s mindset, however, seemed to pay its fair share of dividends, as the United States achieved their highest win percentage ever during that eight year span.
The USMNT allowed only .75 goals per game during Arena’s first stint with the National Team, which compares favorably to Klinsmann’s rather high 1.08 per game.
And with striker Clint Dempsey on the way out as the team’s top goal scorer, perhaps Arena’s defensive philosophy will help bring more success to an increasingly reeling U.S. side.
Regardless, the United States have a lot of work to do between now and March 24, where they will face Honduras in their next game in World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. are by no means out of the 2018 World Cup, but if they can’t defeat Honduras in a few months, their chances at Moscow will be slim. Bruce Arena has shown an ability to win with the U.S., but does he have what it takes to pull the United States back from uncertainty?
We’ll find out in March.