Sacking Time

klinsmann

In 2011, Jürgen Klinsmann was announced as the newest head coach of the USMNT. This move was met with great optimism as Klinsmann had previously coached at world power Germany. He brought along promises to bring the United States to the next level.

Well it has now been five years and I think we can all see how that has turned out. The Americans now sit dead last in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal after losses to both Mexico and Costa Rica. My big question is: When did losing to Costa Rica become the next level? While Los Ticos are an improving side, they are still a team that we should be able to beat, or at least lose a close game with. They certainly should not be 4-0 better than us.

During Jürgen Klinsmann’s time in charge of the USMNT there has only been 1 success, a Gold Cup win in 2013. Since then the state of the National Team has gone downhill quickly.

A round of 16 appearance in the 2014 World Cup easily overshadowed the fact that the team should have lost almost every game they played in. While they did take Belgium to extra time in that round of 16, it was most due to the superhuman effort put forth from Goalkeeper Tim Howard who managed to save 16 shots. At this point Klinsmann could still get the benefit of the doubt as it was the first major tournament disappointment that he had led the Americans into.

A summer later the US attempted to defend their Gold Cup title as the host nation. Throughout the earlier rounds the Americans did not seem like a team that wanted to be playing. The loss in the semi-finals to Jamaica should not have happened, however it still put Klinsmann’s side in the 3rd place game which would have qualified them for the Confederations Cup in 2017. They blew this chance by losing to Panama in penalties. This was the point where Klinsmann would have been fired by any other country that has a well established soccer program, like the USA is trying to pretend they have.

Then there was the Copa America tournament, also hosted by the United States. After having an easier path to the semi-finals, the Americans faced off with Lionel Messi and Argentina. When Klinsmann was hired it was so that we could compete with teams of this caliber, well we didn’t. Right from the get go it was obvious that Argentina had the advantage, however they also outhustled n American side that was once known for their scrappy ability to stay in games. By the time the official graciously blew the final whistle it was 4-0 to Argentina. Again, with his body of work Klinsmann would have been fired at many other countries as he had not, yet again, been able to make a final of a major tournament.

One big reason that the team is not successful in these big tournaments is the lack of consistency in formation. This leads to issues in remembering assignments which can lead to goals. Some of the formations that have been played by Klinsmann’s squad include the 4-4-2, the 4-3-3 and the recently added 3-5-2. Out of all these formations the system has the player for one of them, the 4-3-3. However it is the one that Klinsmann has done whatever he can not to play. His latest craze is the 3-5-2, which involves three good defenders who have familiarity with one another to play in unison. Without Geoff Cameron in the lineup there is only one other top level defender, John Anthony Brooks, on the roster. This hasn’t worked out well and has led to some ugly goals. One would think that after five years on the job Klinsmann would have figured out a formation by now.

With World Cup Qualifying taking place during tis international break, it was the perfect chance to seize control of the Hex with a home win against Mexico. This did not occur as the team came out in a disorganized 3-5-2 formation. The switch to a back 4 helped stabilize the team, however it did not come until after Mexico had scored the opening goal of the match. They found the equalizer in the second half, but it was not enough. In the 89th minute Mexico found the winner off a corner kick when Rafa Marquez was left open at the near post and guided the ball through Brad Guzan and into the goal. A loss that again could have gotten other coaches fired in serious soccer nations.

The losses continue to pile up as the Americans traveled to Costa Rica to play their second game in the Hex. Right from the opening kick the team looked overmatched and again unorganized in the back three formation. Then came the four Costa Rican goals. Really, a 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Jürgen Klinsmann should not have left the stadium with  job after that embarrassing display from his team. It doesn’t matter how much he accepts the blame, it is obvious that things are not gong to change.

At this point it is a decent time to look for a new coach for the national team as they have until March to figure out who to call up for the next round of matches in the Hex. If the team does qualify then it still gives a new manager a year and a half to figure out what players are worth taking to Russia. After the recent results it should be, but isn’t, painfully obvious that Jürgen Klinsmann is no longer the right person to lead the USMNT into the future.

A Tribe Like No Other

There are many words that can be used to describe the 2016 Cleveland Indians, but the best way to describe them would be resilient. Without a doubt this team, on paper, did not look like a playoff contender at the beginning of the season. Somehow they started winning games. No Michael Brantley, no hitting from catcher, a rookie center fielder. Somehow they managed to find ways to defy the odds.

Once September hit it was a forgone conclusion that the Indians would win their division. Then Danny Salazar leaves a game with a forearm strain. A few games later Carlos Carrasco leaves his start less than an inning in after being hit in the hand by a pitch. All of a sudden the Indians are facing the playoffs without their 2nd and 3rd starting pitchers.

Then they end up with the Boston Red Sox in round 1. The best hitting team during the regular season. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin led the Tribe to a sweep and the right to take on the Toronto Blue Jays for the pennant.

The Indians dispose of Toronto in 5 games and many wonder just how this team has come this far. Their incredible resiliency allowed them to face adversity and keep on pushing all the way to the World Series.

Both the Indians and the Cubs knew going in that after game 3 the Cleveland pitchers would be operating on short rest. This meant a longer series seemed to favor the Cubs. Cleveland jumped out to a 3-1 lead needing one win in three games, two being at home, to win their first title since 1948.

In the end it was not meant to be. The Indians and Cubs took us on an emotional roller coaster throughout game 7 before the Chicago Cubs were able to wipe away their over a century of sorrows with championship shirt.

For Cleveland fans, such as myself, this loss joins the losses to the Braves in 1995, the Marlins in 1997 to form a terrible trio of memories in the World Series as the organization looks for their first title since 1948.

There is hope for next season, as Brantley and Carrasco will be back from injury, as well as the core of the team. With these experiences the Indians will be able to put themselves in this position again next season. Hopefully with a different result.

Curse Broken

Game 7 of the 2016 World Series sent fans through a full range of emotions. For both sets of fans only Satan could have devised a more cruel, heart-wrenching affair between two organizations that are the very definition of championship starved. However, after ten long innings, and for the first time in 108 years:

The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions!

After the leadoff homer by Dexter Fowler it seemed like it would be the Cubs night, however a couple errors by star 2nd baseman Javier Baez allowed the Indians a chance to stay close. Then came the 6-1 lead. There is no way the Cubs can blow that right? Oh wait, soon it became 6-3 and suddenly it was time to bring on the fireball hurling Aroldis Chapman. Then the unthinkable happens, Chapman actually gave up a hit! A home run  to tit the game at 6 in the bottom of the 8th inning! Out of nowhere the Indians ties the game off Chapman of all people. The hard-throwing left hander would pitch a scoreless ninth inning before the rain would cause a delay.

This rain delay caused the momentum, which had shifted in the Indians favor, to level out some. Bryan Shaw, who finished regular innings, would go on to load the bases before two runs scored to make it 8-6 Cubs in the middle of the 10th inning! Carl Edward’s Jr. was brought in to see the game out, and it appears he will do just that after he got two quick outs. Then Brandon Guyer gets on base, then steals 2nd. 8th inning hero Rajai Davis singles home Geyer to make it a 1 run game with 2 outs. A pitching change is made and Michael Montgomery is able to get Michael Martinez to ground out to end the game.

After that. Extreme jubilation for a fan base that no longer had to wait for their hero’s to bring home a championship! The goat is forgotten. Steve Bartman can be forgiven (maybe not quite yet). All because the Cubs won the World Series!

One Game: Win or Lose

commissioners-trophy

One game is all that remains to decide it all. One game to end a streak that predates entire generations of two fan bases.  One game to see who takes home the coveted Commissioners trophy. One game.

For so many people there are childhood memories of playing baseball Sandlot style with friends, imagining that it is Game 7 of the World Series. For a precious few these dreams are given a chance to be fulfilled as they are able to make it to the MLB. Still many of these players will never taste the glory of victory that comes with lifting the Commissioner’s trophy at the end of a 162 game regular season and a grueling three rounds of playoffs. As October gives way to November there are two teams who remain that can do just that: The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.

For the Cubs fan base it has been 108 years. Generations of fans lived and died without seeing their beloved Cubbies win the World Series, however their hope has endured. Revitalized by the development of youth brought in by Theo Epstein, and led by Joe Maddon, the Cubs are one game away from ending the longest drought in professional sports. With one win these young Cubs can make half a city forget about goats, and maybe even allow the misdeeds of one Steve Bartman to slowly fade away.

For the Indians fans base it has been 48 years since their latest World Series title. Only one member, 1st baseman Eddie Robinson, from that team is till alive as Tribe fans hope to close out what could be a fairytale summer in Cleveland. The Cavaliers brought the city their first championship since the Browns won the Super Bowl in 1964. Now despite all the team has been through this season, the Indians stand nine innings away from winning the World Series at home. Memories of the Atlanta Braves, and Florida Marlins may finally begin to fade away as Terry Francona leads his young team into this, final game of the 2016 MLB season.

As the curtains close on the final act of the 2016 season we are left with one game. One final chess match between managers Maddon and Francona. One final game to end a drought. 54 outs. Only one can be crowned 2016 MLB champions. One Game.