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The Buffalo News (New York)
Jurgen Klinsmann is out as coach of the U.S. national soccer team, fired Monday after starting the final round of World Cup qualifying with losses to Mexico and Costa Rica.
Klinsmann, a World Cup champion as a player with Germany, was 55-27-16 since taking over the U.S. program in the summer of 2011. In 2013, he led the team on a record-setting 12-game winning streak, the longest in program history. A year later, he led them to the knockout of the World Cup in Brazil. He also won a Gold Cup title and guided the U.S. to the semifinals of last summer's Copa America Centenario.
But the two losses this month marked the worst start in history for a U.S. team in World Cup qualifying.
No replacement for Klinsmann was named. L.A. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who coached the U.S. to participation in two World Cups a decade ago, is among those being considered.
Sunil Gulati, president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, released a statement praising Klinsmann and his "considerable achievements." But, he added, "the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction. 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."
Gulati spent years trying to land Klinsmann as coach, eventually succeeding after the U.S. lost to Mexico in the final of the 2011 Gold Cup. Less than two years later, Klinsmann was rewarded with a contract extension through 2018, one that reportedly paid him more than $3.2 million in 2014 while expanding his duties by making him U.S. Soccer's technical director as well.
In addition to Arena, who guided the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, other candidates to replace Klinsmann include Tab Ramos, a former U.S. international who is a Klinsmann assistant; and MLS coaches Peter Vermes (Sporting Kansas City), Jason Kreis (Orlando City) and Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas).
U.S. Soccer has scheduled a conference call with Gulati for Tuesday morning, at which he is expected to introduce the new coach. A federation spokesman confirmed Arena, 65, is among those being considered. The most successful coach in U.S. Soccer history, Arena won a record 71 games with the national team and five MLS titles with the Galaxy and D.C. United.
But he recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Galaxy, a deal that does not include an out clause allowing him to leave for the national team. However, it is believed the organization would not stand in Arena's way if he wanted to leave.
Klinsmann's tenure with the national team, while marked by success, also had some deflating setbacks, especially in the last 18 months. In 2015, the U.S. failed to finish in the top three in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time in 15 years, for example, part of a run that saw the Americans loss four consecutive games to CONCANCAF teams on U.S. soil for the first time in 50 years.
Then came this month's qualifying losses to Mexico - the first qualifying loss at home in 15 years - and Costa Rica, the latter a 4-0 rout in San Jose that marked the most one-sided qualifying loss for an American team since 1980. Along the way Klinsmann tinkered with both his lineup choices and formations, often using players at positions where they were not comfortable.
And players who fell out of favor with the coach found it hard to get back on his good side. Landon Donovan, the all-time leader in goals and assists for the national team, took a sabbatical early in 2013, then came back to lead the team in scoring that year. Yet he was still cut from the World Cup team a year later.
Hours before the Mexico qualifier, Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to coach the team through the 2018 World Cup in Russia, noting that the U.S. had not replaced a manager during the final round of qualifying since 1989.
Less than two weeks later, Klinsmann was out.
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