There are people in this country who don’t like Jurgen Klinsmann – not because he left Landon Donovan off the U.S. World Cup roster, but rather, because he’s not American.
Seriously. That’s actually the reason.
“There are some people that have an issue with it,” former U.S. men’s soccer goalie Tony Meola said on The Morning Show. “I mean, Bruce Arena, who’s now with the L.A. Galaxy, has been vocal over the last couple years about having an American coach for the team. But look, it’s part of the makeup of international soccer. You have international coaches. If my notes are right, though, the one thing I will say is that I don’t think a foreign coach has won a World Cup with a team. So that’s something to consider down the road.”
“But look, Jurgen Klinsmann’s our guy,” Meola continued. “He’s done a very good job. Of course I was very critical for a couple weeks about some of the selections – leaving Landon Donovan off – (and) some of the ways he’s gone about things. (He made) the very un-American statement that we can’t win the World Cup. And now, he’s proved that that was to take some pressure off players.”
It worked. The U.S. fell 1-0 to Germany on Thursday but will still advance past the Group of Death and into the knockout stage. What seemed impossible six months ago is now reality – despite the fact that the Americans had the toughest travel schedule of any team in the World Cup, had just three days of rest between games and had to settle for a soul-crushing draw against Portugal on Sunday.
“The fact that we had one foot in the door already and then we end up giving it away in the last 30 seconds (was what made it hurt so much),” Meola said of the 2-2 stalemate.
Nevertheless, the U.S. will advance.
Meola thought the rainy conditions in Brazil would play into the Americans’ hands Thursday, and to an extent, it did. Germany, which entered the match averaging three goals per game in the World Cup, found the back of the net just once – this on a rebound shot in the second half by Thomas Muller.
The U.S. will play the winner of Group H – likely Belgium – on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Do the Americans actually have a chance of advancing?
“The one think I think we’ve learned in this tournament so far is that it doesn’t matter what the name on the front of the jersey is,” Meola said. “Spain’s out. England’s out. Italy’s out. These are massive, massive soccer countries.”
And let’s not forget that the U.S. came within a handball of advancing to the semifinals in 2002, this after a goal-line handball by Germany’s Torsten Frings was not called. The U.S. lost, 1-0.
“Look, when you get to the knockout stage, anything can happen,” Meola said. “You guys know. We watch March Madness, and we watch college baseball and you see teams knocking teams off that have no business on paper of being in the game. That’s exactly what we have here. The fact that Costa Rica went though first in a group with Italy, Uruguay and England makes you believe anything can happen.”
“But having said that, I should be really clear,” Meola continued. “This team is capable of beating anybody in the world. They’ve proven that in (the) Confederations Cup, they’ve proven that in friendly games – they’re capable of beating anyone in the world.”