When Jurgen Klinsmann took over as the U.S. mens national team coach in July 2011, he promised to shape the U.S. into a proactive style offense. The pledge represented a major change in philosophy for a team that previously built its foundation on defense and counterattacks.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
But a proactive style, Klinsmann explained, would produce not only more goals but also more scenic ones.
So ... has it worked?
Fifteen months later, as the U.S. prepares for its CONCACAF qualifying match with Guatemala on Tuesday at Livestrong Sporting Park, the verdict could still be argued either way.
Its a work in progress for sure, midfielder Michael Bradley said after Sundays open practice at Livestrong Sporting Park. It always is for any team. ... I think there have been a lot of games along the way where its been really good. Of course, like in anything, theres been times along the way where its maybe not as good as we had hoped. Thats part of (the progress).
Klinsmanns team is 8-2-2 this year following a 2-1 victory Friday against Antigua and Barbuda with one of the losses coming against traditional power Brazil and one of the victories against Italy so the record suggests the U.S. national team is on the right track.
On the other hand, even several of the wins have lacked the attractiveness promised more than a year ago. Add to that, the U.S. has scored only nine goals in its past seven games.
Thats to be expected, said midfielder Clint Dempsey, before noting that the U.S. is implementing significant changes while rarely having the opportunity to practice as a full squad.
Were still trying to figure out whats going to work best for us, Dempsey said. The most important thing is you put yourself in position to get out of the group and to qualify for the World Cup. Thats when youre really going to be able to gauge what kind of style we play.
While the wait continues for Klinsmanns change in philosophy to show itself on the field, it certainly has impacted his lineup selections.
In a bold move Friday, Klinsmann elected to sit popular forward Jozy Altidore in favor of Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson. Klinsmann also gave aggressive San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon his first career cap.
Needless to say, both moves worked. Johnson scored both goals, including a game-winning header in the 90th minute.
Gordon, whose high-tempo nature fits the mold of a proactive offense, assisted the game-winning goal.
I was glad to prove Jurgen right, Gordon said. It was a risk for him to bring me on. For me to contribute in any way thats what I was brought in to do. I was happy it worked out.
All things considering, it appears the lineup changes will stick for Tuesdays match against Guatemala.
That could spell good news for Johnson, a former Kansas City Wizards player who fell out of favor with previous U.S. coach Bob Bradley.
Its been a long road for me Ive gone through ups and downs in my career, Johnson said. (My) coach having confidence to put me into that game, it felt really special.