Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Win Makes Klinsmann Look Good - but How Good?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Win Makes Klinsmann Look Good - but How Good?

Article excerpt

On paper, Jurgen Klinsmann looks like a genius.

The U.S. men's national team has never had a better year, at least measured by results, and it's only September. The 2-0 win Tuesday against bitter rival Mexico punched the Americans' ticket to the 2014 World Cup with two games to spare, and set a record for most wins in a calendar year (14) in the bargain.

It didn't come easy. Because of injury and yellow-card suspensions, the U.S. was without Michael Bradley, arguably its best player, and three others - Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron - who normally handle duties down the crucial central spine of the field. But the cobbled-together U.S. lineup slowly pulled away from a familiar opponent that began the night desperate and fell apart soon enough.

"We saw that we can actually raise the bar with tempo," Klinsmann said afterward, "and in the second half it was all us."

On the field, Klinsmann's impact is much harder to measure. Former U.S. player and current ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas called it a "classic American win" and he should know. This team still plays, for the most part, like the ones he played on and all the other versions did before Klinsmann arrived in 2011. It relies on good- to-great goalkeeping and plenty of luck on the defensive end to offset a lack of talent. It's good on the counterattack and set pieces.

What this team has over its predecessors is a little more creativity and a lot more depth. When Klinsmann took over from Bob Bradley, his ambition was to build a program with the kind of continuity that world powers like Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina have long enjoyed.

"I think that we're step by step getting closer to take the game to the opponents, that we're not sitting back and react to whatever happens. We want to take it into their half," Klinsmann said. "Every game is different. We know that, too. But I think we made big progress in terms of tactical variations and in terms of commitment both ways of the game, defensively and offensively . …

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