In addition to officially welcoming Bruce Arena as new head coach of the US men’s national team, US Soccer president Sunil Gulati said his public goodbye to Jurgen Klinsmann on Tuesday.
Gulati, who hired Klinsmann in 2011 after reportedly offering him the USMNT job in 2006 and 2010, explained Tuesday his decision to fire the German on Monday, less than 10 days after he told reporters that he expected the manager to stay with the US through the Hexagonal round of qualifying.
“I did say that I fully expected Jurgen to coach us through the Hex and beyond,” Gulati told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday. “None of us expected the two results we got. That doesn’t mean [it came down to] a single loss or a single goal, but overall those two games, as well as then the history that we took into account. And so it’s never based, as I’ve said many times, on a single game. But you weigh up individual games and, in this case, those two games combined with everything else we had, we felt we needed to go in a different direction in order to maximize the chances for success on the field both in March in qualifying, at the  Gold Cup and then subsequently at the World Cup itself.”
Gulati’s reasoning didn’t come down solely to the US’s disappointing losses against Mexico and at Costa Rica in the opening two games of the Hex, but also included two other areas: Klinsmann’s failure to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the US not qualifying the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The US, who won the 2013 Gold Cup, would’ve qualified for next year’s Confederations Cup with a 2015 Gold Cup title or a victory over Mexico in the subsequent CONCACAF Cup play-in game. They finished fourth in the Gold Cup and lost in extra time to El Tri in the ensuing playoff match. The US U-23s finished third in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying and lost to Colombia in a playoff to miss out on Rio.
“Where would we have liked to see the team? In an ideal world, 2-0, but 0-2 put us in a very difficult position,” Gulati told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday. “Where would we have liked to see the team? We would’ve liked to see the team playing in the Confederations Cup next summer either by winning this last Gold Cup – we did win the one, the penultimate one – or by winning that playoff. So I think those are two big things. We would’ve liked to have seen the Olympic team in Brazil. So if I could pick three things, those would be the three. We would’ve liked to have had a better start to the Hex, we would’ve liked to see the team in Rio and we’d like to be playing in the Confederations Cup next summer.”
Gulati said that the US are in no rush to fill Klinsmann’s vacated technical director role, and that “a lot of what goes on” with that position falls under US youth technical director Tab Ramos. Additionally, he said that the fate of Klinsmann’s lead assistant Andi Herzog, who served as head coach for the U-23s in their unsuccessful Olympic qualification bid, will be decided in the next couple of weeks as Arena picks his coaching staff.
Gulati also denied an ESPN FC report published on Tuesday morning that claimed part of Gulati’s rationale for dismissing Klinsmann came down to the manager’s penchant for dismissing criticism and making excuses, saying that he didn’t make the decision based “on any recent comments that I’ve read.”
“I want to thank Jurgen for everything he’s done for the program, and not only for the senior national team but in all of our programs,” Gulati said. “I think there were many, many successes… but some of the results more recently have put us in a difficult position vis-a-vis World Cup qualifying. And as I’ve said many times, we don’t make any decisions based on one or two games, but over a long period of time some of those things have raised some concerns for us, which is why we decided to make a change.”