After the disappointing finish to the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, a game in which the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) got up 2-0 over Mexico, but would go on to lose 2-4, the United States Soccer Federation relieved coach Bob Bradley of his duties. In his place, they hired Jürgen Klinsmann to take over the reins. In his time as coach, Bradley led the USMNT to the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup championship.
Klinsmann played on the 1990 FIFA World Cup Championship team from West Germany. As a coach, however, he has had similar success. Coaching for Germany’s national team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup (hosted by Germany), Klinsmann led the fatherland to a third place finish, falling 0-2 to the eventual champions Italy. Germany would defeat Portugal 3-1 to take third place. In fact, in his two years as coach for Germany’s national team, Klinsmann went 8-2-2 in international competition (75 percent) and 12-6-4 (68.18 percent) in international friendlies, for a total winning percentage of 70.59 percent.
Soccer is a different beast entirely in the United States, however, and it was going to be interesting to see how the USMNT would function under foreign leadership.
Success did not come early for Klinsmann, who made many changes to the national team, including removing the names from the back of the jerseys and making the starters wear the numbers 1-11 instead of whatever number that they wanted to wear. After drawing in a rematch with Mexico, 1-1, the USMNT would then lose four out of its next five games. These losses included a 0-1 defeat against Costa Rice on U.S. soil, a 0-1 loss at the hands of Belgium, a 0-1 loss to Ecuador at home and a 0-1 nail-biter to a France team that imploded at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. According to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, Costa Rica is ranked No. 59, Belgium, No. 40, Ecuador, No. 39 and France, No. 16, while the United States is ranked No. 27 internationally.
Klinsmann’s team would rebound, however, behind the leadership and the foot of Clint Dempsey. The United States would end 2011with a 3-2 victory over Slovenia, a team that was in Group C with the Americans, along with England and Algeria, in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The USMNT drew Slovenia 2-2 during that World Cup game, amidst several controversial calls.
The first three matches of 2012 have all been great showing by the boys in red, white and blue, as the USMNT is 3-0 against No. 46 Venezuela, No. 50 Panama and No. 9 Italy. All three matches were shut-outs, with the Americans coming out on top 1-0. Dempsey scored in the 55th minute of the game on Feb. 29, in Genoa, Italy. It was the first time ever that America has beaten Italy, breaking a 10-game losing streak that dates back to 1934. Dempsey became the fourth American to score against Italy, joining fellow Landon Donovan, and with that goal became fourth on the U.S. scoring list (25) for international goals.