Since dropping Landon Donovan last month, a fury of angry US fans, bloggers and — in some cases — mainstream media personalities have turned into vociferous critics of US Head Coach Jürgen Klinsmann.
The United States’ 2-1 victory over Ghana on Monday night was achieved despite Jürgen Klinsmann’s team being outplayed for large portions of the match. The US head coach recently switched to a diamond midfield that was designed to allow Michael Bradley more freedom of movement and more touches in the attacking areas on the ball. For reasons perhaps related to the early Clint Dempsey goal or the injury to Jozy Altidore, the formation did not work at all, giving Klinsmann’s domestic critics more fodder to attack the US coach.
Despite the failure of the diamond formation and the particularly poor performance from Michael Bradley, the best field player the United States has produced in the last decade, Monday night in Natal was one of vindication for Klinsmann. His second most controversial squad selection, John Anthony Brooks — who unbeknownst seemingly to the critics was coming off a decent Bundesliga campaign — not only scored the winning goal but was outstanding defensively after being forced into action due to an injury to Matt Besler.
Jermaine Jones, who has been ripped to pieces by critics who have chosen to exaggerate his weaknesses and discipline record, was the single best player on the pitch for either side in this match. The poor performance of Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley, the United States makeshift right-back, were largely masked by the dynamic Jones work-rate and positioning sense.
The constant selection of Kyle Beckerman has been another bugaboo for Klinsmann’s critics. Beckerman was largely ignored by Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley and has only emerged as a national team force after he turned 30 and Klinsmann became head coach. Following US games, it has been a fashionable trend on social media for fans to criticize Beckerman and Jones while defending the likes of Landon Donovan and exaggerating his impact on proceedings.
Monday, before the match, Landon Donovan was again a trending topic on social media. US fans were questioning Klinsmann’s decision even though it had been weeks since the announcement of Donovan’s release from the US team. Monday night when Jozy Altidore was injured, the social media buzz was not about Terrence Boyd, the player that Klinsmann probably should have brought to Brazil as proper cover for Altidore, but again about Donovan.
However at the full-time whistle, Klinsmann’s side had defeated Ghana with the players most criticized and associated with this manager making the difference. The United States could not overcome Ghana in the previous two World Cups in matches where Landon Donovan featured. Donovan was particularly poor in the 2006 Group Stage match against Ghana, most memorably turning down a clean look at goal late in the match to pass to Ben Olsen who was outside the area. These sorts of moments in Donovan’s World Cup career were forgotten by those who simply wanted to beat up on Klinsmann and in some manner may have been doing so in order look like wise men and women when the US failed. However, Monday night those critics have learned that Jürgen Klinsmann does not make decisions just for the sake of personal reasons. He does so because he knows how to craft a winning side.