Dear Mr. Klinsmann,
Concerned US football fans and players would like to pose several questions to you in your capacity as head coach for the U.S. men’s team and the overseer of their noble but failed bid to advance in Brazil beyond the Round of 16.
1) Why did Michael Bradley stay in the entire game?
For that matter, why did Michael Bradley anchor the midfield for this entire run in Brazil? Bradley showed himself to be sporadic and inconsistent, giving more passes away arguably than any other player on Team USA. He has flashes of glory, I grant you that. South Africa, for example. And yes, the pass that set up Julian Green in the 108th minute was pretty, but flashes of beauty do not make for a solid, well-rounded performance. He should have been substituted at half time. (And there is a line of thinking that he should’ve been left off the roster altogether, and Landon Donovan should’ve been included instead, but we won’t go there)
2) Why tout Jozy Altidore’s return to fitness if you’re not going to play him?
Altidore’s speed and size was sorely missed, first and foremost by Clint Dempsey who fell into the role of sole playmaker at the front of the formation. Dempsey’s good, but not that good. Klinsmann (and US Soccer) was spinning Altidore’s return to fitness almost as a panacea or a shining ray of light to lead the Americans to victory. But then he sat on the bench the whole time. What’s that all about? I don’t fault Jozy; he was injured. Full stop. But why make a big deal out of it the day before the match if you’re not going to use him at all? Are you saving him for the next round, Herr Klinsmann? What good is that if THERE IS NO NEXT ROUND?
3) Why is the US defense so amateurish?
Much was made about Klinsmann’s constant shuffling of the defensive line in the run-up to Brazil. The recurring theme was doubt, and that showed itself in spades against Belgium, and in the opening round matches. Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley and Cameron showed themselves to be a disjointed and sloppy, allowing rank amateur defensive mistakes against Portugal and Germany. Belgium’s first goal by De Bruyne was pretty, no question, threading the needle to edge it past Howard’s right foot into the far left side netting. But it wasn’t Messi-ish. It wasn’t Ronaldo-ish. It was happenstance skill that could’ve been shut down by effective defense. (Of all the defenders deserving praise, it was clearly Beasley who was making runs down the left side repeatedly, even into the extra time. In a hot stadium after 1 1/2 hours of play, that’s determination. Beasley should be showered with praise).
4) Why didn’t Howard getting pulled forward at the end?
A lot of viewers– particularly neophyte American fans– were surprised to see a day-glo yellow jersey flitting around the box of the Argentine-Swiss game earlier on Tuesday. As it happened, the Swiss, down by a goal and facing elimination from the tournament, sent Diego Benaglio into the field of play and even into the opposing penalty box to press an
11-on-10 11-on-11 attack against the Argentines. This is a tactic used all the time in ice hockey; not so much in football. It sometimes makes for comical scenarios, but it’s a sign of a team’s perseverance and motivation. As for Team USA, Klinsmann could’ve sent Howard forward in extra time, particularly after the side got a jolt of inspiration from Green’s goal. But no. Howard stayed put. In the knockout round, a loss in a loss, no matter how many goals it is. You have to double down and move your goalie forward in this setting. Full stop. Klinsmann should be faulted for not.
5) Why don’t you consider cloning Howard? Or cryogenically freezing him so that he can play in 2018 in Russia?
Howard was a god against Belgium. Fifteen saves is unheard of for a World Cup goal keeper, and may well be a record. He batted, and whacked, and deflected, and turned away, and blocked, save after save after save after save. He was otherworldly against Belgium. If you weren’t aware already, the Twitter hashtag #TimHowardForPresident was trending for quite some time in the evening Tuesday. Everton FC in the Premier League should be offering Howard a bajillion dollars to stay with them because the match against Belgium showed how he is quite possibly the world’s best goal keeper (with Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa a close second).
Hey, at least look on the bright side: now you can calmly watch Messi work his magic and watch the Argentinians humiliate the Belgians in the quarterfinals, instead of Team USA….