U.S. men's national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann has thrown down the gauntlet to his players and the European sides they will have to overcome if the Americans are to take the next step in international competition.
Before the arrival of the German-born former striker as manager, the Americans were notoriously weak in Europe. The Yanks posted a dismal 2-8-1 record playing in Europe between 2006 and Klinsmann's arrival in 2011. Although it wasn't much different at first under Klinsmann, with losses in France and Belgium, the U.S. players eventually found their feet away to European opposition. Since Nov. 11, 2001, the USA has beaten Slovenia 3-1 and Italy 1-0, drawn 2-2 with Russia and posted this most recent 4-3 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It's all part of the strategy. Klinsmann wants his team to be able to walk into stadiums with intimidating atmospheres, play against high-quality opposition, and proactively assert themselves on opponents. It's a radical departure from past American tactics against top sides, which relied heavily on heroic defending and opportunistic counterattacks.
"It's good for the guys to see we can come to Europe and we're not here to defend," he said after the match, in which the U.S., led by Jozy Altidore, overturned a 2-0 halftime deficit to claim victory. "We're here to play eye-to-eye."
Ultimately, he was pleased with what he witnessed.
"I think everybody here in Bosnia saw that the second half we dictated the tempo and kept the rhythm going. The passing in moments was fun to watch.
"I think [the players] deserve a huge, huge compliment. It's a test game and a friendly where you want to see certain things from new players coming in and where your top players are right now, especially at the beginning of the European season. You don't really know where you stand but I think they showed amazing character."
The next game for Klinsmann's side, now looking for a world-and-program-best 13th straight win, is away to Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier on Sept. 6.
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- Jurgen Klinsmann