Klinsmann has plenty to ponder with USMNT after shock Gold Cup defeat
The United States' 2-1 Gold Cup semifinal loss to Jamaica in Atlanta on Wednesday marked the worst defeat of the Jurgen Klinsmann era. So what's next for the U.S. coach and his team?
Here are five things to watch for in the coming days and months:
U.S. plays again on Saturday ...
Or will they? After Wednesday's debacle between Mexico and Panama -- El Tri advanced only after the 10-man Canaleros had controversial penalty calls go against them in the 89th and 105th minutes -- there were rumblings that Panama would protest what its manager called a "robbery" by boycotting the consolation match
There ya go... A chance that Panama may not play third place game. https://t.co/NNRLJkBZUu- Arch Bell (@ArchBell) July 23, 2015
Assuming cooler heads prevail, the game at PPL Park in suburban Philadelphia would be a chance for the U.S. to redeem itself and end a disappointing tournament on the right foot. "We need to finish off in style," Klinsmann said. "We owe that to our fans."
With little more than pride at stake, several reserves could get their chance. Center backs Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream deserve to start. Veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who was added to the roster for the knockout rounds but didn't play in the semi or the Americans' quarterfinal rout of Cuba after picking up a knock in training, could feature if healthy.
And backup goalkeeper William Yarbrough would be cap-tied (he's also eligible to represent Mexico) to the U.S. with an appearance, as Ventura Alvarado, Greg Garza and Alfredo Morales were in the group stage.
... and in the Confederations Cup playoff in October
CONCACAF announced late on Wednesday the Americans would meet the winner of Sunday's final between Jamaica and Mexico on Oct. 9 for a place in the World Cup dress rehearsal in Russia in 2017.
The one-off match, which the Americans qualified for by winning the 2013 Gold Cup, will be played in the United States, multiple sources told ESPN.
The venue has yet to be announced, but you can be sure that if El Tri prevails, the contest will be staged wherever CONCACAF can sell the most tickets, guaranteeing a home game in name only for the Yanks.
The tilt will also take place a day before the all-important semifinal of the region's Olympic qualifying tournament -- a game that, if the U.S. is in it, would determine its participation at Rio 2016.
That means Klinsmann will have to decide whether to keep youngsters like John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin with the varsity group or allow them to participate with the U23s. Either way, at least one team will be shorthanded with a ticket to an important tournament on the line.
Personnel changes are in store
Klinsmann chose to ignore the struggles of central defenders Brooks and Ventura early in the tournament, and it came back to bite him as the pair were victimized on Darren Mattocks' opener in Atlanta.
The decision has quite rightly received scrutiny, but Klinsmann sounded defiant afterward.
"They did well tonight," the coach said of the 22-year-olds. "We have center backs we're building for the future."
The pair is talented -- their pedigree and upside aren't in question. And even if the evidence shows they weren't ready this month, Klinsmann seems determined to stick with them, even with World Cup veterans Gonzalez (who didn't get off the bench against the Reggae Boyz) and Matt Besler (who didn't even make the squad) still very much in their primes.
Changes could be coming elsewhere, however. Older players such as Beasley and Kyle Beckerman, both 33, are possibly approaching their final international games.
Then there's keeper Brad Guzan, who could've done better on both Jamaican goals. It's fair to suggest that Guzan didn't quite grab his opportunity to permanently unseat Tim Howard, who is hoping to return for the September friendlies against Peru and Brazil after a yearlong hiatus from the national team this month.
Is Klinsmann's job in jeopardy?
No, nor should it be -- at least not yet. Anything can happen in a single game, and it's worth noting the U.S. enjoyed the vast majority of possession at the Georgia Dome while outshooting the visitors 20-10. (Jamaica managed just three attempts on target to the Americans' 10.)
"We had enough chances to put this game away," Klinsmann said. "Luck was not with us, but we also were not clinical enough."
Overall, though, Klinsmann's record is successful. He led the U.S. out of a killer group at Brazil 2014. He's overseen landmark first wins in Italy, Mexico, Germany and Netherlands, all while challenging the status quo along the way. Most important, he has the full support of U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and a contract that runs for another three years.
The federation is fully invested, to the point at which he'd almost certainly survive defeat in the Confederations Cup playoff, too. But if he does lose that game -- or the U.S. locker room -- things could get interesting in 2016.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.