June 28, 2014
By Michael Lewis
IN JURGEN THEY TRUST
Enthusiastic Klinsmann vital link to Americans' success
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Omar Gonzalez admits he has never played for a coach quite like Jurgen Klinsmann.
The positive outlook and enthusiasm the U.S. national coach exudes is second to none.
"Its big kudos to him," the USA central defender said at Sao Paulo FC Saturday. "If you're going into games thinking you can't win, then you're probably not going to win. He puts all his faith in us. He gives us all of the confidence in the world. We believe we can step onto the field with any team and beat them."
"This is a special time with Jurgen. With Jurgen being so positive, being a big sparkplug is definitely unique."
So far so good for the Americans, who weren't given much of a chance to get out of Group G -- aka the Group of Death -- but they did so, leaving the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal and Ghana behind in the World Cup.
Much of the USA's success in the competition can be attributed to Klinsmann's positive outlook. He demands much from his troops, but his criticism usually is on the constructive side. He rarely has ripped players in the media.
Several weeks ago, Klinsmann made headlines for what was perceived as negative comments about the USA’s chances, saying the Americans would not win the World Cup.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati downplayed those remarks.
"He exudes confidence," he said. "The comments he made about we can't … that's not what he believes, that's not the sort of guy he is. I walk into a room with Jurgen when we talk to him and you come out of that room believing that you can win the World Cup. He never says you're going to win the World Cup, but he's so confident about it. That's extraordinary. That fits with the American mentality, which is, 'We can.' "
That has been par for the course for the Americans during Klinsmann’s three-year tenure.
"He wants to play at a high level," veteran left back DaMarcus Beasley said. "He demands a lot out of us. Always makes us be on our toes for games. He also demands that perfection out of the players."
Klinsmann's reputation is second to none. He won a World Cup as a player -- with West Germany in 1990. He also directed a young German team to a third-place finish in 2006.
"He's a player-coach. He understands the players' needs," Beasley said. "He's a guy who is very enthusiastic about the game, still. I know he wishes he probably can still play. He has given us his wisdom. He's very confident when he coaches. We listen because he knows what he's talking about and we can learn a lot from him."
That confidence has gone a long way with an underdog USA side.