CHICAGO – Jurgen Klinmann’s in perfect health, but that won’t keep him from being quarantined from his team during Sunday afternoon’s Gold Cup final at Soldier Field (4 pm ET, Fox/Univision, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Clearly, saying sorry doesn’t cut it with the CONCACAF Disciplinary Committee, which handed down a one-game suspension late Friday night after Klinsmann was dismissed in the 87th minute against Honduras in the semifinal for “showing dissent towards the referee by throwing the ball in a violent manner.”
The US boss won’t be allowed on the bench or in the team’s locker room. Radio communication is prohibited as well. During his press conference on Saturday, Klinsmann said assistant coaches Andreas Herzog and Martin Vasquez will share coaching responsibilities on the bench.
“It is what it is,” he said simply.
It remains to be seen if interaction with the bench via cell phone falls outside CONCACAF’s restrictions, but either way there will be none of the fist pumps or jubilant celebrations American fans have come to enjoy during this Gold Cup run.
Instead, Klinsmann will have to watch from afar as his team attempts to win their first trophy since he was hired following a Gold Cup final loss to Mexico in 2011. He’ll be in the stadium, no doubt, but there’s no pretending that’s the same as being in his customary spot in the coach’s box.
“Well, we’re obviously disappointed,” Landon Donovan said. “This month has been about a group of 30 to 40 people together doing something special. You would hope that every avenue is taken to keep someone from being a part of a final.
"As a player, coach, staff member, it’s one of the biggest things in your career. You would hope that every measure is taken to allow people to be a part of it. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, so we’re all disappointed.”
Prior to training on Saturday, the issue hadn’t been addressed on a team level. But in a sign of the times, striker Eddie Johnson said most of the team had learned Klinsmann’s fate via Twitter.
And although they had held out hope that the CONCACAF Disciplinary Committee might spare their coach considering the circumstances, Johnson said nobody was equating Klinsmann’s absence on the field to a lack of direction.
“We already knew after the game that is was a potential chance that he might be suspended,” Johnson said. “We did a lot of wishful thinking and were hoping that he was going to be on the field in an important game like this. But it’s football. Things happen. As a national team, I think you can watch throughout the tournament that this team is well prepared for whatever circumstances we’ve got to face.”
Minutes earlier, Klinsmann had echoed that very thought, emphasizing that the team would depart the bus at Soldier Field prepared for any scenario facing them. He’s spent the past month – two years even – making sure of that.
If nothing else, Klinsmann’s absence may stir something in his players. He may not be able to guide his players from the touchline, but that would certainly be forgotten if he’s able to celebrate there with them after the final whistle.
“We’re going to use it as a little bit of a rallying cry,” Donovan said. “We’ve built something really special here, and we want Jurgen to be a part of it. We want to win the trophy tomorrow.”