Why US Men's National Team's Historic Win Streak Won't End Anytime Soon
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After a 3-1 victory over Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinal, the United States Men's National Team's historic win streak now stands at 10 games.
The US side is playing better than it has ever played. After falling 4-2 to Belgium on May 29, the United States has reeled off 10 consecutive wins, including a victory over No. 2-ranked Germany, three World Cup qualifying wins and five straight victories in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The win streak is no fluke. The US side is dominating opponents on both ends of the pitch, and Jurgen Klinsmann is out-coaching his counterparts. There is every reason to believe the winning streak will continue long after Sunday's Gold Cup final against Panama.
The United States' all-time leading scorer, Landon Donovan, has been on fire in the Gold Cup. The former captain was left off the roster for the team's World Cup Qualifying matches, but he has made up for lost time. After recording a pair of goals and an assist in the semifinal match with Honduras, Donovan now has five goals and seven assists in five Gold Cup matches.
But for Donovan, it's about more than finishing chances. ESPN's Paul Carr pointed out in a tweet that despite being limited in his touches against Honduras, Donovan was all over the pitch.
Jozy Altidore provided a spark early in the streak, but Donovan's play has been even more impressive. He isn't just scoring; he's creating opportunities for those around him, making the entire team better in the process.
Part of the reason is because Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is demanding more than ever of Donovan, according to Sports Illustrated's Grand Wahl.
"I told him that in our conversations: I'm measuring you," said Klinsmann after Donovan provided two goals and an assist in another sterling performance. "Your benchmark is the best Landon Donovan ever. I'm not taking anything less than that."
Right now, we are getting to see the best Landon Donovan ever.
After squeaking by Germany 4-3 to start this 10-game winning streak, the United States has allowed a total of five goals over its next nine contests.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann deserves a lot of the credit for the team's defense because it has truly been a team effort.
Only one defender, Matt Bresler, has started more than half of the matches during the current win streak. Bresler teamed with Omar Gonzalez, Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley early on, but Coach Klinsmann has used a patchwork backfield in the recent weeks, with Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Tony Beltran and Oguchi Onyewu all receiving starts during the Gold Cup run.
Despite constant changes, the defense has held steady, giving up just three goals in the last five matches. Without a standout on the defensive side, the team's excellent defensive play comes down to players buying in to Klinsmann's defensive concepts.
As his ability to mix and match defensive sets has shown, Klinsmann has his finger on the pulse of his team and knows how to push all the right buttons.
Leaving Landon Donovan off the team's roster for the World Cup qualifiers was a stroke of genius. Donovan has rewarded his coach by playing with more discipline, focus and determination than at any other point in his career.
The same can be said for players like Kyle Beckerman, who Eddie Johnson called the "Peyton Manning of soccer" in an interview with MLSSoccer.com.
Beckerman, like Donovan, was left out of the lineup when the winning streak began. But since returning for the Gold Cup, he has become a commanding presence in the midfield. He's not flashy, but his teammates respect and listen to him.
Klinsmann is proving to be a master talent manager. After some stumbling blocks early in his tenure with the team, the coach has figured out how to best motivate his squad, even if it means holding players out for weeks at a time.
Klinsmann's coaching ability, combined with the extraordinary play of Landon Donovan and a defense that has been nearly impenetrable, has helped build the team's historic win streak. They are also the reasons that the team will beat Panama in the Gold Cup final and why the win streak will continue long afterward.
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