Are you feeling down about the United States men's national team World Cup group draw? Do you feel like some global conspiracy plopped Jurgen Klinsmann's boys into the Group of Death? Are you already having dark, twisted fantasies about the U.S. squaring off against Klinsmann's home country of Germany, and Klinsmann deciding, right before kickoff, that Landon and Bradley are looking a little peaked and maybe it's time to see if Kyle Beckerman can handle the midfield in the 7-1-2 formation that Klinsmann invented right there on the spot? Do you feel like the Stars and Stripes will be making a sequel to Up in the Air called Up in the Air II: Holy Crap, Brazil Is Huge, traveling nearly 9,000 miles during their group campaign? Is this all making you wonder whether America is really the chosen country Bono said it was on The Joshua Tree? Here's what I say to that …
In January 2006, Freddy Adu was 16 years old and training with the United States senior team for the first time. Head coach Bruce Arena called the starlet into the team's January camp, a three-week training stint that played a massive role in determining who would make the roster for the upcoming summer's World Cup in Germany. Adu's youth and inexperience made him a long shot to earn a spot, but he had a chance to impress.
Why, hello there. The United States men's national team qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil thanks to a 2-0 victory over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. The win means that the American fan base can stop panicking about whether the Stars and Stripes will reach the world's richest soccer tournament (which, let's be honest, was never really in doubt), not worry about Friday's game with Jamaica, and start concerning themselves with the picking of the 23-man roster. Far be it from us to miss out on the prediction game. Without further ado, we present Jurgen Klinsmann's 2014 World Cup roster.
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Crew Stadium just north of Columbus, Ohio, is something out of a bygone era in American soccer. When it opened in 1999, no one knew if Major League Soccer would survive. As a result, Corna Kokosing Construction Company built the country's first pro soccer–specific stadium for just $28.5 million. Fourteen years later, the aging venue with faded yellow backs on its bench seats holds just more than 20,000 people and a healthy amount of American soccer's limited history.
In case you were busy learning the hard way that you won't be the next mayor of New York City, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Behind goals from Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan, the United States men's national team clinched a spot in the 2014 World Cup with a 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. "Columbus is a fortress and we will defend it with our lives," said U.S. captain Clint Dempsey before thinking it over and adding, "Well, the city as a whole isn't a fortress; it's just OK. The fans were great though. And we will do anything it takes to win for the fans. Well, probably we wouldn't give up our lives. It's just a game. And I mean, the fans don't want us to die. That wouldn't be good for them either. But, um, we really wanted to win the game today. And we did. So that's cool."
So, the United States men's national team went to another tiny Central American nation in World Cup qualifying and lost, falling 3-1 to Costa Rica on Friday night. I thought we were done with this type of ridiculousness.
Short answer: no. Medium answer: Welcome to CONCACAF. Longer answer: It meant more to the Ticos, and it showed. Costa Rica was pissed because the U.S. made them play in the snow (even though they wanted to continue, too, but whatever), and because Jonathan Bornstein (!) kept them from the 2010 World Cup in the most dramatic fashion possible. Manager Jorge Luis Pinto promised that his squad would go into the match "with hot blood and cool heads," which is a wonderfully lyrical thing to say and, you know, exactly what happened as they scored in the second minute (déjà vu) and again in the ninth.
This summer five USMNT players have signed or re-signed with MLS clubs. The most significant of those was Clint Dempsey, who shocked the American soccer community by transferring to the Seattle Sounders from Tottenham Hotspur. Two weeks later, 24-year-old Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year and 2012 MLS Cup MVP, signed a Designated Player contract with the Galaxy, foregoing opportunities to play in Europe to stick with the two-time defending MLS champions. Nearly two weeks later, Landon Donovan announced he, too, would be signing a contract extension with the Galaxy, likely meaning that he would end his professional career in Los Angeles.
Steve Cherundolo, Tim Howard, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea, Herculez Gomez, and Josh Gatt. These are members of the United States men's national team who missed time recently because of injury. Some of the afflictions are serious, requiring surgery and months of rehab, while some are less dire, but these are all players who have been unavailable at a time when Jurgen Klinsmann would have called.
One of the main reasons Klinsmann used 26 different lineups in his first 26 games as manager was because someone from the first team was almost always hurt. So, is the American squad particularly injury-prone?
The United States men's national team played 11 games in June and July, winning all of them. Along the way, the squad took home its first Gold Cup since 2007, had 15 players score a combined 35 goals, posted five shutouts, and conceded more than one goal only once. While Jurgen Klinsmann's side had some stretches of shaky play (set pieces, set pieces, set pieces) with long periods of dominance, it was always good enough to win.
The question is whether the last two months indicate some sort of American soccer sea change, a tipping point in the Klinsmann-ification of the U.S. team, or merely a temporary new high-water mark in the never-ending struggle to raise the level.
This is a cop-out, but the correct answer is a little of both.
All athletes come with an expiration date, and for soccer players, it hits roughly around their 32nd birthday. But like on a jug of milk, the date acts simply as a recommendation. While Gold Cup captain DaMarcus Beasley’s “sell by” moment will be past due come Brazil 2014, there’s a deceptive quality to his freshness. He retains a spry, youthful feel for the game, playing with a bright-eyed wonderment that a U-17 player could only hope for. The only predicament is whether there’s room for a player who is simultaneously too young and too old for the USMNT World Cup Squad.
There seems to be a bit of mythmaking or revisionism claiming that before the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S.'s soccer identity was that of a counterattacking team. That the Americans were often outmanned, but they had a bit of speed so they'd let the opposition into their half, then hope to hit them on the break.
The country's most famous goal (1950 aside) was scored on the counter but, in reality, the USMNT would have been just as happy to have possession. In the last World Cup, the U.S. played four matches. In three of them they both outshot and had more possession than their opponent (England being the exception). Those aren't the stats of a side trying to sucker you into a counterpunch.
Jurgen Klinsmann drew criticism for using 26 different starting lineups in his first 26 matches as head coach of the United States men's national team. But let's talk about more important matters, namely that he sported just as many outfits while smiling and scowling on the sideline. Whereas his predecessor Bob Bradley favored casual tracksuits or sweats, Klinsmann possesses some sartorial imagination, showing a bit of the flair and creativity that allowed him to score 47 goals for the German side between 1987 and 1998.
His wardrobe decisions are tracked and chronicled by fans, and there's even an infrequently updated blog dedicated to his choices. Klinsmann’s wardrobe choices inspired us to track down a few of our favorite fashion folks, give them some pictures of Klinsmann, and let them loose. Welcome to the first — and, let's be honest here, hopefully last — edition of Jurgen Wore It Best. (If you're so inspired, many of the items are for sale in the U.S. Soccer shop. Synergy!)
The United States men's national team only needed a tie against Costa Rica at East Hartford's Rentschler Field, but did one better as a late goal by second-half substitute Brek Shea gave the Americans a 1-0 victory in their third and final group stage game of the 2013 Gold Cup. The win was the squad's eighth in a row, which broke the all-time mark set in 2007. Coincidentally, the team to set the mark was the last Stars and Stripes side to finish the group stage with a perfect record and, perhaps more importantly, the last one to prevail over Mexico and win the regional championship.
Tuesday night's match, played in extreme heat, was a rematch of the infamous blizzard game and, in the words of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the true beginning of the Gold Cup. "Players understand they need to step it up and that the whole tournament really starts for us with Costa Rica," he said Monday.
The match started slowly as the Ticos packed nine players behind the ball and dared the Americans to break them down. While Belize and Cuba, the U.S.'s previous opponents, didn't possess the organization, the talent, or the will to stay compact, Jorge Luis Pinto's squad was up to the task. For 82 minutes, that is. The U.S. goal came on a rapid counterattack, with Joe Corona finding a streaking Landon Donovan, who subsequently hit a perfect one-timer to a flying Shea. The Stoke City midfielder beat Patrick Pemberton, and the Americans held on for the victory.
The reward? A Sunday-afternoon matchup against Group B third-place finisher El Salvador at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. (Costa Rica plays Honduras in the other quarterfinal. If the Ticos and the U.S. win, the two teams will play in the semifinal because the goal of the Gold Cup is to keep the Americans and Mexico apart until the finals at all costs.)
For this team, this tournament is only partially about the results. It represents a chance to impress the coach on an individual level. After three games, who has and who has not?