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The U.S. men’s national team posted their first ever victory over Italy Wednesday night, 1-0 in Genoa. Bringing the all-time series against the Azzuri to 1-7-3. Yes, it was only a friendly match, more of a tune up for the Italian side to see how they stack up heading into this summer’s Euro Cup, but a statement victory for the Americans nonetheless.
Appropriately, the lone goal came in the 55th minute from Forward Clint Dempsey, his 25th international goal, which moved him up to 4th all-time in U.S. history. Dempsey, 28, from Nacogdoches, Texas is in the prime of his career. With U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann more or less fazing Landon Donovan into an off-the-bench role for the national team, Dempsey has become the go-to guy for the U.S. attack. He oversees most free-kick duties and facilitates the offense with his ability to drop back into a midfield role, he also has a knack for creating chances in tight spaces while playing on the front line.
Without going any further, the new skipper for team USA has played a tremendous part in getting the squad to where they are today, coming off an exciting defeat of the Italians, who are currently ranked 8th in FIFA’s world rankings. Let’s take a look at who Jurgen Klinsmann is and why his presence on the U.S. bench brings about so much optimism.
Klinsmann is German born, he lead his country to a World Cup title in 1990 as a starting striker for the German national team, scoring 47 career goals in international play from 1987 to 1998. Keep in mind, Dempsey is only at 25 career international goals. He had a profound impact for his country in three World Cup appearances, 90′, 94′ and 98′, he was the first player in history to record at least 3 goals in three consecutive World Cups. If you’re catching my drift this guy has been there, and absolutely done that at the highest level of the sport. I won’t toil around in his club career overview, I think you get the point.
As a coach, Klinsmann assembled a very talented side for the host nation Germans at the 2006 World Cup, where his team fell in the semi-finals to eventual champions Italy. The Germans would win the third place match over Portugal to take the bronze medal.
Klinsmann’s next head coaching position came in 2008 with powerhouse Bayern Munich of the domestic German Bundesliga. His tenure was short-lived due to conflicting philosophies and opinions shared with Bayern’s front office, he was replaced in the spring of 2009.
On more than one occasion, Klinsmann was rumored to be in line as the next U.S. Men’s National Team coach. Specifically because he was no longer involved in German soccer, living in Los Angeles and playing an advising role for the L.A. Galaxy of the MLS after leaving Bayern Munich. Repeated attempts by the U.S. Soccer Federation to strike a deal with Klinsmann came up shy because of Jurgen’s proposed control over the program. Why wouldn’t he time his tenure just right to come in with exactly 3 years to build his style of team before the 2014 World Cup? He’s an elite athlete who misses the challenge, and he see’s an opportunity to make U.S. soccer a world class program.
Finally, after another under-performing American showcase at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa under coach Bob Bradley, and lack of improvement in the year that followed, Klinsmann and the U.S. Soccer Federation came to an agreement. July 29, 2011 marked a new point on the evolutionary timeline of American soccer. A man who had played and coached at a level which no American has ever reached, was now adopting this second class citizen of world soccer, the United States, as his own.
Just 10 games into his American coaching tenure, Klinsmann has posted a record of 5-4-1. Nothing spectacular, but the seeds of doubt are being washed out of the soil with every passing match. His philosophy of favoring talent rather than reputation is well known, and received with mixed opinions. It’s not as if Klinsmann is not aware of Landon Donovan’s impact on American soccer, how he aided the program to where it stands in the eyes of the footballing world. But his decision to move forward should be applauded, a new core of talent must flourish for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in order for the red, white and blue to take the next step. Donovan will be 32 by the summer of 2014, he is past his prime, but hopefully can still be of value in a leadership capacity on the road to Brazil. The youth that Klinsmann has his eye on, like attacking midfielders Brek Shea(22) and Danny Williams(22), and left back Fabian Johnson(24) all held their ground Wednesday night against a premier European nation in Italy, comprised of nearly all world class players, including goalkeeper Gigi Buffon and midfielder Andrea Pirlo who won the World Cup in 2006.
In the past a player like Giuseppe Rossi, who was born in New Jersey but currently plays for the Italian national team, chose not to stay with team USA. Klinsmann’s vote of confidence early in the youth development stages will help corral the American talent and create a trust and belief in the new direction of U.S. soccer. The next big measuring stick for the men’s national team will be May 30th when the U.S. will play Brazil (currently ranked 7th in FIFA’s world rankings) at FedEx field in Landover, Md.
May want to buy a front row seat to the evolution of American football.