Armchair Analyst: Sunk cost, Jurgen Klinsmann & a 3-2 USMNT loss to Mexico

We are now into the "sunk cost fallacy" era of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure. Read THIS, then come back here. I'll wait.

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Are we ok with this? Are we ok with a national team program that pushes speed and physicality, that scorns possession and tactical nous? One that doesn't prize technique over creativity, instead emphasizing size and "nastiness"? Do we want a team that threatens only on counterattacks and set pieces, that ignores the most creative players in the talent pool?

Do we want a national team that isn't built to solve problems, settling instead for one that's designed to absorb pressure? One that concedes 60 percent of the ball and most of the danger, and lives and dies on opportunism?

Is this what you all signed on for?

As a brief reminder that wasn't always this way, in the wake of the USMNT's 3-2 loss to a sloppy Mexico on Saturday night in the CONCACAF Cup, here are the US numbers from the past seven World Cups:

USA          
Year Minutes Played Possession Passes Per 90 Passes, Final Third Per 90 Shots Per 90
1990 270 46.61% 324.33 90.00 11.00
1994 360 42.61% 352.00 89.75 11.50
1998 270 53.83% 452.67 157.00 16.67
2002 450 48.59% 356.40 126.80 12.60
2006 270 50.31% 392.00 133.33 10.33
2010 390 49.06% 367.85 122.77 15.46
2014 390 43.48% 381.69 98.54 10.15
           
Opponents          
Year Minutes Played Possession Passes Per 90 Passes, Final Third Per 90 Shots Per 90
1990 270 53.39% 365.33 131.33 19.33
1994 360 56.93% 487.50 149.25 17.75
1998 270 46.07% 391.67 117.67 13.00
2002 450 51.66% 295.80 119.40 16.20
2006 270 49.92% 392.33 120.00 10.33
2010 390 50.94% 375.46 123.92 14.08
2014 390 56.52% 500.08 168.23 21.69

That is a clear regression in chance generation, final third entries, and overall "danger" for lack of a better word. Last year's trip to Brazil was "Bunker and pray!" - save for a glorious hour against the Portuguese - just as our appearances had been in 1990 and '94.

On Saturday, it was the same. El Tri dominated the game with a Barcelona-esque 64 percent of possession, got two glorious goals, and were only troubled on restarts and on the run, while the US dropped both lines deep and bunkered.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't.

Universally, though, it's been identified as something we (US soccer fandom in general) wanted to move away from.

Jurgen Klinsmann has carved his place in US history at this point, and it's not horrible. He contributed to this:

To add to the above: Only seven teams have made it to each of the last seven World Cups. We're in that group. We've also finished third place (1999) and second place (2009) in the Confederations Cup, and have won a bunch of Gold Cups against teams (Mexico, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica, Jamaica) that are much better than they're given credit for on the world stage.

So in short, we have been in elite company over the last two decades. We are not Bhutan or Andorra. We are not minnows, either by result or intent.

Yet under Klinsmann, we now play like a country that swims with the smallfry. There will be no Confederations Cup, and very likely no Olympics. And if this trend continues - if the powers that be at USSF continue to prize style over substance - there is a very legitimate chance the 2018 World Cup happens without the US.

Combine the summer's Gold Cup debacle with this loss, and a second straight failure in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying, and it's clear that Klinsmann has this program going backwards at all levels. There is a reason so many fans feel that the Sword of Damocles should fall.


A quick few notes:

6. The US started in a diamond-4 midfield, then slid to a flat 4-4-2. This is fine, except that Kyle Beckerman is only really good in the diamond, and the diamond is very difficult to play at the international level because it requires complex defensive rotations from the wide players, the "shuttlers." You can see Jermaine Jones miss his rotation on the first Mexico goal:

It's not Jones's fault he was played out of position, and that was a pretty, pretty goal in any context.

5. Two notable defensive mistakes on the night came from Fabian Johnson (on Mexico's second goal) and Hector Moreno (on the US second goal). Both those guys play on UEFA Champions League teams.

Try to remember that the next time you hear "we're not good because we don't have Champions League players!" as an excuse.

4. Clint Dempsey has not been the same since the Gold Cup, and labored badly in this one. Jozy Altidore was involved and battled for 75 minutes, but clearly gassed after that.

I don't know why Klinsmann didn't use his subs.

3. Mexico really missed Gio Dos Santos. Their lack of inventiveness around the area kept the US in the game.

2. DaMarcus Beasley took a risk on the game-winner, and the US got burned. He can't commit to this defensive play and then not make it:

Nonetheless, that's one of the great goals in this rivalry's history from Paul Aguilar, right up there with Benny Feilhaber's Gold Cup-winner in 2007 and Gio Dos Santos's coup de grace in 2011.

1. Geoff Cameron is a stud, and I still don't understand why he hasn't been the No. 1 choice in central defense since August of 2011. I thought he and Matt Besler worked well together for the most part, save for that first goal.

And that goes back to the issue with Klinsmann: Cameron and Besler should have been the pair in defense for the past four years, but they've only rarely played together. They didn't have the reps and continuity and chemistry required to be more than the sum of their parts, which is true up-and-down the lineup:

We're now less than we should be, and Mexico are champions. 

Is this what you signed on for?

To read all of MLSsoccer.com’s coverage of the CONCACAF Cup, visit our CONCACAF Cup page.

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