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U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati: Jurgen Klinsmann's job is safe

U.S. men's soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is rarely at a loss for words. But after Saturday's loss on penalty kicks to Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third place game at PPL Park - 3-2 in the shootout after 120 dull minutes ended in a 1-1 draw - Klinsmann offered surprisingly terse answers to two of the toughest questions he faced.

The first came after Brooke Tunstall of American Soccer Now asked whether the Americans really are playing the proactive style that Klinsmann promised he'd produce.

"I think so, yes," Klinsmann said, and that was that.

The second came after I asked Klinsmann how much pressure there will be on him and his team going into the one-game playoff for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Klinsmann's team will face the winner of Sunday's Jamaica-Mexico title game in October at a venue to be determined.

"Well, there's constant expectations, constant pressure for everybody - that's just normal, it's part of our job," he answered. "We didn't use that opportunity to finish things off in this tournament, so we have to finish it off in October. That's just as simple as that. If there's pressure and expectations, it's totally cool."

I quickly followed that up by asking Klinsmann whether the pressure on him right now specifically is elevated compared to what he has felt before during his tenure.

"I don't know," he answered. "You be the judge of that."


This is just a hunch on my part, but something tells me that people might do some judging.

Having said that, the only person whose judgment really matters is U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati. Because of the FIFA and CONCACAF scandals, Gulati hasn't spoken publicly often this summer. His last remarks to the media came after the Women's World Cup final in Vancouver. That wasn't too long ago, but Gulati hasn't made many other appearances in recent months - especially on American soil.

In the wake of Satuday's defeat, Gulati stopped to chat with a pack of reporters parked outside the U.S.' team's locker room. To no one's surprise - including Gulati's, for sure - almost all of the questions were about whether Klinsmann is on the hot seat. Here's a transcript of what Gulati said.

On whether this Gold Cup was a step back for the U.S. men's national team or something less:

It's obviously a disappointment. I wouldn't call it a step back - the team had been playing well in the spring and coming into the tournament. The goal was obviously to win the Gold Cup and not have a playoff game. But we've got a reprieve, in the sense that we won the last one, so it's still a chance to go to the Confederations Cup.

There's no panic. We've won, what, seven of our last 10 games, drawn two - obviously lost this one on penalties - and lost one game in that period. So it's a big disappointment. We move on.

Any time you don't win it's a setback of sorts, but when you win it's a step forward. A step back to what? We're not going to win every game, so that means every team in the world has a lot of setbacks by that definition. It's not a win, so we're disappointed.

On whether a standard was established by firing Bob Bradley after he lost the 2011 Gold Cup final, and whether that standard should be applied to Jurgen Klinsmann:

No, I don't think that's a reasonable assumption.

On why things are different this time:

We don't make judgments based on one game. We don't renew contracts because we beat Germany and Holland away from home, and we don't make a change here. It's not - there's no parallels in all this.

On whether he's happy with how the team has played since last summer's World Cup:

I'm happy with parts of it, yeah. I was very happy beating Germany and Holland back to back, less happy about losing to Jamaica and drawing with Panama today. There's mixed results right through - and this, obviously, was a big result, because it's a competitive environment and a tournament we wanted to win. So that's a disappointment.

On the team's reliance on Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, and whether a new crop of players is coming that can take over that load:

I think you have seen that in this tournament. I'd agree - Clint scored almost all of our goals - but if you look at the spring games and the lead-up, Bobby Wood scored a goal, and a few other guys that people didn't know. So I think there's all that, and I think we look at all of that as we move forward. There's no, "Hey, we were building and we're still building."

The Gold Cup was a critical competition. Jurgen knows it, the players know it, we all know it, and we didn't achieve what we wanted. We go on to the next thing, which is the playoff game, and then the start of World Cup qualifying.

On whether Klinsmann's job will be under threat if the U.S. loses the Confederations Cup playoff game:

No. Let's get past today. We had a disappointment today, and I'm not going to speculate on stuff that's three or four months away when we're not sure who we're playing or where we're playing. I'm not sure, if we lose the second game in qualifying in the Hexagonal [final round], what we might do either.

On whether, in his capacity as one of the leaders of CONCACAF, he is satisfied with the overall organization and execution of this year's Gold Cup:

Many parts of it went very well, and obviously things changed with the tumultuous set of circumstances on Wednesday [when Mexico beat Panama thanks in part to some controversial calls by referee Mark Geiger]. So operationally and organizationally, a lot of the tournament went very well - record attendance, record TV ratings.

Obviously, Wednesday, you know, was very controversial, but you saw something else come out of Wednesday which is almost never the case: an official and an organization admit there was an error. CONCACAF did that, and Mark did that. He's an excellent referee who has refereed at top level - he refereed a World Cup final at the [2011] U-20s, and he accepted the fact that he made some mistakes that impacted the game.

Those happened. What's rare is not that those happened, [it's] that people stepped up and said it happened. So that was a problem.

But organizationally and operationally, I think if you talk to most of the teams - I understand the Mexican coach [Miguel Herrera] had some comments about charters [flights]. Talk to our team. And aside from the usual issues - it's a lot of games in a short period of time, everyone's in those same circumstances with a lot of travel, that's been the case ever since '95 or '98.

On whether he sees changes coming to the Gold Cup's structure, including the number of venues or other factors:

We'll look at all of that now that this tournament is over. We'll look at all of those things. The staff will look at every part of it, from travel to roster size to all of those things.

We try to deal with some of that by the ability to change players in the middle of the competition. We've done that in the past, but this was more players than we've had in the past, which obviously gives you a chance to get some fresh players in. So we'll look at all of those things for sure.

On whether he is seeing progress from Klinsmann's team overall:

Listen, as I often say, progress is not linear for anyone. So we don't go like this - there's bumps along the way. This is clearly a bump. The team was certainly on a high in the spring with the results that I talked about, and today's a low. It's pretty straightforward.

But those are the norms for everyone, because you don't pull through and win all games. Is Argentina not happy about not qualifying for the Confederations Cup? Of course. And Brazil being out. But they don't panic and throw everything out. We're making progress in certain areas and less so in other areas, and that's really a question for Jurgen.

On defining the areas in which he sees the most progress:

That's really a question for Jurgen.

On the fact that when Klinsmann was asked in his postgame press conference Saturday, he didn't give much of an answer to that question:

I know. Well, then you've got to ask him again, instead of asking me twice. He gets paid to tell you that.

On whether U.S. Soccer has any input on venue selection for the Confederations Cup playoff game:

No. That will be, really, a CONCACAF decision. And it will be partly depending on who the opponent is, I'm sure. Columbus would be good. Or Seattle, I guess. Where did we last play Jamaica at home, I don't remember - Kansas City. So Kansas City or Columbus would be just fine. I doubt it will be either one of those two.