Enjoyable and dramatic though the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup adventure was, in some ways it was just a detour for what was once known as Project Klinsmann.
When Jürgen Klinsmann took charge of the U.S. team in 2011, he promised to oversee the evolution of the U.S. into a more proactive national team, that pressed high to win the ball, and passed cleverly to keep possession. The Group of Death demanded a return to some good old American counter-attacking but, post-World Cup, it seems Project Klinsmann is back on track.
For Wednesday’s game against the Czech Republic in Prague, Klinsmann picked an (almost) all European-based squad, heavy with teenagers like Emerson Hyndman and Julian Green and early 20-somethings like Joseph Gyau and Mix Diskerud.
But more important than the age of the players was the style of play. This young U.S. team pressed high up the field—see how and where Mix Diskerud won the ball back for the U.S. goal—and committed to long spells of possession when sending long balls up to Jozy Altidore’s chest would have been the easier, though lazier, option. For me, the high point of the game was the confident way the U.S. zipped the ball around the field for almost 10 minutes after taking the lead.
Obviously, this didn’t last. As the U.S. team tired, the energy and aggression went out of the pressing game, and as substitutes entered the game, the fluid passing moves gave way to occasional panic. But, thanks to the reflexes of Nick Rimando in goal, the U.S. held on for a 1-0 win.
We have a year until this team sees competitive action in the 2015 Gold Cup, but if all goes to plan then next summer we’ll see a U.S. team go into a tournament playing the sort of football U.S. fans dared to dream about when Klinsmann first arrived.