USMNT: Why Jurgen Klinsmann Was the Real Star of the Gold Cup Final
This year's Gold Cup was as much about Jurgen Klinsmann as the teams he put on the pitch. Prior to the tournament the German's tenure as manager of the United States Men's National Team had been rocky.
Peaks include knocking off Mexico at the Estadio Azteca and defeating Italy in a friendly, but a veritable mauling at the feet of a blossoming Belgian side showed that the Americans still have some way to go before they can justifiably regard themselves as one of the world's elite footballing nations.
However, Klinsmann became King Midas during the Gold Cup.
A nation as prominent as the United States possesses the human resources to take its B-team to the CONCACAF tournament. Klinsmann was forced to identify the best of the backups and decide which players merited more intense scrutiny.
He settled on a squad that he left mostly unchanged for the duration of the tournament and which produced a flawless record.
Nick Rimando was an absolute rock in goal, inspiring confidence with a string of acrobatic saves and numerous composed clearances from awkward positions.
Landon Donovan was deservedly afforded the opportunity to play his way back into the starting lineup for the World Cup, and the greatest American soccer player to ever don the jersey vivisected every team that was unfortunate enough to be submitted to his creative buzz saw.
Jurgen Klinsmann has been freed, and he is pumped up about the USA's Gold Cup victory. GIF: http://t.co/CGPLi0v5nD— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 28, 2013
Donovan was the joint-Golden Boot winner, netting five goals, and he provided more than three times the amount of assists—seven—than the next-most prolific players.
And Klinsmann could not possibly have utilized his substitutions more effectively.
Only minutes after he inserted Brek Shea into the U.S.' match against Costa Rica, the obviously talented but wildly inconsistent winger nabbed a fine finish to see the Yanks through and finally begin his goal tally for the national team.
Shea repeated his heroics off the bench against Panama, tapping in one of the most important goals of his career to see off Panama less than a minute after he had entered the game in place of Joe Corona.
Yet even this was not as spectacular as Eddie Johnson blasting a header into the back of the net off a corner kick with his very first touch, only seconds after being introduced into the fray against El Salavador.
Obviously, the players were the ones who actually executed the strategy and used their ability to sweep the opposition aside. But Klinsmann was behind it all, making perfect tactical decisions to ensure that the right personnel were able to perform the desired task.
Remarkably, the manager might have had his most profound impact on his team by not actually even being present at all.
After tossing a ball in anger at a refereeing decision during the United States' semifinal match against Honduras, Klinsmann was sent off and subsequently suspended for the final.
One can argue whether the act itself allowed his players to discover some unknown quarry of inspirational belief. But the resultant story whipped the media into a lather that removed excess attention and scrutiny from his players ahead of the tournament's climax.
Even during the match, Fox cameramen frequently turned their instruments on the comically animated Klinsmann in his luxury box. The man generates a minor spectacle, but not to the detriment of his team's performance.
And his substitutions, which were once again extraordinarily prudent, were not simply made on the whim of the assistant coach who was given temporary managing duties. They were very likely preplanned and perhaps even communicated from the box to the bench via a third party.
Make no mistake: The United States' brilliant tournament performance was chiefly orchestrated by Jurgen Klinsmann, who will have some very difficult decisions to make about his squad in the months preceding next summer's World Cup.
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