[MY VIEW] The dismal results of Jurgen Klinsmann’s first five friendly games -- just one win – will be rendered irrelevant if his team shines in World Cup qualifying and does more at Brazil 2014 than the USA has done before at a World Cup. But the feeble performance of the U.S. attack -- two goals in 450 minutes – is cause for serious concern.
No doubt the man who was a world-class striker wants an attacked-minded U.S. team. In Klinsmann’s two previous coaching stints, with Germany and Bayern Munich, he produced high-scoring teams.
When he took the U.S. job, Klinsmann inherited an uninspiring team that had scored only 13 goals and won only five times in 14 games since the 2010 World Cup.
Any hopes that Klinsmann would bring a Midas touch to his U.S. job have, after five games, been extinguished. Sure, he had some bad luck. Two legitimate-looking goals nullified by the linesman’s flag. And not yet has he had the two best U.S. attackers – Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey – on the field at the same time.
Donovan has played in only two of the games. But we knew that Donovan Dependency was something the USA needs to overcome eventually. And bad offside calls are par for the course.
So we are left with a coach facing the age-old challenge of turning the U.S. national team into one that can dominate opponents with attacking soccer rather relying on grit to grind out wins. Heck, the USA in recent years hasn't even exceeded the quality of play the USA displayed at times in the 1994-95 and 1999-2002 eras.
Klinsmann has to play with the hand he was dealt and it doesn’t include a lot brilliant attacking players. But it's troubling, despite all his talk of instilling a new style of play, that his team doesn’t look to be approaching the game much differently than it has in the past. The most glaring problem is the impatience when the team enters the final third of the field.
In the latest outing, the 1-0 loss to Ecuador, it was as if once the USA got into the opponent’s half, the aim was to get a shot on goal as quickly as possible.
In the USA, whether it’s MLS, college ball, or youth soccer, the game is plagued by rushing instead of plotting. There’s so much emphasis on speed and athleticism in all levels of the U.S. game -- when what we really need is patient possession in front of the opponent’s goal until a realistic scoring chance can be carved out.
When Klinsmann lines up a team with only three true attacking players, and when we hear him emphasize fitness and high-tempo, we worry whether he’s on the right track to fixing what really ails American soccer.