It's time, soccer fans.
Jurgen Klinsmann's long-awaited debut along the U.S. National Men's Soccer Team, and a thoroughly steeped grudge match with Team Mexico, is upon us.
Among the questions on the precipice of being answered:
- How Tim Howard responds. Last time he took the field, he left a gutless performance—he surrendered four unanswered goals en route to a 4-2 lo—and a few choice (yet poorly chosen) words for us to chew on.
- How the defense regroups (with or without Carlos Bocanegra, who went down with injury). Remember: They were as culpable as anyone for that untimely collapse in June's Gold Cup Final.
- How Landon Donovan leads. If LeBron is lambasted for withering in the clutch in the NBA Finals, Donovan deserves a lashing for captaining a team during its lowlight. I've long been a Donovan apologist, but his deck of "passes" is thinning.
- How Jurgen Klinsmann withstands a punch (or doesn't). Heralded for his body of work as a German national soccer hero, Klinsmann's turbulent coaching credentials have been about as publicized (if not scrutinized) throughout this whole thing. In his two earlier gigs, with the German National Team (34-20 from 2004-06) and Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga (43-25 from 2008-09), he's gone a lackluster 77-45. The good word has been that Klinsmann has recalibrated the team's focus and tinkered with scheme—two glaring deficiencies of the Bob Bradley era—and both are expected to show at the stroke of 9 p.m. ET. But how the team responds when pitted against its first booking, blown offsides call or (gasp!) two-goal deficit will define this early juncture of his tenure. Unpalatable as it would be, I think this country has had its fill with early holes—you almost wonder whether a deficit within the first 45 would be constructive for Team USA.
And as this page turns in U.S. soccer history, be sure to stick with us for to-the-minute reaction to this soon-to-be thickened narrative.
This match will be a lot: compelling, chippy and competitive—everything but forgettable. Make sure your voice is heard (loud and challenging) in the comment box below.
In other words: Try to keep up (if you can). Should be fun.