NOT TIME TO PANIC. YET
RECAPS
EXTRA TIME
CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Sunday, October 16, 2011
Whenever there's a regime change, the tendency is to expect quick and positive results, despite logic indicating that there will be a steep learning curve and necessary time lapse for the adjustments.

If a country can't be changed in a new direction overnight, then we surely can't expect a soccer team to be any different.

It has taken Manchester City three seasons of trial and error to finally get firing on all cylinders and become the powerhouse that they, on paper, should have been the moment they were purchased by the Abu Dhabi Group. Each season they have gotten better and better, until they became at present, one of the most dangerous teams in the world.

The United States National Team isn't Manchester City. Few of the American players generate a comparable paycheck to City's bench, let alone their starters. Transfer fees of the best American players are dwarfed by the sums that are paid for mediocre European players, for whatever reasons that we won't get into here.

Despite the U.S. not being Manchester City, there's similarity in the change of styles that are being produced in England and are being practiced here: A transition from defensive minded, counter-attack soccer into a dynamic, fluid possession based attack. It was not an easy transition for City, and it's proving not to be an easy transition for Jurgen Klinsmann's team either. Three losses, a draw, and an unconvincing win over an habitual mid-pack CONCACAF team is not an impressive beginning for a new regime. Despite the lack of winning results however, it's not time to panic.

Keep in mind, this truly is a change in the regime of the U.S. National Team. When Bob Bradley took the reins from Bruce Arena, there was no real change in philosophy. Same when Arena took the reins from Steve Sampson, and when Sampson took the reins from Bora Milutinovic. The quality of players has, for the most part, improved, but for two decades of modern American soccer, or two entire generations of international players, the prevailing philosophy in U.S. soccer was to defend, counter, and in the earlier years just hope for the best.

That philosophy isn't going to change overnight, over the course of one camp, three camps, five friendlies, and probably not over a several month period. But it will eventually. The quality of players is there, and the U.S. National Team pool has something that All Star teams produced by overwhelming amounts of money can hardly ever replicate: Chemistry.

Chemistry should never be underestimated; it can be the decisive factor between what should, on paper, be a blow out loss, and an underdog victory. There's a certain amount of luck to be found in those results, but as the saying goes, we make our own luck, and a team that has chemistry can seemingly manufacture luck and good fortune out of thin air at times.

Team chemistry will ultimately be what allows the National Team to conquer the steep learning curve of a new system in a more timely fashion. There were already flashes of it on display over the past two games against Honduras and Ecuador, with nice buildups from defenders resulting in goal scoring opportunities. The team played much better than it did against Costa Rica, and especially against Belgium. Even without Romelu Lukaku and company playing up to their ability, that game was a fiasco with the Americans ultimately looking like they took a wrong turn in Albuquerque.

It's always irking to hear that these early tenure results don't matter, because they clearly do. If they didn't matter, then Klinsmann and company wouldn't be under the scrutiny, however small it may be for now, that they currently find themselves under. Every game is a piece of the big picture puzzle, and every player needs to be evaluated to see how they fit into the system that's being employed by Klinsmann. That said, these early losses definitely matter, but not in the sense that Klinsmann's head should be on the chopping block if they don't turn around by last week. They matter as a yard stick to see how quickly and efficiently the team is progressing under the new philosophy.

It has taken Manchester City three seasons of cleaning out their player pool and changing their philosophy, and also dealing with the locker room poisons of temperamental divas Robinho, Carlos Tevez and the most recent headcase, Mario Ballotelli. It won't take the United States nearly that long to get things on track. The one major positive that they have had through the years is that they fight for each other, and they share the underdog mentality that, when used correctly, can result in very impressive performances.

The recent results are a cause for concern if looking singularly at them as being under Klinsmann's watch, but the string of bad results goes back much further. During 2011, the U.S. has been shut out five times, lost to Panama for the first time ever, and scored only 13 goals in 15 games. Four of those goals came from strikers, and one of those was a Teal Bunbury penalty kick.

Like offense, defense has also been a huge issue in the past but actually seems to be looking better, especially now that Oguchi Onyewu is back in top form. It can be safely said that Michael Orozco cannot play at the international level, and Tim Ream still has miles to go before he can be trusted to single handedly defend an opposing forward. Those are lessons that needed to be learned the hard way to prevent any ‘what if' scenarios.

Onyewu's return is the most welcome news that the American defense has had in years, and aside from a few brief lapses from failed player experiments, it's not been a catastrophe under Klinsmann. The current defensive form has been improving on the lapses that lead to so many early goals in the past two years.

In the 10 games that Bradley coached in 2011, the opposing team scored three times within the first 20 minutes of the game. The U.S. went on to lose each of those games. Similarly, in 2010, Bradley's defense gave up five early goals in 14 games. It doesn't seem like a lot, but falling behind in the first 20 minutes 33% of the time is not a good stat. In comparison, Klinsmann's defense has only given up one goal in the first 20 minutes of the five games that he has had. That goal, coincidentally, is the only first half goal given up. It may not mean much right now at this early stage, but it will be a stat to keep an eye on.

It takes time to reverse a slide like the one that has been going on, and the new regime's philosophy is to not just stop the slide, but to completely change the playground. It takes belief in the system and a new cadre of players, which Brek Shea is leading the charge with. Klinsmann will one day be able to throw the two best American field players together at once, in Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. Come Qualifying, Stuart Holden should also be in the mix, barring another catastrophic injury. With those three pieces playing together, alongside a reinvigorated Michael Bradley, the results will come.

The next slate of friendlies will be in Europe, with a date in Paris on November 11 with France as the first confirmed. Those will be important games to see how much progress has been made from now to then, and judging by the way things have been going, there will be yet more improvement. Maybe we'll even see a few goals. It's not time to panic. Yet.
DC2
Saturday November 5, 2011 9:50 am
Not only a change in regime but a change in tactics. It takes a little time to tool that one up. I, for one, will give Klinsmann as much time as he needs in order for US to qualify for World Cup 2014 and get us past that the final 8. Klinsmann has my vote of confidence.
Mike E
Thursday November 3, 2011 2:29 am
Those who aren't happy with the results so far need only understand that we had gotten as far as we ever could with counter-attacking, athletic-based soccer.

We needed to move the the direction we now point, and we now have the talent in the system to do that. If that means that we might miss this next cup in the conversion to the same game the elite teams play, so be it.

Failing to qualify for Brazil 2014 will not kill soccer in this country. We currently have longer consecutive cup strings than England (Last miss 1994), France (ditto), the Netherlands (2002), and Portugal (1998).

We have to master the European style game. If we don't, we not only will never win a cup, but also may find that our next CONCACAF Gold Cup title is a long way off as well.
Jim
Monday October 24, 2011 1:26 pm
Are you guys serious? These are FRIENDLIES. JK is simply trying out new players and trying to get us used to a new system. I like the progress already, we're seeing some improvement in the areas the team is the weakest: possession, passing, and off-the-ball movement, and at least we're TRYING to be more attacking. In the last game you could tell they were really making an attempt to be more ruthless in the final third and taking lots of shots. Ecuador is a very good team and we lost at the end due to an inexplicable error from Tim Ream (not entirely Klinsmann's fault, according to the US media this guy is our best young defender).

We tied Mexico and held them to one goal, the same team that scored four against us and should have gotten 7 or 8. Belgium is a very good team and we were fine against them as well, and against Honduras we would have gotten 3 or 4 if it wasn't for pathetic finishing. We've discovered some new players as well, like Beckerman, Shea, and Torres, the latter two not having been given much of a chance under Bradley.

Overall I'm happy with where the team is going and think that we will be well-prepared for 2014, although it will be a major transitional year in terms of our player pool and the team won't be all that talented.
ohsweetirony
Monday October 24, 2011 1:15 am
is this an acknowledgement that Klinsmann is off to a far worse start that Bradley in his USMNT career-that point may have been nice to point out from the start, before launching into a multi-paragraph defense based on things like "chemistry"- where's "hard work," "moxie," dedication", "spirit"?

Bottom line-Klinsmann didn't have to go through qualifying when he coached Germany pre-2006, and things didn't really click for that team til they beat down USA 4-1 pretty much 3 months prior to WC-he needs to get this ship righted long before then since we have to play a vastly improved Mexico and Honduras and Costa Rica on the road in the Hex...
st. samuel
Monday October 17, 2011 9:01 pm
Nice piece,

I think the Holden injury has put our midfield a year behind in development and it shows in the the number of scoring chances.

Further, it is really alarming there are not more strikers who can create their own scoring chances.

But overall, as a fan, i love the strategy and formation.
After coach has had a Dec/Jan Camp. Which better already be in place. Then we can all be more critical of game results.

-St. Samuel
SuperChivo
Monday October 17, 2011 7:09 pm
In gymnastics or diving you get scores based on looking good while doing a task. In soccer, it is much more objective, you must score goals and win matches. "Playing better" without results is pointless and the coach should be accountable for the results.
It was time for a change, although the last cycle was successful it got stale. The question is whether the change made was the right one and early indications are not all positive. Mr. Klinsmann will get plenty of rope, they're not going to fire him barring a major implosion, but so far his greatest ability seems to be at self-promotion. Next time, I would like a coach with a track record of success (as a coach, not a player) even if they don't have the fame of Mr. Klinsmann.
Daniel
Monday October 17, 2011 6:46 pm
Klinsmann's philosophy is one of having confidence to attack and put the pressure back on the opponent. The history of US teams allowing early goals shows that we lack that tenacity to take charge of the rhythm of the game. With Dempsey, Shea, and Altidore (in great form by the way) i think we have pretty good offensive options.

I think we need to with our center mid dilemma, edu and beckerman just looked exhausted. Bradley maintained integrity and i think he is our best defensive mid option minus Holden being injured. Our problem is consistently tired mids disappearing in games and we can't move the ball up or defend as tightly.
Dan
Monday October 17, 2011 2:13 pm
I'd still take Goodsen over Gooch any day, but thats besides the point...which is that this article is a good balance. No time to panic. Chemistry takes time. Casting a vision and implementing it throughout the men's soccer teams (youth) will take even longer.

And when you consider the serious injuries and lack of club time for guys like Holden, Donovan, Bradley and Gooch - there needs to be some realistic mindset in making any conclusions about the team. Not to mention the fact that Dempsey and Donovan have only been on the field (I think) one of these games since Klinsmann has come aboard.

Hopefully he's learned from the Castillo, Orozco, Ream experiements...its those mistakes that are making some worried about Klinsmann's approach thus far.

No panicking. Not yet.
Dave
Monday October 17, 2011 1:50 pm
I happen to agree that the current results have not been as indicative of the level the USMNT as it may first appear. I believe that as the players become more accustom to each other and the style that the coaches want them to play the goals and results will come.
Once all our players are healthy and have adjusted to one another I think we'll be supprised by how good we are and how well we'll play.
Look at what players we'll evenually have:
Core team for WC 2014:
Jozy Altidor, Brek Shea, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Fabian Johnson, Stuart Holden, Jose Torres, Alejandro Bedoya, Timmy Chandler, Eric Lichaj,
Key Contributors (barring injury):
Oguchi Oneywu, Clarence Goodson, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jonathan Spector, Jermaine Jones, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya, Geoff Cameron, Zack Loyd
Young Players who'll need to step up to add to the team:
Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Terrance Boyd, Bobby Wood, CJ Sapong, Gosh Gatt, Daniel Williams, Freddy Adu, Joseph Gyau, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, George John, John Anthony Brooks, Sheanon Williams, Kevin Alston, Perry Kitchen, Gale Agbossoumode, Zarek Valentin.
Players that will need to be replaced by 2014:
Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones,

We've got tallent coming up throught the ranks. We'll need them to do well at the Olympic Qualifications and the Olympic games to gain experience and prove who might be ready to step up into the senior team for the hex stage of WC qualifications and for WC 2014.
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A big question for U.S. fans heading into the World Cup is surely on Jozy Altidore and just what is plaguing the young striker at Sunderland.
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