For the first time in recent memory, I am proud of the U.S. men’s soccer team.
I was proud of the way the Americans found a way to win against a superior opponent (Ghana). I was proud of the way the U.S. was resourceful and hung in there despite being out-played by that opponent. I was proud of the way the U.S. did not quit when it lost players to hamstring injuries, most notably Jozy Altidore. And finally, I was proud of the way the U.S. won despite one of its best players having played poorly (Michael Bradley).
All credit should go to the oft-criticized coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
A lot of people (including yours’ truly) lambasted Klinsmann for leaving beloved Landon Donovan off of the final roster. Those same people were offended by Klinsmann’s abrasive, tell-it-like-it-is style.
However it is evident that the traits that made Klinsmann a winner are rubbing off on his players.
He is instilling the same toughness and resourcefulness that helped guide his German teams to the World Cup in 1990 (as a player), and a third-place World Cup finish in 2006 (as a coach). His U.S. team yesterday refused to wilt against the relentless pressure Ghana brought the majority of the match. Hell, Clint Dempsey not only scored one of the quickest goals in World Cup history, he withstood a KICK TO THE FACE!
That’s the toughness I love, and that has me feeling better about my “U.S. winning the Group of Death” pick. Turns out that Klinsmann knows what the hell he is doing after all.
Now don’t get me wrong, the Americans have a ways to go to assure themselves of advancing beyond the group stage. They will be playing against a depleted, but uber-talented team in Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo alone could beat them. And last I checked, second-ranked and World Cup favorite Germany is still in the Americans’ group.
Having said that, it was HUGE for the Americans to get a win over nemesis Ghana, who ended their World Cup dreams in 2006 and 2010. That win should give the U.S. confidence that will be much needed if it wants to advance out of the “Group of Death”.
Say it with me everyone: “U-S-A! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!”
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