Report: Klinsmann in power struggle for U.S. Soccer technical director duties

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Report: Klinsmann in power struggle for U.S. Soccer technical director duties
Report: Klinsmann in power struggle for U.S. Soccer technical director duties

Just what Jurgen Klinsmann needed: more negativity.

As if he didn't have enough to deal with. What with the United States men's national team crashing out of the Gold Cup in a semifinal upset, losing the playoff with Mexico for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in extra time, watching the under-23 team stumble to the brink of missing out on the Olympics, losing five of its last six games and having to answer to a growing chorus of critics who think Klinsmann's era has been an outright failure.

Now Klinsmann has to deal with a report that he's locked in a power struggle for U.S. Soccer control in technical areas.

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Sports Illustrated reported on Wednesday that Klinsmann, who is also the federation's technical director, has seen his authority in the Chicago headquarters diluted. Jay Berhalter, the USSF's chief commercial director, has apparently taken on some technical director duties and frozen Klinsmann out of at least one key meeting.

This has caused something of a rift, according to SI, as some feel Klinsmann is being undermined and others argue that Berhalter is more effective. Tension between the two has built, although U.S. Soccer has denied this.

"Any perception that there’s a power struggle is simply false," a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told SI. "Everyone is working collectively to improve the technical side on a daily basis."

Klinsmann, who fired his head trainer following the Mexico loss, is already facing myriad questions about whether he has one job too many. He certainly hasn't been helped by the significant downturn in results by the youth national teams. Even if he can't be blamed for all of that, the entirety of the national team program is ultimately his responsibility.

Jay Berhalter, center, reportedly held a meeting about technical areas without Jurgen Klinsmann. (AP Images)
Jay Berhalter, center, reportedly held a meeting about technical areas without Jurgen Klinsmann. (AP Images)

Meanwhile, his senior team careens from one disappointment to another without any discernible direction, identity or cohesion.

But his waning influence is a fairly startling development as it had appeared only recently that Klinsmann had an unshakable hold on both his job and the federation, which is deeply invested in his plan for progressing soccer stateside. But if the report is accurate and he's already being pushed out of one of his two roles, his grip could be loosening.

It had been thought that his job security was strong – his huge contract and the number of reputations staked to his success seemed to make any firing prohibitively costly. But it was also widely believed that of his two jobs, the one he might actually be the most suitable for was technical director. If anything, the logical solution to his issues seemed to be to hire a sort of glorified field coach to actually manage the senior side day-to-day while Klinsmann called the shots from a corner office on the top floor and plotted out the course for the future.

But if Klinsmann becomes a figurehead at the federation and is asked to double down on his coaching, with his employers perhaps making the opposite decision on which role he should focus on, that would seem to make him all the more liable for senior team results.

And those have been inarguably and irredeemably poor.

Without another job to fall back on, Klinsmann has crept – or been shoved – closer to the exit at U.S. Soccer than ever before.

UPDATE: A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said Thursday that head athletic trainer Sue Falsone was not fired. Rather, the two parties mutually agreed to part ways after a year of working together.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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