U.S. Soccer got a metaphorical punch to the gut today as the USMNT lost to Honduras 2-0 in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Semifinal in Utah. With the win, Honduras advanced to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro while the USMNT must win the third place game on Tuesday against either Mexico or Canada and win against Colombia in a one game playoff in Rio in March.
While there was controversy in terms of both managers being ejected and a Jordan Morris goal that was wrongly called for offside, Honduras really outperformed and earned the win. The stats may have told a more even matchup but the USMNT looked pretty sloppy and disorganized at times. Now they cling onto a very slight hope of Olympic qualification.
Now this raises even more questions and even more uncertainty for Jurgen Klinsmann, at least from a fans perspective. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any pressure on Klinsmann, even if he loses against Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup to be fired, but now we’re seeing issues on Klinsmann as Technical Director. He set out a goal to have the United States qualify for the Olympics and there is a very good chance they won’t qualify in the two times Klinsmann has been Technical Director. Should all the blame be put on Klinsmann for today? No, that would be unfair to Klinsmann and even though this was a bad day for him as TD, he has tried to put forth changes to youth development and has done a good job for the most part. But having said that, he is the guy at the top making the moves, he should at least carry some of that blame.
Maybe there are other issues causing the USMNT to not grow as rapidly as other nations. Is it the youth development system? Is it the ongoing rise of “pay for play” youth and school soccer teams keeping many away from playing? Is it the varying degrees of youth coaching ability? These are all things that need to be discussed and that is way bigger than any one person within U.S. Soccer, including Jurgen Klinsmann.
This is a problem with no easy answers. The United States has been one of the best teams in CONCACAF for the past 25 years along with Mexico but it’s clear other CONCACAF teams are catching up. Costa Rica had a terrific run in the 2014 World Cup, Honduras almost beat Brazil in the 2012 London Olympics and Mexico beat Brazil for the gold medal in that tournament. In the future, there may be a time where World Cup qualification won’t be automatic for the USMNT. And if missing out on the Olympics caused many USMNT fans to get pissed off, it’ll really be bad if they don’t qualify for the World Cup.