Nobody saw it coming! Just another disappointing result in Europe for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Forty-five minutes and the U.S. walked off the field in Sarajevo. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team trailed #16 world ranked Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2-0. It had been a less than stellar first half for the Americans.
But the comeback began when Jozy Altidore slotted a ball in the path of Eddie Johnson who calmly rolled it into a open net 10 minutes into the second half.
Altidore would tie the game four minutes later off a Fabian Johnson assist, and then scored two more to give the U.S. a 4-2 lead. Four unanswered goals.
While the offense in the first half was difficult, the second half for the U.S. looked easy.
Klinsmann has been preaching the art of the fight in stoking an effective offense, and has said his players needed to develop a hunger to succeed. The second half was the result of that sermon, even though players said very little was said at halftime.
Even though they were down by two, they still felt they could win. They did, but it was just the first time a U.S. team has ever trailed by two goals on European soil and come back to win.
“I think Jurgen has always said even if we go down a goal to keep responding,” said Altidore. “This time we went down two goals so it was a challenge for us. But I think you saw in the game, we were never outplayed. It was just a matter of ironing out the mental errors, which we did, and we created a lot of chances.”
Klinsmann was obviously pleased with the result that extended the U.S. winning streak to a new record 12 consecutive international victories. The U.S. has moved back into the top 20 in the FIFA World Rankings at #19, one spot ahead of #20 Mexico.
“I think (the players) deserve a huge, huge compliment,” said Klinsmann. “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.”
With this game, Klinsmann has played 61 different players since becoming the U.S. coach. This team was different from the one that recently swept through the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship without a loss.
Altidore became the first American player to ever score in five consecutive games with the national team. Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson have twice done it four times, but never five. He now has eight goals in those five games.
It should be pointed out that Bosnia-Herzegovina is the type of opponent that the U.S. would play should they qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They are ranked sixteen and had not lost at home since 2010.
“It’s good for the guys to see we can come to Europe and we’re not here to defend, we’re here to play eye-to-eye,” Klinsmann said. “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.”
Altidore, who went over a year without a goal, has had a spectacular return to the scoresheet. It all began last season with his Dutch team AZ Alkmaar where he scored 31 goals and broke Clint Dempsey’s record for more goals in a single season while playing in Europe.
His confidence is visible, and it seems to be contagious.
“We see Jozy understanding the demands at this level, to be consistent and always focused,” said Klinsmann, who never lost faith his Altidore’s potential. “He went through a lot of maturing the last couple years. The ups and downs are normal.
“But he really understands when it counts and how he has to be there with his presence. He makes everybody around him a better player and its real enjoyable, real fun.”
During the offseason Altidore signed with Sunderland of the EPS for a $13 transfer fee.
When Klinsmann releases his roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico, it will be interesting to see if he can get some of the U.S. “personality” players on the field together. That would include Donovan and Dempsey.
Donovan had a great Gold Cup, scored goals and showed real leadership. He has earned his way back into National Team selection.
Where will he play, and how will Klinsmann use him and Graham Zusi, his replacement in the first half of 2013?
Dempsey had made a significant professional move, leaving England’s Premiership to sign an MLS Designated Player contract with Major League Soccer to play for the Seattle Sounders.
Klinsmann has already said not to make much from who is called in for the next qualifiers and who is not. It’s a long time ’til the 23-player World Cup roster has to be announced next year.
Klinsmann will continue to evaluate players, and how they play on their club teams, and if they are playing regularly, will count in his decision.
The possibility of injuries also keeps any predictions in perspective. One only has to remember seeing Stuart Holden lying on the ground holding his injuried knee to realize that nothing is guaranteed.
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