SAN FRANCISCO – Jurgen Klinsmann has spent the last six days on the hot seat; the target of the scrutiny and sometimes vitriol of the American soccer public.
And he wouldn't have it any other way.
Klinsmann was cast as the villain in the Landon Donovan selection saga, widely criticized after the surprise omission of the Los Angeles Galaxy forward from the United States' 23-man roster for the World Cup.
However, rather than being bothered by the outpouring of support for Donovan and the social media storm cast in his own direction, the head coach insisted the recent furor is actually a positive sign, reflecting the increased interest and attention being paid to the national team.
"I think it is great that they express their opinions and their feelings and there is a healthy discussion going on because it makes our game grow in this country," Klinsmann said after the U.S.' 2-0 friendly victory over Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park on Tuesday night. "Probably all of you in this room would have a different 23 and every coach would do that. Every fan does that.
"It is exciting to see what happens here for some years now. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago we didn't have any soccer channels and all that stuff and now we have five or six.
"Obviously social media changes a lot of it as well, there is so much going on. I am very privileged to be with the national team because of the moment we are going through now together, fans, players, coaches. Everybody wants this game to grow."
Donovan's regular No.10 jersey was taken by substitute midfielder Mix Diskerud, who eventually managed to break the deadlock with a well-taken goal in the 75th minute.
Diskerud though, is not a direct replacement for Donovan, who scored twice and set up another goal upon his return to club action in the Galaxy's 4-1 win at home to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
And Diskerud dismissed the theory that he may feel additional pressure in being given what in some ways has become an iconic number for the U.S., due to Donovan's impact over an international career spanning more than a decade.
"Not at all," said Diskerud. "I don't think about that. It is really great fun to be No.10 and I have no problem with it. I didn't choose it, we get it handed out.
"It is an honor, a lot of great players have been wearing that No. 10 for the U.S. previously. I will enjoy it. When it comes to Landon, I am sure we will be playing together again some day and of course he has more caps than me so I am just borrowing the 10 right now."
Whether Donovan plays again for the national team remains to be seen as Klinsmann's decision last week was taken effectively as the end of Donovan's run with the U.S.
That is only likely to change if the squad was to suffer an injury – to a forward or a wide midfield player – in the lead-up to the tournament.
Klinsmann is focusing now on the players still within his camp and has some deep thinking to do ahead of the next friendly in the three-part sendoff series, against Turkey on June 1.
The overall performance against Azerbaijan came up someway short of what Klinsmann would have hoped for. And as he knows now more than ever, the critics in the court of public opinion are watching closely.