The United States men's soccer team finally picked up their first win under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann but were unable to build on that later in the week when they lost to Ecuador. This kind of up-and-down play is to be expected as the coach and players figure each other out.
That said, the squad needs to show that they can win on a consistent basis soon, or fans will begin to doubt Klinsmann's ability to lead this team in the 2014 World Cup. There are a few things Klinsmann needs to do that will help fix the United States' problems.
What five things can Klinsmann do to turn this team into a winner? Read on to find out.
Jurgen Klinsmann has been doing exactly what a new coach needs to do with a national team—playing around with his starting lineup until he finds a squad that works. However, he's getting to the point where he needs to decide who's going to be in his starting XI every game.
It's a good thing that he tested out different players at first because he needed to see who best fit into his system, and would give the team the best shot to win.
Now that he's given quite a few guys a shot, it would be beneficial to decide on a lineup and stick with it over a few games straight.
This lets everyone know exactly where they stand with the coach, and gives them a chance to prove themselves over the course of a few consecutive games. It also allows the players to get into a rhythm, which should lead to better play across the board and a winning record.
In five games under Klinsmann, the team has just two goals. To put that in perspective, they scored seven goals in their last five games under Bob Bradley. The difference in those two stretches is that under Bradley the team was 3-2, and under Klinsmann it's 1-3-1.
Now, the team is producing plenty of chances with their attack. Against Ecuador they had 22 shots, but they just can't seem to put the ball in the back of the net consistently.
If Klinsmann wants to turn this team around, he needs to find someone who can turn those shots into points.
It may just be a string of bad luck that has kept the U.S. from netting many goals in their last five games, but they just haven't looked like the same team they were under Bradley.
Someone like Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore needs to turn their club success into a few international goals or this team could be looking at a long stretch of losses under Klinsmann.
One of the big reasons for the team's lack of scoring might be that they've lost a few key players to injury recently. The most important player they lost is obviously Landon Donovan, but losing Jose Torres might also be hurting the attack.
Torres doesn't score a lot of goals, but he does have good ball control and makes solid passes. With him playing in the middle of the field, the U.S. is able to move the ball into the attacking side of the field more easily, and set up more scoring chances.
Donovan is widely regarded as the best player in the history of U.S. soccer. With him out of the lineup, the U.S. loses their all-time leading scorer, and a player who excels at setting others up for goals.
The team needs to get their star back on the pitch so that they can begin to put together an attack that will score the goals they need to win games.
Aside the single goal, the United States defense played a great game against Ecuador. They only allowed the opposing team nine shots, and only four of those were on goal. That kind of inspired play is what kept the U.S. in the game so long, and gives them a chance to win every game they play in.
That said, if the team continues to lose, you could see the defense lose it's motivation to play as well as they have been of late.
It's up to Klinsmann and veterans like Tim Howard to make sure the squad doesn't come out flat when they begin their next set of friendlies in November.
If the defense continues to play well, then the team is halfway to where they need to be. Obviously, you need to score points to win, but with goals at a premium in soccer, there's no way you can win if your defense isn't on form.
In this win-now environment that is American sports, it's hard for anyone to not be judged on their performance early and often. However, Jurgen Klinsmann needs to stay away from that, and not get discouraged by what is said in the media.
Klinsmann is putting together a team that will play his style of soccer, which is different than the style Bob Bradley brought to the table. It's going to take some time for the players to completely figure it out, and during that time period we, as fans, need to be more forgiving than normal.
Yes, it's no fun to see our national team lose, but as they put the pieces together, this team will begin flourish down the line. Klinsmann and the team as a whole need to focus on playing soccer, and not worry about any negativity that comes from the media.
This team will come back to contender status sooner rather than later. They just need time to put it all together.