Two series, one narrative, many questions for Jurgen Klinsmann


Kiesewetter-Sigurdarson USMNT

Remember when most U.S. Soccer supporters actually liked Jurgen Klinsmann? It sounds like a far-fetched idea given how things have changed these last few years but there was actually a time when Klinsmann was seen as the answer to all of the ills of U.S. Men’s Soccer. My, have things have changed.

On Friday the Klinsmann era will face two tests in foreign countries. First, the United States under-23 Men’s National Team will take on the Colombian under-23 National at the start of a two-legged playoff to earn the final spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The evening nightcap sees the senior side traveling to the always friendly confines of Estadio Mateo Flores to face Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying (10pm EST beINSport).

With both the senior and under-23 sides playing on the same day this is a litmus test for the Klinsmann regime and the narrative of being patient. After coming in with much fanfare and speaking at lengths of his desire to enhance the depth of the U.S. Men’s roster these two matches will truly show how far Klinsmann’s efforts have or have not come.

The last time the men’s side was tested in such a way the results were disastrous. On October 10, 2015 the under-23 side were humbled by Honduras during Olympic qualification and the senior side lost to Mexico in dramatic fashion at the CONCACAF Cup. To say that it was a dark day for U.S. Soccer might be a bit dramatic. But given the level of expectations that Klinsmann has placed on the entire men’s program their recent run of form it is fair to call into question whether or not things are working.

So can either side come out with a result? The circumstances are not promising at least in the first leg. For the under-23’s they will have to take on a Colombia side that is very experienced and very dangerous. Eleven of the twenty-three players that coach Carlos Restrepo called up for this two-legged playoff have made appearances for the senior national team. Look for Juan Quintero (Rennes) to give the U.S. midfield all sorts of problems in both Barranquilla and in Dallas next week.

The senior side will also have a tall task ahead of them. Guatemala has never qualified for a World Cup yet is consistently one of the most difficult sides in all of CONCACAF to play against. While their home field “advantage” (very loud and passionate supporters, questionable referee decisions) is well known, this side has adapted and evolved a bit. The United States does have a good record against Guatemala though going 15-4-6 in 25 matches all-time.

Marco Pappa joins the Colorado Rapids. Photo Courtesy of

Marco Pappa joins the Colorado Rapids. Photo Courtesy of

Although the timeless Carlos Ruiz is still making appearances for La Azul y Blanco this team clearly has shifted to Marco Pappa being the center of attention. Much like with his club side, the Colorado Rapids, Pappa will start out as an outside midfielder but drift towards the center of the pitch to throw the United States off of their game.

Aside from Pappa and Ruiz this is a very young, inexperienced Guatemala side. Coach Walter Claveri used the previous three friendlies to introduce multiple new players to the side. The tactic seemed to pay off against Honduras February with Guatemala producing a 3-1 result. The question is now can players like Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas) produce against a larger side like the United States.

Meanwhile the United States the major question for both teams is who going to score. For the under-23 side the hope of coach Andi Herzog is that Jordan Morris can carry the load. Despite coming to the Seattle Sounders under much fanfare Morris has yet to produce many attacking chances. Morris will need to have a huge game if the United States have any designs for going to the Olympics in Brazil.

Wood made his home debut for the USAPhoto: US Soccer

Wood made his home debut for the USA
Photo: US Soccer

For the senior side, Jozy Altidore is likely out due to a hamstring injury forcing Klinsmann to start Bobby Wood up top with Clint Dempsey. Wood has 14 goals for Union in the Second Division of the Bundesliga this season and has emerged in recent months as a favorite for Klinsmann. With Dempsey playing a bit back and help setting up plays look for Wood to get his chances to add to his four goals for the national team.

With two matches on the same day Klinsmann have the chance to turn around what has been a very difficult series of months. Then again, the same was said in October.




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