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For Klinsmann, a lot more than Confederations Cup berth at stake in match against Mexico

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on before playing Peru during an international friendly at RFK Stadium on September 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States looks on before playing Peru during an international friendly at RFK Stadium on September 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

When Germany was crushed by Italy, 4-1, in a World Cup warm-up in March 2006, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann fled his native land to his house in the United States.

He might have been able to run away from his problems at the time, but it is difficult to hide in this day and age of social (or is it unsocial?) media.

Everyone has an opinion – and that includes the media and U.S. soccer fans.

Of course, the 2006 debacle was only a friendly and certainly not the end of the world – or World Cup – as Klinsmann directed a young German side to a very respectable third-place finish at that year's World Cup.

Today, he faces another challenge, some of which is of his own doing. He will guide Team USA against Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup at the Rose Bowl on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time (Fox Sports 1 is carrying the game).

The victor won’t just gain bragging rights in the confederation, it will also earn a trip to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia next summer.

The U.S., which qualified for the match as the 2013 Gold Cup champion, could have made it easy for itself by winning this summer's Gold Cup, which the U.S. cohosted along with Canada, instead of finishing a humiliating fourth while not playing near its potential.

And suddenly Klinsmann is facing criticism like no other time during his four-year tenure in charge of the U.S. men’s national team.

He is on the hot seat.

How hot that seat is, we really don't know.

But for the first time in his American tenure, Klinsmann faces a must-win situation.

Klinsmann’s team will be under close scrutiny in who he picks for the starting XI, what formation he uses and how the U.S. plays. If the team plays well in a loss, it still probably won't make the pain of defeat go away.

If the Yanks fall or tie against Mexico, they will have failed to win in three consecutive matches to CONCACAF teams on home soil.

The last time that happened?

As it turns out, to answer that question you have to go back to when Klinsmann took over in the summer of 2011.On June 25, the U.S. lost to El Tri in the Gold Cup, 4-2, at the Rose Bowl, which turned out to be Coach Bob Bradley's swan song.

The Americans next played the Mexicans to a 1-1 draw in Klinsmann's debut on Aug. 10 in Philadelphia and then lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in Carson, Calif. on Sept. 2.

The current streak began July 22, when the U.S. was stunned by upstart Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals in Atlanta. Klinsmann complained about an unusual call by the refs that gave the Reggae Boyz a free kick, which led to a goal.

Three days later, in the third-place match in Chester, Pennsylvania, the listless Americans were outplayed by Panama, stumbling to a 3-2 shootout loss after a rather dreary 1-1 regulation tie and extra time.

A performance like that should never, ever happen on home turf.

Since then, the team hardly has looked like world beaters against non-CONCACAF teams, sneaking past Peru, 2-1, on Sept. 4 and looking lost in a dismal 4-1 drubbing by Brazil four days later.

So, if the USA loses to Mexico, the big question is whether Klinsmann should be fired.

Actually, perhaps we should call it the $2,498,815 question, because that is the amount he earned as national coach in 2013, the last year for which U.S. Soccer financial records are available. Klinsmann since signed a new contract that runs through July 31, 2018 – a deal that also made him the team’s technical director.

So what it is the likelihood of Klinsmann getting fired outside of a complete El Tri domination and humiliation of the USA on Saturday?

Probably slim and none, though you could make a great argument for giving him a pink slip.

Missing the Confederations Cup would not be the end of the world, although it would call into question Klinsmann's methods. Missing the 2018 World Cup, however, would be disastrous in so many ways.

Besides, firing Klinsmann would be a surprising move on the part of U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, a strong supporter. If he pulled the trigger, the federation would have to pay out the rest of his contract.

World Cup qualifying is right around the corner as the USA kicks off the CONCACAF semifinal round with a pair of games in November against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis and away against Trinidad and Tobago.

In theory, Klinsmann could be removed as coach and kept on as technical director. If that transpired, he probably would have a lot of say on who his successor would be.

One potential scenario would be replacing him over the winter, with Klinsmann remaining as technical director.

But don't hold your breath on that.

Even if the U.S. beats Mexico and books a trip to Russia in two years’ time, Klinsmann and his team will be under a microscope through the rest of qualifying.

And rightfully so.