You can’t show emotion as a manager anymore.
As the Honduras players continually clattered into their American opponents during their Gold Cup semifinal clash, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann grew increasingly irate on the touchline.
Klinsmann finally snapped and threw the ball down in frustration three minutes from time—a justifiable reaction given DaMarcus Beasley had just been hurled to the floor by two Hondurans—and was sent to the stands by referee Walter Quesada.
That should have been that.
But it’s since emerged that Klinsmann must miss the final after CONCACAF concluded he "threw the ball in a violent manner." The decision can’t be appealed.
Throwing the ball violently? That suggests the spectators watching were lucky to escape with their lives and that the bench should have been decimated by Klinsmann’s attack.
This means Panama have a slightly more favourable chance of Gold Cup glory—although it should be noted those odds are still very slim.
They’ve already performed magnificently to get this far, beating two-time defending champions Mexico in the semifinal. They are also in the luxurious position of having no pressure on them ahead of Sunday’s final.
If the match goes according to plan, and America coast into an early lead, then Klinsmann’s suspension won’t cause many problems.
But if it’s a nervy 0-0 and the players are struggling, a quick glance across to the vacant managerial seat is hardly going to alleviate the tension.
Panama are likely to explode out of the blocks, full of adrenaline as they seek to avenge their defeat in the 2005 final.
Although 10 of the 11 tournaments have been won by Mexico or the USA, Panama can draw strength from Canada’s success in 2000 when they beat El Tri en route to claiming a historic title.
The coach is the one who settles the players down, and if Panama somehow score first, it is conceivable that doubts could sweep across the American ranks with no one there to act as a calming mechanism.
The more likely result, though, is that CONCACAF’s decision creates a siege mentality among the American squad and makes them even more determined not to bow out to the tournament’s dark horse.
And if the USA do triumph in the final, keep an eye on Klinsmann. Given the draconian punishment handed out already, he’d be wise to save his post-match celebration hugs for the changing rooms where he can’t be cited for clinging too aggressively.
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