Jurgen Klinsmann’s job security was in question heading into this past set of 2014 World Cup Qualifiers, but two positive results have turned the tides and shown that he is the right man to lead the United States to Brazil.
With players criticizing him in the press, Klinsmann dealt with his side’s displeasure brilliantly and was able to coax his team into delivering two excellent performances under difficult circumstances.
Against Costa Rica, the conditions were appropriate for a snowball fight, not a soccer match. Weather like this leaves a game up to chance, and whichever team avoids mistakes and gets a little lucky will come out on top.
The United States received good fortune in this match, as Jozy Altidore’s deflected shot fell to Clint Dempsey for the game’s only goal. While this was a serendipitous end to the attack, the Americans made their own luck by pushing forward and getting players into dangerous positions.
After a physically taxing match in extreme conditions, Klinsmann’s side faced a significantly more daunting challenge.
Sure, the United States was coming off its first win against Mexico at Azteca in a friendly over the summer, but this time, it counted. El Tri was going to be significantly more motivated for this match.
But the United States’ inexperienced defense stayed strong, with Omar Gonzalez leading an admirable effort. Brad Guzan proved the Americans are loaded at goalkeeper by delivering a fantastic performance while standing in for an injured Tim Howard.
While there were impressive individual performances from the players, Klinsmann put them in position to succeed.
He made the right call by trusting young players to perform under pressure, and allowed the leaders of his team to handle the dissent that was building in the locker room.
There have been plenty of changes since Klinsmann took over, with The Denver Post's John Henderson quoting him saying, “We have to use different methods to make it better. If we do exactly the same way it was done before, we're not improving.”
The former German star has shown that he has the courage to stick his long-term plan, even when adverse conditions threaten to undermine his authority.
It took courage to trot out Gonzalez and Matt Besler as the team’s centre-back pair against Mexico, and the selection paid off. Decisions like this are exactly what the United States needs to continue growing.
Klinsmann proved conclusively over the last two matches that he has the guts to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. But he stands by what he does, and as the results from this crucial stretch of matches shows, his vision is clearly paying off.
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