Fool’s Gold: But What If Klinsmann & The USMNT Had Lost?

Still in the first....twelve....

Still in the first….twelve….

Steve Fenn, topical on the day.

Amidst the Straussing of Jurgen Klinsmann last week it seemed realistic that the German might be replaced as national team manager had the US team not earned positive results against Costa Rica and Mexico.

Sources have told me–not really, look at the calendar buddy–that US Soccer held precautionary discussions of who would replace Klinsi if necessary. What if the US come out of three Hex matches without a win, would USSF preserve it’s World Cup streak and place the USMNT reigns in a manager’s hands currently in charge of a pro club, likely in the USA.

So, looking at the full US Soccer Pyramid, who would be most qualified? Opta data can provide us with a clear answer. There are a few simple statistics which we can collate into a single metric measuring coaching ability–this an assumption merely for the sake of this piece.

The USMNT needs a coach who emphasizes the factor which pundits mention most often: possession (signified in our equation below as “m”). Next, Opta passing statistics easily show us passing percentage allowing us to quantify ability to foster team chemistry (“a” in the equation).

The next factor is distance covered, which illustrates coaches’ motivational abilities (“r” in the equation). We also need to account for defense, so blocked shots and saves are added up and signified by the single metric “o.”

Finally, to measure managers’ ability to inspire discipline, fouls suffered are signified by “d.”

Below we have a couple visualizations of the results. The word cloud in the top left and the bubble chart on the right are the primary views, with a bar chart and tree graph in the bottom left illustrating the top 3 managers and each league’s total pool of coaching talent, respectively.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

As you can see from the word cloud, Bruce Arena is clearly still the best manager in US Soccer.

Let’s just call him the Once & Future Boss. Colin Clarke and El Chelis are the only ones that come close.

Most of the best managers are in MLS, as you would expect, but there are a few men in charge of lower-division sides who are more skilled than their top-tier comparables.

In fact, every tier has some worse than those best in the tier just below, and some better than the dregs of the upper tiers. If MLS does start upgrading their worst managers soon, these superior lower-division managers, like Clarke, Finch, Lirpa, and San Seriffe, will upgrade their sides so much that the US Soccer cartel will no longer be able to avoid a structure of unlimited clubs in a promotion and relegation.

31 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Frank on 2013/04/01 at 8:24 AM

    Can you please elaborate on your promotion and relegation comment? Is that meant to read “If MLS ‘doesn’t’ start upgrading”…? I would love to see this type of structure in place, but why do you think it couldn’t be avoided? I can’t see how MLS owners’, after buying into the league, would ever allow/approve.


    • you’re right, that was a typo. Should have read “If MLS doesn’t start upgrading” as you suggested.


    • Sorry, Frank, but I was being vague before to avoid spoiling the April Fools joke for others. I don’t think pro/rel will happen in this country, and certainly not anytime soon. It’s probably closer to getting repealed in Europe, actually.
      I enjoy the drama that pro/rel creates, but it’s just not realistic. More on that in my long comment below.


  2. Posted by KickinNames... on 2013/04/01 at 10:11 AM

    Love the concept but you left out the variable “t” for Talent and “$” for Player Capital that Bruce has in greater abundance then any other manager on the continent.
    Some metrics are more equal than others….


    • Posted by Jason on 2013/04/01 at 11:33 AM

      You could also consider ‘h’ for number of headers in a game showing an effective use of big center backs and target forwards as well as ‘i’ for improper relations with teammate’s wives (the Harkes factor) so then the equation would be BAPS=r*a√(d*o*m) $*h*i*t. I think would be an even more efficient analysis 😉

      Awesome stuff Steve!


  3. Posted by Frank on 2013/04/01 at 10:26 AM

    Thanks for the clarification. I really enjoy your site, and I’d love to see a ‘Reasonably Realistic’ take on how a promotion/relegation system could be introduced. The idea excites me, maybe just because I’m from MI and have no MLS team to support. Even if my local 3rd or 4th tier team could never produce to that level, the thought that it might be possible would really make a difference. For me at least..


    • Posted by Ted Westervelt (@soccerreform) on 2013/04/01 at 3:41 PM

      XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. That’s pro/rel in a nutshell – and very likely a taboo subject here.


  4. Posted by Alex on 2013/04/01 at 10:46 AM

    How about a Look Lirpa and San Seriffe joint administration? Imagine how good Jozy could be with those two teaching him.


  5. Posted by dth on 2013/04/01 at 11:00 AM

    It seems to me “distance run” is a very odd standard to use. How well does that correlate with winning? Doesn’t it lend to certain styles but not others?

    The same can be said for fouls. Chelis used a high-foul strategy very successfully against Arena in the first LA clasico; while it’s not the same as soccer, I know penalties are basically uncorrelated with victory in gridiron football.


  6. Posted by Alex on 2013/04/01 at 11:06 AM

    No Dom Kinnear in that study? He’s one of the more interesting coaching prospects to move forward in the MLS


  7. Posted by David walters on 2013/04/01 at 4:01 PM

    You’re high, Dom Kinnear would be a fantastic choice and he’s got usmnt playing experience to boot. Retread coaches don’t end well


  8. Posted by Tom Patton on 2013/04/01 at 4:53 PM

    We would all hate him and want to fire him. That is just life as a manager/coach etc.

    Not really a complicated “what if”

    PS- I am still not sold on him because he does not have the horses and we are not scoring on set pieces which is really are only consistent offensive threat.


  9. Could Bob Bradley factor in here? I’m curious where he would rank in all this.

    FWIW, excellent stuff! Very interesting and fascinating read.


  10. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/04/01 at 8:34 PM

    My Facebook status of finally becoming an American citizen** got more bites as an April Fool joke. I did laugh at the formula. That is very Daily Mail of you (trying to be scientific to back up basically the same bogus story as The Sun to cater to the ‘educated middle class’)! Good effort though!

    **BTW, never going to happen.


  11. For the record, this whole column and visualize where an April Fools gag intended to be satirical of bad analysis/visualization/logic.
    None of the numbers displayed above are real. I entered the top three and the values for the fake names (can you catch them all?) and used a random number generator function in Excel (range based on club’s tier( for the rest.
    I don’t think that Klinsmann should have been fired had the USMNT gotten bad results against Costa Rica and Mexico.
    i don’t have an empirical coach-evaluation system. Personally, i have a lot of respect for Arena, Kreis, Sigi, Kinnear (don’t like his style, but hard to criticize results), Clarke (mind-blowing he’s been out of MLS so long) and Vermes. Porter, Pareja, and Olsen seem promising, and I still don’t know what to make of El Chelis. Not a big fan of the rest of the managers in MLS.

    I absolutely don’t think this article would mean anything about promotion and relegation in this country, even if the numbers were true. I put that concluding paragraph in as a parody of some of the US pro/rel propagandists who like to bring every topic back to their favorite topic through their empty rhetoric of “unlimited clubs” and the USS/MLS “cartel.”
    I like promotion and relegation as a concept, and quite enjoy the drama it creates. But its creation and continued existence is essentially a fluke of history where an odd, fun approach got forced in by a weird dispute over which league was the top tier. The only way I could ever see it happening in the states is if NASL improves (and MLS doesn’t) to the point where there was a similar uncertainty over which league was better. I just can’t see that happening, I guess there’s a slight chance that MLS could screw things up to the point where it would enter the territory of remote possibility in a couple decades.


  12. Posted by JGD on 2013/04/02 at 8:09 AM

    I’d like to see Vermes, Olsen, or Kreis considered as the next national team manager.


  13. Posted by crow on 2013/04/02 at 4:27 PM

    Here’s a good video from the Kick TV guy embedded with us in Mexico City. The one for Denver is great too:


  14. Posted by dth on 2013/04/02 at 8:43 PM

    Speaking of coaches, I have no idea what Schmid was doing with the Sounders, putting that lineup out there. It had no chance to score, really. Schmid has a really solid record at Seattle, obviously, but it seems like he and the team chokes on big stages.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/04/03 at 11:30 AM

      Agree completely. Although Rosales just can’t get it going this year. He’s been awful.

      That said, you’ve got to find more attack than Ochoa and a prayer.


  15. Posted by dth on 2013/04/03 at 8:40 PM

    Can you imagine how good LA will be when they’re playing Donovan/Keane/Magee/Villarreal together? Not sure how they’ll get McBean and Zardes involved, but my gosh that’s quality.


  16. Posted by kaya on 2013/04/04 at 1:27 AM

    Well, I thought this was brilliant. And the random sh!t comment was pretty awesome, too. So: Jonathan Swift, San Seriffe, Sidd Finch and Loof Lirpa were the direct holiday references. A lot of other B.S. names thrown in there, but this was superbly done.
    Sorry I didn’t get to read it on the day.


    • Also, George Plimpton was the writer of the Finch article, and Isaac Biggerstaff is a guy that got pranked very badly by Swift.

      Actually, I should have made it clearer that all the other names are the managers of those clubs. At least, they are if Wikipedia is up to date. I did do a modicum of research for this.


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