Former United States international Mix Diskerud believes the nation might have continued on an upswing if Jurgen Klinsmann had not been fired in 2016.
Klinsmann enjoyed a successful first World Cup cycle with the USMNT, guiding it through a difficult group in 2014, finishing second behind eventual champions Germany and ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal along with Ghana.
The USMNT then fell in extra-time to Belgium in the last-16, though it relied on a 17-save Tim Howard performance to survive a Belgium onslaught.
However, Klinsmann’s fortunes declined in the following years, with a disappointing elimination to Jamaica in the 2015 Gold Cup, and despite a solid fourth place finish at the 2016 Copa America Centenario, there were a pair of losses to open the final stage of 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Those losses cost Klinsmann his job, but successor Bruce Arena’s eight games in charge ultimately saw them fail to qualify for Russia, with a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on the last day of qualifying sealing their fate.
And Ulsan Hyundai midfielder Diskerud, who has not had a USMNT cap since March 2016, believes things might have gone differently for the nation had they stuck with the German head coach.
“Well, [in between 2013-2016], the USMNT played a fantastic World Cup in Brazil,” Diskerud told Goal. “Getting through the group of death as they called it, and also coming close to beating a top-ranked Belgium side in the knockout stages.
“That was an achievement that should be counted among the many positive achievements. So, good things happened, and could have continued to happen if we didn’t switch coaches in the middle of the qualifying cycle.
“Klinsmann was fired before the CONCACAF qualification was completed, and while the betting markets still had their odds strongly pointing toward a USMNT participation in Russia. In retrospect it is easy to say that that sacking was rather immature.”
The USMNT has since attempted to right their ship with the hire of former Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter to lead the national team.
Berhalter is set to lead the USMNT in his first tournament at the 2019 Gold Cup and Diskerud, who nearly joined the Crew in years past, believes the coach has plenty of quality.
“[Coach] Berhalter, he carries credibility with me, but I have never played for him,” Diskerud said.
“My agents came close to signing me for his Columbus Crew a few years back. The talks I had with him back then revealed a coach with clear thoughts as well as definite strategies for how modern soccer should be played.
“It left me with the view of him that I still carry today - an extremely analytical coach and yet very much a ‘player’s coach’. I have had friends playing under him; and at club level, it is no doubt that he lifted their potential considerably as well as instilling valuable confidence in them.”
Berhalter has endured a rough couple of matches in the lead up to the Gold Cup, with the USMNT suffering back-to-back friendly defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela.
However, Diskerud still expects the USMNT to be in the mix for the final, and is hoping they can engineer a showdown with rivals Mexico.
“USA are always favorites,” Diskerud added. “At least in our mindset. That is, and should always be, the American mentality, and I love it.
“A final showing Mexico vs USA is always a crowd-pleaser! And especially since I’m told just to be a part of that supporting crowd for now.”