Should the results of the final matches in Group G of the 2014 World Cup not fall in the USMNT‘s favor, everyone will be looking for somewhere to place the blame. The first place that will fall will be on Jurgen Klinsmann. The coach is the easy target, but Klinsmann has received plenty of criticism since the moment he chose the final 23 players that would be heading to Brazil. If the USMNT do not progress to the Round of 16, this criticism of the coach will be unfair.
Klinsmann’s record since he took over is great and 2013 was a historical year for the USMNT. He has some kind of magical touch in knowing which sub to place in matches. That was evident with the John Brooks goal against Ghana. Klinsmann has not been scared to change formation, even to the unconventional. Putting Clint Dempsey alone up top against Portugal worked well since it allowed for another passing option in the midfield. He has helped to put his team in a good position heading into the match with Germany.
I’ll be devastated if #USMNT lose tomorrow, but as someone who’s been fairly critical of Klinsmann, even if they lose, he did his job well.
— American Touchline (@AmerTouchline) June 25, 2014
Now Klinsmann has not made every right call. It is reasonable to ask why Omar Gonzalez was in a deep lying midfield position rather than an additional center back spot on Portugal’s tying goal in stoppage time. However, there is no way to prove that change would have stopped the goal and there were plenty of numbers back for the USMNT.
Think about the majority of the sentiment from the time the World Cup groups were announced until the time the competition kicked off. There was optimism among fans, but with Group G being called the group of death, that optimism was always clouded. Analysts like ESPN’s Alexi Lalas had the USMNT failing to get out of the group. Now the USMNT is in a good position to advance.
Klinsmann has long been a realist with a plan. His players have bought into that plan and turned in two above-average performances. He has removed high expectations, yet found a way to motivate. Klinsmann’s attention to fitness has shown in Brazil. The coach has put his team in a good position with a focus on the group. History is on the side of the USMNT to advance, but if they don’t, get ready to read a flow of unwarranted criticism.