U.S. Soccer has fired men's head coach and technical director Jurgen Klinsmann, one week after back-to-back losses to Mexico and Costa Rica to begin the final round of regional qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
“We want to thank Jurgen for his hard work and commitment during these last five years,” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said in a news release announcing the decision. “He took pride in having the responsibility of steering the program, and there were considerable achievements along the way. ... While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction.”
Recent results no doubt played a part in Klinsmann's dismissal, which critics had been urging.
Under contract until 2018
Klinsmann guided the U.S. team to the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and was given a contract through the 2018 World Cup. But the defending champion Americans lost to Jamaica, then to Panama to finish fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup, and later that year lost at home to rival Mexico for the first time in five years in a match to determine a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
The U.S. men lost again to visiting Mexico on November 11 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and then were embarrassed against host Costa Rica four days later, 4-0, leaving them in last place after two matches in the six-team group that also includes Honduras, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Klinsmann denied his players gave up during the Costa Rica game.
"There was nobody giving up at that time," Klinsmann told The New York Times on Sunday. "That was a normal emotional situation when things go wrong. When they get the second goal there, it was like a knock in your neck."
He said he understands the criticism, but is not afraid of losing his job and is confident the team will get enough points in the eight remaining matches to qualify for the next World Cup.
“The fact is, we lost two games. There is a lot of talk from people who don't understand soccer or the team,” he said.
Klinsmann had yet to comment after his firing.
Qualifying resumes in March
Gulati will conduct a media teleconference call Tuesday afternoon to discuss the coaching change.
His statement also read, “With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup.”
Reports indicate the list of possible successors include U.S. U-20 coach Tab Ramos, former U.S. defender and current coach of Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City, as well as former U.S. men's coach Bruce Arena, now coaching MLS's Los Angeles Galaxy.