The Americanization of Jurgen Klinsmann
The Americanization of Jurgen Klinsmann avatar

Houston, TX – “ I Believe That We Will Win.” It was the chant that captivated the soccer world as the red, white, and blue-clad U.S.A. supporters followed their team all over Brazil encouraging the U.S. MNT on to the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup and building a rep for themselves as among the best fans in the world.

Klinsmann (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Klinsmann has gained the American Spirit.  (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

This all came after the team’s coach, Jurgen Klinsmann said that he did not believe, telling Sam Borden of the New York Times, “it is not possible” for the U.S. to win the World Cup. It didn’t go over well. It wasn’t that the American soccer public expected to win the World Cup, but it was not an outlook that public embraced from its team’s leader before a ball had been kicked in anger.

Fast forward two years and the Copa America Centenario has come to the United States and Klinsmann has displayed a different, dare I say more “American” attitude. In the Copa build up the U.S. Coach and Technical Director revealed that he expected to reach the semifinals, now that he and his team has done just that, not even the specter of Argentina and Lionel Messi can temper Klinsmann’s confidence.

“There’s no reason at all why we can’t win Copa America,” the coach said on Sunday. “We traveled the world the last few years to very difficult friendly games all over Europe and in Mexico and we came away with wins. We surprised a lot of people; no one gave us a chance to get out of the group in Brazil. We left Portugal behind, we left Ghana behind.”

Yes, this is still the coach that castigated the American soccer media, critical of the team’s performance after the opening round loss to Colombia saying, “the result, in this country that’s all that matters to a lot of people.”

Given that the Copa America is an official competition and not a series of friendlies and recalling that U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati told a small group of reporters following that loss to Colombia that, “results are what matter, everyone understands that.” And this, “the results over the last 18 months, overall, have not been what we would’ve hoped for, especially in the official competitions.”

The US MNT train in preparation for the Copa America Semis. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

The US MNT train in preparation for the Copa America Semis. (ISI Photos/John Dorton)

Winners get to write the history and to that end, Klinsmann riding a three-game winning streak, said yesterday, “the only down period we had was last year’s Gold Cup, for several reasons.” Forgetting perhaps that he himself had told that winning the Gold Cup was “very, very important to us,” the coach says now, “we wanted to bring some youngsters through and maybe payback now, because they had that growing time last year,” reducing the CONCACAF Championship to something akin to a January camp.

When Sunil Gulati finally reeled in Jurgen Klinsmann to coach the United States National Team back in 2011, one of the primary selling points was that Klinsmann lived in California, and therefore, the theory went, understood America and Americans.

It was an enticing combination, an international star who could command respect on the world stage but who also “got” the American soccer community.

Two years removed from telling America that its team could not win the World Cup has Klinsmann learned about his adopted country’s mindset? Consider these remarks. “Anything is possible in knockout games. You’re 50-50 with whoever you play against,” Klinsmann said. “Dream big; why not? This is about two more games.”

From “it’s not possible,” to “anything is possible,” in just two years. Sounds pretty American to me.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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