Shellacked in San Jose: Why Jurgen Klinsmann's job should be in jeopardy

The U.S. looked flat and uninspiring in a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica that has the Americans still searching for their first point in the Hexagonal.

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Jurgen Klinsmann had a simple enough plan when he chose his starting lineup to face Costa Rica on Tuesday: take the same players and formation that played so well in the second half against Mexico on Friday and deploy them against the Ticos.

What Klinsmann didn't account for was the fact several players would not only fail to play as well as they did Friday, but would play much worse. Jermaine Jones looked tired and ineffective, Christian Pulisic was rendered largely invisible, Brad Guzan lacked sharpness and John Brooks had one of the worst individual defensive performances in recent memory.

The end result: a 4-0 demolition at the hands of a Costa Rica side determined to exact revenge for June's 4-0 Copa America loss. As much as players deserve their share of the blame for a lifeless and ugly performance, Klinsmann must stand front and center and face criticism for a second straight match in which his tactics and decisions came into serious question.

He started a clearly fatigued Jones, whose lifeless performance helped serve as an anchor that weighed the team down. He started Matt Besler and Timmy Chandler at fullback, and kept them in even as they struggled. With the score 1-0 at halftime, Klinsmann had a chance to make a move or two to change the tenor of the match. But instead of making the tough decision to bench Jones or make some sort of change, he trotted out the same lineup for the second half, where it proceeded to be outclassed by the Ticos.

Now the Americans find themselves in uncharted territory, 0-2 after their first two World Cup qualifiers in the Hexagonal, with only lowly Trinidad and Tobago level with them in the standings. There are plenty of matches to be played, and very winnable ones, but the pair of recent losses have served to erase any equity Klinsmann may have had, and right now it has to be said that Klinsmann's job is in jeopardy.

And if it isn't, it should be.

Sunil Gulati gave some diplomatic answers in a roundtable interview with reporters before Friday's loss to Mexico, as he seemed ready to back Klinsmann through the Hex. But after losing to Mexico — the U.S. team's first home qualifying loss to Mexico in 44 years — and after suffering the worst qualifying defeat to Costa Rica in its history, Gualti can't feel too confident about the coach he hired five years ago.

Tuesday's performance was particularly alarming. The U.S. never really threatened offensively, and appeared to have little in the way of an organized plan. Sure, you could point to key absences in the likes of Clint Dempsey, Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard, as well as Gyasi Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya, but those absences don't excuse just how terrible the U.S. looked.

To be fair, this is far from the first American team to come down to this Central American country and be destroyed. But after Friday's loss to Mexico, there was a sense that this match would really show us what Klinsmann was made of as a coach, and whether he could both inspire and organize his team and beat a strong opponent on the road in a match that mattered.

Not only did that not happen, the U.S. team fell flat on its face — and it was Klinsmann who tied its shoes together to set up the ugly fall.

If U.S. Soccer is going to make a change, it will have plenty of time to consider one, and time to think about who could step in and get more out of this collection of talent. To be sure, the team that took the field Tuesday should have been able to play better. Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley all looked up for the challenge, but there just didn't appear to be any clear tactical plan in place — not one that was ever going to earn the U.S. team its first win in Costa Rica.

Tuesday's 4-0 loss was a painful way to end a 2016 that was a roller-coaster ride. From the ugly stumble in Guatemala in March, to the success of a semifinal run at the Copa America, to a pair of Hex losses that could lead to a change at the top.

Do the recent defeats mean the Americans aren't going to qualify for the World Cup? That's a stretch considering they just played their two toughest opponents. But with so little to build on from these recent losses, there is a real feeling that Klinsmann might be losing this team. Even if he might still be able to squeeze out a World Cup qualification with the talent on hand, right now there is no sense of progress under Klinsmann, which was supposed to be what he was going to deliver when Gulati splashed millions to hire him, and then re-sign him.

On Tuesday, the U.S. didn't look like a team led by a million-dollar coach. Instead, the Americans looked like a team without a plan, and without much of a future unless some serious changes are made.

And all signs point to it being time for a change at the top.