PASADENA, California (Reuters) - United States coach Juergen Klinsmann was once again preparing to come under the harsh glare of scrutiny after his team lost their CONCACAF Cup playoff match to Mexico 3-2 in extra time on Saturday.
Klinsmann had already been savaged by his critics after the U.S. produced their worst performance in 15 years at the Gold Cup in July, though his contract with U.S. Soccer is set to run through the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
While the U.S. did well to come back twice from a goal down to an impressive Mexico team at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, they have now won only once in their last five matches.
“I don’t need to say anything,” German Klinsmann, 51, said during a news conference when asked how he would respond to his critics. “Everybody can express his opinion and not everybody likes you.
“That’s totally fine. I’m not here to be liked. I’m trying to do a good job and I’m privileged to have that role and represent the U.S. Soccer program.
“So I do my best ... and leave the judgment out there for ... people who want to express themselves. Fair enough to have your opinion.”
Klinsmann has set a lofty goal of the U.S. reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup but that target looked a very distant proposition when the Americans were stunned 2-1 by lowly Jamaica in the Gold Cup semi-final in July.
That was followed by a painful penalty shootout loss to Panama in the playoff match for third place at a tournament where the U.S. had reached the final for the previous five years.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for what happened in the Gold Cup,” said Klinsmann, who coached Germany from 2004 to 2006 before taking over the U.S. job in 2011. “I said the Gold Cup was heavily influenced because of refereeing decisions.
“And we didn’t win this game because they (Mexico) scored a goal two minutes before the end. The game was very even, especially in the first half we had enough chances to score a second or third goal.
“The second half belonged more to Mexico but we turned it around in overtime. We were closer to a third goal than Mexico.”
While Klinsmann will face his share of criticism following Saturday’s game, he and his team earned welcome praise from Landon Donovan, the all-time top scorer for the U.S. who retired from the game in December 2014.
“Congrats to both teams, what an incredible game. Sad that the #USA lost but a great day for the sport,” Donovan tweeted.
“Three great subs by Klinsmann. Two combined on the goal and Brad Evans takes penalties regularly if it goes to a shootout.”
Forward Bobby Wood equalized for the U.S. in extra time after latching on to an exquisite through ball from fellow substitute DeAndre Yedlin, but defender Paul Aguilar scored the decisive goal 10 minutes later with a thunderous volley.
Additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty