Popularity of the sport had continued to grow for years, but after another loss to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup, the national team had failed to reach the next level. This is AMERICA and we are supposed to be the best at everything. Jurgen Klinsmann was chosen to get us there.
He moved to the US after retiring in 98' following the World Cup. So he has been in America almost as long as Erik Palmer-Brown. He's been living in California and his son is going through the US Soccer system as a goal keeper. He gets it.. he isn't some out of touch foreigner. The guy loves America.
Jurgen was perfect for the job. He was a big name that would make headlines all over the world and could have an impact on recruiting. He won the whole thing as a player and took Germany to the semi-finals as a coach is 2006, so he had been there before.
In his first 6 games upon being hired, the Americans lost four times. Things would start to take a turn in February of 2012 when the USA defeated Italy for the first time ever. The national team finished 9-2-3 which tied the best winning percentage for a calendar year in team history. The success continued with the program's longest ever win streak of 12 games. Behind Jurgen, the USA beat Mexico IN Mexico for the first time EVER, looked solid qualifying for the World Cup, and won the 2013 Gold Cup!
With the World Cup approaching, the team was getting more and more media attention. The courting of Julian Green was making headlines and Landon Donovan was talking about being old and missing the cut. The national media was actually talking about the 23-man roster. With all eyes on him, Jurgen made very controversial, risky decisions. He had selected a very young and inexperienced squad. Youngsters Julian Green, John Brooks, and Timothy Chandler received a ticket to Brazil while Landon Donovan and Maurice Edu were snubbed.
This of course sent the media into an uproar and most of the questions and criticism were justified! How could Donovan not be on the squad? Would guys like Julian Green be going if Jurgen wasn't already under contract through next World Cup? It didn't stop at the 23-man roster; from lineups and formations to the way he spoke to the media, he was being questioned. He was trying out new formations and we couldn't decide if it was a triangle or a diamond or some weird Christmas tree thing.
So while some of the criticism was deserved, there were takes on Jurgen and the team that were unbearable. With so many people only all-of-a-sudden covering the sport; we had guys like Michael Wilbon ranting on ESPN and quite literally telling Jurgen to "Get the hell out of America". On CBS Sports Radio, Doug Gottlieb was questioning whether or not the American side is "American" enough.
Jurgen blocked it all out and made the decisions he saw necessary. He didn't select Donovan as a safety net for himself like most coaches would have. He saw something in John Brooks many were missing. He put together the team he wanted, with the players in the roles he wanted.
Finally came the World Cup. The talking heads mattered no more. The US needed a win against Ghana and they got one. Jurgen made another surprising decision during the match to bring on John Brooks, who scored the winner. Kyle Beckerman said, "It's almost like Jurgen can see the future. This is the first time we had every player on the bench warm up before the game. For what reason, I do not know." The point against Portugal and the strong showing against the Germans is amazing considering how big of role Jozy was supposed to play.
Getting us out of that group was an incredible feat. Roger Bennett of the Men In Blazers has already compared him to legendary American coaches like Red Auerbach and Herb Brooks. I don't know about that quite yet... but the Americans aren't done quite yet.
There's something about this guy! He's got qualities Americans love. He isn't afraid to take a big risk and put his name on the line (Landon Donovan). He doesn't care what people think. He dropped a longtime assistant coach a couple months before the World Cup. That would be huge news in other countries. He has even been in tabloid drama like all international soccer stars have to be.
There are all of these little things about him that make him so Jurgen. In 2003 he played fourth-tier professional soccer in America under the alias Jay Goppingen. He comes from a family of bakers... and has a "baker's diploma". WHICH he got AFTER signing a professional football contract. Also, he is always looking so fresh, that there is a website called What's Jurgen Wearing?
Off the pitch his accent makes him seem almost innocent. But its great because it works both ways. When he is on the pitch... the violence of the German accent is realized. Start the video below at 3:30 and listen to him go!
Jurgen has already done basically more than what we could have asked from him in getting out of the group. He showed everyone that criticized him that he knows what he is doing. And now The Red, White, and Blue face a tough, but beatable Belgium side. We survived the group of death.. now the sky is the limit. JK even told the families of the players to extend their stay in Brazil until after the final! You never know what can happen.
Today is awesome. Jurgen Klinsmann is awesome. Soccer is awesome.
Also.. a parting thought for Wilbon: