United States national team in 'very sad' spot at the moment - Klinsmann

Former United States national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann said the state of the current American team was "very sad" and lacked leadership.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with ESPN, Klinsmann added that he would have gotten the U.S. into the 2018 World Cup and believes he could have taken his version of the team as far as the last four of the competition.

The U.S. missed out on the tournament in Russia after losing to Trinidad and Tobago on the last day of qualification, with Gregg Berhalter replacing Bruce Arena, who had returned to take over for Klinsmann after the German was fired early on in the Hex.

Klinsmann said: "So what happened now the last two or three years is very sad. It's really sad because the team belonged [in] Russia. They belonged in the World Cup. The qualification was pretty much done and then it happened, the big disaster in Trinidad which no one could ever have imagined.

"So this threw back the whole national team program for many years because now there is a lack of belief, there is a lack of enthusiasm, there is a lack of leadership. So it's a very difficult job now that Gregg Berhalter has on his hands to rebuild an entire program when we were actually in a good place.

"As I said, I'd take that team in Russia to the final eight, maybe even the final four because there was a building block there and there was a plan for it and the plan got interrupted and it got even more interrupted when the U.S. didn't qualify for Russia.

"So hopefully they get it back on track and I keep my fingers crossed for Gregg that he gets all the support he needs to get it on the right track."

Klinsmann, who now manages Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin, once again stood by his record as U.S. coach and said he was proud of what the team had achieved during his five-plus-year tenure and grateful for the opportunity afforded him by U.S. Soccer.

"I mean we got through the group of death in Brazil, which nobody ever expected," Klinsmann said. "We went into a final four of the Copa America in 2016. I helped, I don't know, how many players to move over to Europe to prove themselves. Some made it, some came back in MLS, which is no shame."

One of the players who did find success in Germany was Christian Pulisic, who went on to move from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in 2019 and has enjoyed spells of intermittent success in his first season in the Premier League.

"I think he's doing very well right now, I think he is growing as a person," Klinsmann said. "You have to think about the fact that at a very young age he moved to Dortmund. Yes the family was with him, but you are in a different country, with a different language and a different climate.

"He established himself into the senior team at a speed that was mind-blowing and you're dizzy. He broke into the U.S. men's national team when I was coaching it and now came the next big move."

Klinsmann urged patience with Pulisic on the back of his move to Chelsea, reminding people that he is still just 22 years old.

He said: "There are not many people in the world making a move like this and now it is going to take some time to establish yourself, get to know your teammates, get to know the coaching staff, get to know the city and all that stuff."