Building Blocks in Place, but Can Klinsmann Lead USMNT out of Its Dark Place?

By Noah Davis
at Internationaled.org

Published: November 17, 2016

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Less than a week ago, all was well with the United States men's national team.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's squad had a successful summer, reaching the third-place game of Copa America Centenario. The early fall saw youngsters like Christian Pulisic and Lynden Gooch emerge as solid parts of the present and future, while players such as Sacha Kljestan and Julian Green came in from the cold.

Tim Howard was in top form, with Geoff Cameron and John Brooks looking like a center-back pairing that could solidify the back line until the 2018 World Cup and beyond. The momentum, you'd have to say, was heading in the right direction.

Today, after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to begin the final round of 2018 World Cup qualification, the narrative around the team is one of a squad in chaos, with a vocal segment of the media and supporters calling for Klinsmann to be removed. The pendulum, quickly and dramatically, swung back in the other direction.

It's all a bit reactionary, really. The ultimate goal is a ticket to Russia, and that's still achievable since CONCACAF is the easiest region in the world from which to quality.

The Americans sit at the bottom of the six-team group after two matches, but there are eight games to go, and Klinsmann's crew will be favored in the majority of them. Five wins and a draw over the next eight games—not a difficult task when you consider Friday's defeat was the only home qualifier the U.S. has lost in 15 years—will almost certainly see the Americans earn one of the three automatic slots.

Even fourth place is a likely ticket to Russia since the U.S. would be tipped to advance in a playoff with the fifth-place finisher in the Asian confederation.

Losing to Mexico at home and Costa Rica on the road isn't great, obviously, but it's hardly a death sentence. After all, El Tri reached the 2014 World Cup by winning just two of 10 Hexagonal round games an...
Article Source: Bleacher Report - International Football

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