April 19, 2014

United States Ties Mexico 1-1 in Klinsmann’s First Game as Coach

It was kind of funny how much importance I put on this game before it started last night.  I had it on my calendar and was all set to tune in for Jurgen Klinsmann’s debut as coach for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT.)  I am not sure what I really expected, though.  The USMNT plays friendlies on occasion.  They don’t mean a whole lot except as pre-season type games for bigger events like tournaments.  Hiring Klinsmann has really raised the interest level up a notch, though.  It is a commitment to widespread culture change in the program.  At the same time, it isn’t like he was going to be able to enact much change in the 10 days since he was hired.

Last night’s 1-1 tie was more about symbolism.  Klinsmann removed the names from the back of the jerseys of the players to show that it is only about representing the United States.  It is a pretty universal statement, but it still seems so odd to get lessons in patriotism from a German.

As for the game itself, Mexico seemed pretty dominant throughout the first half.  The goal that Oribe Peralta scored to take the 1-0 lead was pretty spectacular.  As opposed to the previous affair against Mexico in the Gold Cup, the U.S. defense seemed to be playing pretty well.  Even a defense playing great won’t be able to keep every cross from occurring.  Peralta was being guarded closely by Michael Bradley, but still managed to get his foot on the ball to weakly re-direct it into the back of the net.  Sometimes you just tip your cap to the opposition.

The United States went into halftime without a shot on goal trailing 1-0. Things continued to look bleak in the second half, but this team found a way. Brek Shea did amazingly well to hold off defenders and get his cross past the Mexican goalkeeper to a wide open Robbie Rogers for the equalizer.

The game wasn’t without controversy. The refereeing was decidedly bad. A U.S. player, Robbie Rogers, was dragged down by his jersey on a pretty clear path to goal and the Mexican player Gerrardo Torrado. He was shown a yellow, but there isn’t any realistic argument that it shouldn’t have been a red card. Even if he had been removed, there is no telling that the United States would have been able to capitalize as it was already the 88th minute of the game.

So, the United States did pretty well to tie on a night of massive change that is just a hint of changes to come. Jurgen Klinsmann gets off to a decent start in the eyes of the world, even if the end result doesn’t make much difference in any true reality.

  • the_spivack

    They came out really unorganized in the first half…we couldn’t hold our shape and just had no offensive rhythm. The adjustments that were made during halftime did so much for the team. They held their shape, were much tighter on the defensive end and were able to string together some passes that generated some offensive chances. It was really nice to see the team come out swinging in the second half after looking completely lost during the first 45. Also, it was great to see the team work the ball out of the back instead of everything going over the top (finally we’re playing like a real team)

  • Spencer

    If you look at the game as a tryout for the US players some of them are in real trouble. Edson (sp?) Buddle is one that leaps to mind as a guy that really struggled, although he was often one on three when he had the ball. On the other hand, Aguadelo, Shea and Rogers I think really solidified their place on the team. It’ll be interesting to see who gets left of in favor of Dempsey and some of the other players when they get back.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    I was really happy not to see Jonathan Bornstein. That’s all.

  • mgbode

    USMNT = United States Mutant Ninja Turtles

  • Harv 21

    Cannot be a fan of a sport where that is a player’s common pose. Just wrong that an American athlete would use that body language. Wrong, I say, in a man-purse or man-thong on the beach kind of way.

  • stin4u

    @1 – Amen. I’ve been saying for years that the american style of attack always always alllways included too many long arial passes, and through balls and never enough possession. Hopefully this is a sign of change on the horizon.

  • Steve

    The issue is, and will be for a while, the mediocre at best development system that America has. For the number of people that play soccer here, we struggle to develop elite talent. Klinsmann isn’t going to change that anytime soon. And in regards to the style of attack, that’s on the development system. I’ve played with quite a few foreign guys who are confused as to why Americans just boot the ball down the field. It’s how we grew up learning to play.

  • Garry Owen

    @ mgbode

    I clicked on this article just to make that ninja turtle reference. Dang you and your quicker wit.

  • http://exiledclevelander.wordpress.com AMC

    Don’t forget the obvious foul on Donovan in the box that should have resulted in a PK. That referee had his head up his arse all game. Solid effort for Klinsmann in his debut.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    @ Steve – yea, I never really learned to play possession-based footy until I got to college and played pickup with lots of foreign folks. It’s a lot more fun that way too, really.

    My HS team played long-ball, likely because it worked. Granted, I was playing northern Ohio D2 soccer in the middle of farm country. Not a lot of the great athletes play soccer in those parts. The ones that do can just get away with running circles around everyone else.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com wfnycraig

    And how much of the style is dictated because we play on skinny football fields? Possession style works a lot better when you can spread it out wide.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    My high school had a full 120 x 80 field. If anything, it contributed more to us playing over the top, because the guys in back didn’t have to be accurate with passes, just needed to have the right weight.

    We did play some games on our football field under the lights, and those felt incredibly cramped.

  • mgbode

    @Garry – we should collaborate and make a “TMNT IV – Turtles take the World Cup”

    I mean who is going to beat a team of mutant ninja turtles?

  • Vengeful Pat

    Love a USMNT post and got a smirk from the TMNT reference. Technically, the TMNTs were USMNTs too… those dudes were totally American, and totally righteous.

    As for the soccer, I loved what Brek Shea gave when he came on. At only 21 years old, he has great foot skill and good size for an attacking player. He, Donovan, Agudelo, and Rogers played a string of one-touch passes that were really impressive. As for Klinsmann, his greatest attribute is his attitude. He’s consistently positive and is someone you want to try hard to please. As for Steve’s comment, I think you WILL see Klinsmann have a pretty big effect on the youth system. Honestly, it’s already happening with Claudio Reyna taking the reins… he’s modeling it more after what happens in Europe. This will also lead to disappointment from high school soccer fans as more of the talented players will be going to soccer academies at a young age instead of playing for Northwest Ashtabula High (I made that school up, or at least I think I did).

  • http://www.60bpm.com/ Robbie

    @Steve — I’ve always just assumed the problem in the USA is simply that the majority of the best athletes here get into baseball, football or basketball. Even if the best soccer talent is developed better, their ceilings are still lower than those elsewhere because they’re not our best athletes.

    And, I specifically remember one coach in-particular yelling at us to “BOOOT IT!!!” whenever we got the ball. That was the entire game plan. Kick the ball as hard as you can down field and hope that someone is there to deal with it.

  • Bobby

    @Robbie
    “Even if the best soccer talent is developed better, their ceilings are still lower than those elsewhere because they’re not our best athletes.”

    I call BS on this whole we wont ever be good because our “athletes” play other sports.

    Look at football and basketball players. With very few exceptions those guys would never ever ever make it as a futballer. EVEN if they started at 3 and kept with it their whole lives.

    The only people who talk about “athletes” are people who have never trapped/dribbled/passed/shot a soccer ball past second grade gym class.

    Sorry, but Ray Lewis, Joe Thomas, Dwight Howard and yes even #6…as good as they are at their jobs and as good as athletes as they are, would absolutely suxors playing 110 X 80 for 90.

    Barry Sanders might have been able to, Emmit Smith no way. Dion Sanders maybe, Ronnie Lott never.

    The only sport that might compete for the same type of talent is Baseball. Shortstops second basemen and center fielders.

    just LOOK at elite soccer players.. 5’5 – 6′ 140-180 lbs. Some are taller and maybe heavier.

    Omar Visquel might have been able to be decent let alone elite. Jim Thome??? Manny Ramirez?

    So BS on the whole we get the 5th tier athletes garbage.

    Look at the Women’s game.

    USA had by and far the best “athletes” they lost to a team 1/2 their size and 1/2 as athletic.

    The French played us well from about the same position.

    We almost lost to Brazil who only has 3 players.

    Our problem vis a vis the rest of the world is….The dad with the most free time, who if you were lucky at least played basketball and understands spatial relationships, is the coach all the way up to U-15 and 17

  • Bobby

    the nice thing about our actual problem.

    The way our youth system is run

    is that it is solvable.

    The very first “professional” coach a kid sees cant be high school.
    and 1/2 the time that guy is a gym teacher not a soccer coach)

  • B-bo

    Saw a good deal of complaining on the twitters during this match. Apparently a manager change in the immediate lead up to the match was supposed to change everything. I hope folks understand this (and stop me if you’ve heard it before): it’s a process. This is top-down, fundamental change in nearly every facet. It won’t happen overnight, nor should we expect it to. But if the end result is more a team that plays tactical soccer instead of relying on grit, conditioning, and the long ball (not that all don’t have varying levels of importance, mind you), it will be worth it.

    Shea was a terrific boost off the bench. Rogers, too. I still cringe when the ball enters our defensive third, but the fact that we tended more toward a classic build up from the back versus our traditional American kickball approach was encouraging to see. We still need to do a better job of developing true finishers in the attacking third. The takedown of Rogers was, if you were wondering, exactly the kind of thing that should draw a red. On the positive side though, it was a terrific ball played to Rogers, and he did a nice job of beating the defense.

    Bobby, I would argue that if guys like LBJ were steered to soccer earlier, they could very well develop into something special. You point out how big most of our elites would be in comparison to the world average, but with less emphasis on the almost bodybuilder physique required of football and basketball players, these guys could have directed their physical development in another direction (not height obviously, but size). We do direct our great athletes elsewhere, and that can’t help but work to the detriment of our national team. The fact that one needn’t be the biggest physically certainly added to its appeal to me as a child (and now), but I also believe that a 6’8″ LBJ or Kobe could well excel given their natural athleticism, just like a smaller guy like Barry Sanders could excel at a “big man’s game”. That said, with the numbers we have to draw from in this country, there’s no reason we can’t develop world-class elite soccer players. The effort has to start early, with a more uniform approach and greater opportunity for promising young players to get the best training and development.

    As for high school facilities, did anyone else who had to play on a football field have any trouble with the field shape? Ours was so crowned that when the ball was along the sidelines or in the corners on one side it would disappear from field-level view on the opposite side. Travel ball on traditional fields was almost a different game by comparison.