COLUMBUS, Ohio – The US national team got their Hexagonal campaign off to a rocky start with Friday night's 2-1 loss to Mexico at MAPFRE Stadium. They now face what might be an ever tougher task in Tuesday's visit to Costa Rica, where they've never won in nine CONCACAF World Cup qualifying visits.
But it's highly unlikely that coach Jurgen Klinsmann's job will be in jeopardy at this stage of the road to Russia 2018, based on what US Soccer federation president Sunil Gulati told reporters on Friday afternoon.
“Every coach at some level is on the hot seat in every game,” Gulati said at a media roundtable at the US hotel in downtown Columbus. “We have not had a coach in 27 years that has started World Cup qualifying and not finished World Cup qualifying. The last time was in 1988-89.
“We've never changed coaches in the Hex,” he added. “And I expect that to be the case here.”
It's important to note that the federation's longtime president was speaking before the stinging setback to El Tri, the USMNT's first qualifying loss on home soil since a 3-2 defeat to Honduras at RFK Stadium in 2001.
But Gulati also alluded to the influence that CONCACAF's schedule plays on perceptions of the team's status and performances, noting that frustration and fear spiked when the Yanks lost at Guatemala in the previous round of this cycle, only to cruise to first place in their semifinal group with three consecutive victories.
“The sequence of games matters a lot,” he said. “Both times, after we didn't do as well as we wanted in the first few games, I said, 'we're going to win the last three games and finish top of the group.' And that's happened. I don't usually get these things right, but the sequence of games matters a lot.”
Gulati's backing of Klinsmann did have its limits, though. When asked about the German's prospects for a renewed contract that would take him beyond his current terms, which run through Russia 2018, Gulati – who is pushing a term limits proposal that would limit his own time in office – pumped the brakes on the idea of a third World Cup cycle under the same boss.
“There's no reason for us to think about those sorts of issues now,” said Gulati. “There are very, very few coaches that do third terms anywhere. There's not many that do second terms, in big countries. But let's see where things are [in 2018].”