United States men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been relieved of his duties, U.S. Soccer announced Monday.
In charge of the national team since 2011, Klinsmann had a record of 55-27-16 and led the U.S. to the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup.
Former national team coach Bruce Arena, 65, is expected to be named as Klinsmann's replacement as early as Tuesday, three people with knowledge of the decision told USA TODAY Sports. The people requested anonymity because Arena's appointment has not been made official.
The U.S.’ crushing 4-0 defeat in Costa Rica on Tuesday during World Cup qualifying, following a 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 11, hastened Klinsmann's exit after a five-year stint that mixed occasional highlights with too many demoralizing setbacks. The most recent defeats marked the first time the country has lost its opening two qualifiers of a World Cup campaign.
"Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes," U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.
"While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction. With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup."
Gulati flew to California to meet with Klinsmann in person and break the news to him directly. The coach had just returned from a trip to his native Germany, where he attended a state dinner with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“It is the defeat that hurts the most in my five years, there is no doubt about it,” Klinsmann said after the loss in Costa Rica, that left the U.S. at the foot of the six-team final CONCACAF qualifying tournament that will send the top three finishers directly to the World Cup.
He accepted some of the blame for the setback but also indicated he was dissatisfied with the level of fighting spirit shown by his players.
“There is always things that you say you could have done differently,” Klinsmann said. “It doesn’t matter about the system, it is about the compactness of the team. The willingness to fight back — and after the second goal they didn’t have that power or drive to get back in the game. It is a very bitter moment. They were too flay, not enough alertness there, not enough tempo.”
Gulati said then U.S. Soccer would take time to evaluate the situation and speak with Klinsmann before making a decision on his future. However, with a pair of critical qualifiers against Honduras and Panama coming up in March, this time window provided the perfect opportunity to fire Klinsmann.
Klinsmann's hiring in 2011 was met with fanfare from fans and Gulati, who called him "a highly accomplished player and coach with the experience and knowledge to advance the program."
In 2013 he led the team to 16 victories and a .761 winning percentage, records for the USMNT in a calendar year. That year he agreed to a contract extension and also took on the role of technical director for U.S. Soccer.
One of the biggest controversies of Klinsmann's tenure came on the eve of the 2014 World Cup when he left star Landon Donovan off the roster. Klinsmann said it was "one of the toughest decisions in my coaching career."
Donovan tweeted on Monday: "Never want to see someone lose their job. I have no doubt that this talented group of players will qualify for Russia '18."
Never want to see someone lose their job. I have no doubt that this talented group of players will qualify for Russia '18 #USA 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) November 21, 2016