There’s no other way to say it: Jurgen Klinsmann is at the lowest point in his four-year tenure as the U.S. men’s national team coach heading into Saturday’s USA-Mexico CONCACAF Cup showdown in the Rose Bowl. A fourth-place finish in this summer’s Gold Cup is the main reason, and (with the exception of friendly wins at Germany and the Netherlands) there has been a general malaise surrounding Klinsmann’s team since the end of World Cup 2014.
For the first time, in fact, people in the U.S. soccer community are starting to issue conditional calls for Klinsmann’s departure. Landon Donovan said on Tuesday that Klinsmann should be fired if the U.S. loses on Saturday, and he would hardly be the only one calling for Klinsmann’s removal should the U.S. fall to its archrival.
But Klinsmann does have something going for him against Mexico, a remarkable career record: In 10 games as a player and coach, including six as the U.S. manager, Klinsman has never lost to Mexico. Not once.
Let’s break it down:
KLINSMANN, THE PLAYER
Germany 1:1 Mexico, October 14, 1992; Dresden, Germany (friendly)
Klinsmann comes on at the start of the second half for the reigning World Cup champions, who see Rudi Völler’s 58th-minute goal matched by Carlos Hermosillo’s equalizer in the 72nd minute. The German team is coached by Berti Vogts, who’s now a technical advisor for Klinsmann with the U.S. team. Meanwhile, the Mexicans are managed by Argentine legend César Luis Menotti, the 1978 World Cup winner who will go on to coach Klinsmann at Sampdoria in 1997.
Mexico 0:0 Germany, December 22, 1993; Mexico City (friendly)
Three days before Christmas, Klinsmann plays 71 minutes in the scoreless tie before a crowd of 110,000 at the Estadio Azteca before coming off for Ulf Kirsten. The Germans will go on to a disappointing quarterfinal exit at World Cup ’94 in the U.S. the next summer.
Germany 2:1 Mexico, June 29, 1998; Montpellier, France (World Cup)
Where have we seen this before? Mexico takes an early lead against a global power in a World Cup round-of-16 game, only to see the global power come back to win. After Luis Hernández puts Mexico up 1-0 in the 47th minute, Klinsmann ties the game in the 75th and frontline mate Oliver Bierhoff hits the game-winner in the 86th. Klinsmann retires as a player at age 33 after Germany’s quarterfinal exit.
KLINSMANN, THE COACH
Germany 4:3 Mexico, June 29, 2005; Leipzig, Germany (Confederations Cup)
With Klinsmann now the Germany coach and still teaming up with Bierhoff (the general manager), the Germans win a wild third-place game at the Confederations Cup. Germany goes ahead three times (through youngsters Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Robert Huth), only for Mexico to equalize three times (twice by an on-fire Jared Borgetti). But Michael Ballack’s extra-time strike ends up making the difference as Klinsmann beats Mexico again.
USA 1:1 Mexico, August 10, 2011; Philadelphia (friendly)
Just 12 days after being named the U.S. coach (and about six weeks after a U.S. loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final cost Bob Bradley his job), Klinsmann sees his team go down early to an Oribe Peralta goal. But the U.S. gets things going in the second half, and two Klinsmann substitutes come to the rescue as Brek Shea connects with Robbie Rogers for the 73rd-minute equalizer.
Mexico 0:1 USA, August 15, 2012; Mexico City (friendly)
After never beating Mexico on Mexican soil in 24 games over 75 years going back to 1937, the U.S. wins for the first time in enemy territory. Despite missing several regulars (including Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jozy Altidore), Klinsmann’s Americans stun the hosts with Michael Orozco’s 80th-minute goal. “Time to change the sign,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard famously says afterward, referring to the tunnel walls at Estadio Azteca that show Mexico's record against its international opponents.
Mexico 0:0 USA, March 26, 2013; Mexico City (World Cup qualifier)
For just the second time in history, the U.S. gets a point on the road against Mexico in World Cup qualifying. Coming four days after the U.S.’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the SnowClásico, the result completes a huge four-point week after several unnamed players had questioned Klinsmann’s coaching and methods in a story by Brian Straus. The tie sets the table for the U.S.’s easy qualification and sends Mexico into a tailspin that nearly sees El Tri miss the World Cup entirely.
USA 2:0 Mexico, September 10, 2013; Columbus, Ohio (World Cup qualifier)
The fourth straight dos a cero World Cup qualifier in Columbus allows the U.S. to clinch a berth in World Cup 2014 against its greatest rival. Goals by Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan do the trick in a raucous atmosphere. Mexico’s embarrassment is only compounded soon thereafter when the U.S. scores late against Panama to save Mexico from World Cup elimination.
USA 2:2 Mexico, April 2, 2014; Glendale, Arizona (friendly)
Michael Bradley plays at the tip of a U.S. diamond for the first time and runs roughshod over El Tri, at least in the first half, as the U.S. builds a 2-0 lead. But Miguel Herrera’s Mexico storms back to tie the game as Mexico gives notice that things are turning around under Herrera ahead of a solid World Cup performance.
USA 2:0 Mexico, April 15, 2015; San Antonio (friendly)
Playing on a poor temporary grass surface at the AlamoDome against a Mexican C team, the U.S. sees Stanford’s Jordan Morris start and score his first international goal in another dos a cero.
That's 10 Klinsmann games against Mexico, 10 games without a loss. It’s an impressive record—and one he’ll hope to continue on Saturday.