Over two and a half months ago United States soccer hired their “dream” manger in German soccer legend Jurgen Klinsmann. His experience as a World Cup coach and champion as a player gives Jurgen a resume any national squad would desire. But Jurgen wasn’t going to step in on the first day and create a World Cup contender, his style of play is like learning a new language for US soccer– it is going to take time to develop. So far the Yanks are 1-2-2 under Klinsmann’s reign; all the fixtures were developmental friendlies that have no stake in World Cup qualifying. Yet this is where Klinsmann needed to do a majority of his work in discovering the right players for his system and who desire to represent the red, white, and blue. It may be ugly at times, but progress is slowly showing and growing in the US national team; progress that could eventually lead to success come 2014. Here’s Klinsmann’s grade report so far:
A Managing: The contrast of personalities between former US coach Bob Bradley and Klinsmann is like comparing Darth Vader to Yoda; Klinsmann is a teacher while Bradley was a commander. Klinsmann’s fresh smiles and quirks come along with his seriousness for competition and class. As far as his relations with the media, Klinsmann has shown excitement and intrigue without giving too much away; this can be attested to his time working for ESPN and as time as the German coach in a German hosted World Cup. His inception of “no names” on the back of the US jerseys shows his focus on a team centered culture–individuals with attitudes will not be acceptable. Overall Klinsmann has fitted right in as the US coach with the fans, media, and players, its only once competitions starts to matter where we will really see his true brilliance.
B- Offense: Klinsmann’s offensive plan is to attack and press forward all ninety minutes and never look back. His system requires precise passing through the midfield along with backs pressing and building offensive chances. This requires the team to be at top physical form in order to last a full match; this problem will hopefully be fixed once the US gets into actual competitions where camps are longer and more in depth. The offense has shown bright spots and the players are loving the opportunities to fly around and create chances. The change in strategy is giving players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan more freedom to use their offensive talents then ever before. Jurgen’s style has also opened up opportunities for young talent like the physically impressive Brek Shea, who has exceeded expectations and will be staple in the US squad for years to come. The problem the US has to face is finishing once they pressed forward; hopefully this will come in time, but only two goals in five friendlies is an immediate problem needing to be solved. Once Jurgen has time in camps to develop team chemistry the goals should come, but if Klinsmann’s era continues the poor finishing the US has been known for, it could be a long road to qualify for Brazil.
C Defense: The US backfield is still struggling to find the right group as they transition into the next generation– I guess some things don’t change. Jurgen has tested both the young and old throughout the five friendlies but there seems to be a learning gap for young stars like Tim Ream, Michael Orozco Fiscal, and Edgar Castillo. The aging of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu and lack of depth could plague the US in 2014, and Klinsmann cannot dismiss his defense or his new flashy offense will be worth nothing. Klinsmann may have found a prime defense of prospect in Timothy Chandler, who at age twenty-one has already shown his impact being able to push the counter attack with his speed and poise. Klinsmann has the defensive talent, the key is developing the young players and finding his four to lead the team in 2014.
The Squad: Here is Jurgen’s best possible squad based on the last five matches and past performances.
Offense: Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey
Dempsey is playing his best soccer in his career, while Altidore seems to have found comfort at AZ Alkmaar in Holland. Jurgen will count on both players to be leaders and scorers in his offense; both have had their slumps, but having “Duce” and Jozy on form is key to US success.
Midfielders: Brek Shea, Jose Torres, Maurice Edu, Landon Donovan
Maurice Edu has continued to show his quality in decision making while Jose Torres is the flashy passer Jurgen needs in the midfield. Donovan and Shea will push the pace on the outside leaving the midfielders alone to stop the counter attack. Jurgen expects his midfielders to work hard if turnovers occur, the key is being as strong in the run back as the push forward.)
Defense: Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Chandler, Tim Howard (GK)
The four defensive spots will continue to change and shift until May of 2014, but these four have the potential to be a quality balance of youth and experience.
Who’s In: Juan Agudelo, Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Edgar Castillo,
Agudelo will continue to become a professional, and along with Freddy Adu both players are sparks off the bench. Michael Bradley is a question mark in the transition to Jurgen’s reign, and the sacking of his father Bob could make things awkward at the start, but all US faithful know Michael is too talented to remain on the bench. Danny Williams is another German-American player who has emerged out of nowhere and was brilliant in his first two appearances for the Yanks. It was a pleasure to see Oguchi Onyewu healthy and back playing to his dominating physical form, if he remains healthy “Gooch” is too strong of a force not to have on the pitch.
Who’s Out: Robbie Rogers, Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan, Ricardo Clark, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector, Tim Ream
Robbie Rogers had his moments, but he will need much more composure on the ball in order to make the squad regularly. Goodson and Spector have not been living to their potential on an international level, and Tim Ream’s crucial mistake versus Ecuador shows he’s not ready to wear the red, white, and blue.
The Best Goal Under Kilnsmann