In truth, from the moment on, this World Cup has been Klinsmann’s. We’re all just along for the show.
In qualifying, Klinsmann mostly stuck to the script. The US won their home games. They got railroaded in Costa Rica and Honduras. Jurgen beat Mexico dos a cero in Columbus, just as Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena did before him.
Everyone knew what to expect, and everyone was on board.
Then the draw happened. And Klinsmann flipped the script. He sacked his loyal and long-serving assistant manager Martin Vazquez. He hired German coach Berti Vogts as an assistant.
Klinsmann shunned the tried and true 4-2-3-1 for a diamond 4-4-2, which has evolved now into a 4-5-1.
Eddie Johnson was exiled. Then Landon Donovan was axed. The US’ final 23-man squad included so many players who weren’t involved in getting the team to Brazil, the team felt almost foreign. The sense of impending doom was palpable.
But Klinsmann really believed. He believed in every guy he took to Brazil – except maybe Julian Green. He believed in what he was doing. He believed it would work.
You have to look at the decision to make Kyle Beckerman a starter alongside Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in the center of midfield and say “genius.” Beckerman has been the US’ security blanket, their most consistent performer.
It’s hard, but think back to before this tournament, when people didn’t want this 32-year old career MLS veteran anywhere near the national team. That stance looks pretty foolish now.
Beckerman’s first start in the same team as both Jones and Bradley came before the US’ last warm-up game against Nigeria.
It was a risky move, but it gave Jones a freedom to roam and play offense and wreck havoc that has turned the once-maligned enigma into one of the best weapons the United States has.
It was risky to play Omar Gonzalez in the Recife rain. How many other coaches would have inserted a World Cup rookie who hadn’t played 90 minutes in a month and a half into a decisive final group game against Germany?
DeAndre Yedlin, believe it or not, has played his part. John Brooks too. This US team believes – in each other, in its mission, and in its leadership. It’s evident in their work every time they step on the field.
Of course, Klinsmann isn’t infallible. Every time I see Brad Davis or Alejandro Bedoya’s name on the team-sheet, it hits me how much the US miss Donovan.