July 21, 2013
By Charles Cuttone
RAISING THE BAR
Klinsmann says recent MNT successes about more than just winning in the short term
BALTIMORE--The measure of how far the United States has come as a soccer country may be reflected in the angst there was ahead of the start of the most recent round of World Cup Qualifying, the grueling CONCACAF final six event known as “The Hex.”
|Landon Donovan celebrates after scoring against El Salvador in Sunday’s 5-1 Gold Cup semifinal victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Fans, media and pundits were concerned if the U.S. was losing its place as one of the top teams in the region, and indeed if the team would even qualify for the World Cup next year in Brazil. The criticism landed squarely on the shoulders of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who made some roster decisions that were questioned, such as leaving Carlos Bocanegra off the qualifying roster, and not extending an invite to Landon Donovan after he returned from his three-month sabbatical from the game.
After a disheartening 4-2 loss in a friendly to Belgium, the U.S. really started to click, defeating Germany in a friendly, then going on a nine-game winning streak across Qualifying and the Gold Cup, which, two months down the road, have left things looking rosy for the United States. They are sitting atop their qualifying group, and should go comfortably into a spot in Brazil when the qualifiers pick up again, and after nine straight wins, are now also headed to a spot in the Semifinals of the Gold Cup, where they will face Guatemala on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
“We see the team clicking more and more and getting better and better,” said Klinsmann after Sunday’s 5-1 rout of El Salvador at M&T Bank Stadium.
Klinsmann explained that his process is not just about winning some games, or a tournament.
“What we want to do is catch some of the top teams in the world---raise the bar.
“It’s all about speed,” he said, “not physical speed, but mental speed.”
Using almost two completely different groups of players for Qualifying and the Gold Cup, though the Gold Cup team can hardly be called a “b” squad, Klinsmann has seen that level improve.
“This is a process that is coming along with both groups, the group that was in there in May-June and this group," said Klinsmann.