U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati expressed his disappointment about the fourth-place finish at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, but he underscored his support for coach and technical director Jurgen Klinsmann in the wake of the setback.
Gulati cited the recent form of the team in the buildup to the tournament and noted the federation must move forward with one eye on the playoff for a Confederations Cup berth on Oct. 9.
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"It’s obviously a disappointment," Gulati said. "I wouldn’t call it a step back, but the team had been playing well in the spring and coming into the tournament. The goal was to win the Gold Cup and not have a playoff game. But we have a reprieve in the sense that we won the last one and we still have a chance to go to the Confederations Cup. There is no panic. We’ve won seven of our last 10 games, drawn two — and lost today on penalties — and lost one. It’s a big disappointment, but we move on."
Klinsmann is currently under a long-term contract with U.S. Soccer through the 2018 FIFA World Cup. His status provides him with the security to focus on long-term objectives, though he outlined his intention to deliver this Gold Cup title in the short-term and sidestep a playoff with Jamaica or Mexico for a Confederations Cup berth in the process.
This tournament did not fulfill that stated goal. Klinsmann and his players delivered a first-place finish in Group A and romped through a quarterfinal against Cuba before crashing out against Jamaica in midweek. The group tumbled into fourth place after a languid performance yielded a 1-1 draw with Panama after extra time and a defeat on penalty kicks.
Gulati dismissed any references to the decision to relieve Bob Bradley of his duties after a defeat in the Gold Cup final in 2011 ("There’s no parallels in all of this," he said). Instead, he focused on the need for stability as the program grapples with this particular setback.
"Progress is not linear for everyone," Gulati said. "We don’t go like this [raises hand on an incline]. This is a bump. If you said the team was certainly on a high with the results I talked about [in Germany and Netherlands], then today’s a low. It’s pretty straightforward. But those are the norms for everyone because you don’t go through and win all of your games. Is Argentina not happy about qualifying for the Confederations Cup? Of course. Or is Brazil at 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."