Jurgen Klinsmann came into this World Cup with a section of the soccer media and a substantial part of the fan base strongly questioning his abilities as national team coach - despite the successful three years he has had in charge. So how well have the memes of Klinsmann's critics stood up to two games in the World Cup so far?
1. Klinsmann is just a motivator who doesn’t have a clue about tactics.
The way Klinsmann has set his midfield up in this tournament – with Kyle Beckerman deep in a defensive role and Jermaine Jones marauding with Michael Bradley in his favored ‘general’ role in the centre of the park has allowed the U.S. to close down opponents quickly as well as maintain plenty of passing options when the Americans have the ball. In other words – exactly what you want a midfield to do. Inserting DeAndre Yedlin as a substitute to double-up with Fabian Johnson on the right was an inspired, surprise move that almost delivered victory. The U.S. have had a good shape, balance and structure in both their games so far.
2. Klinsmann’s obsession with fitness work is excessive.
Some were puzzled when the coach started the pre-World Cup training camp by emphasizing the need to ‘catch up’ with other teams in terms of fitness. ‘Two a day’ training sessions left the players heavy-legged for the opening warm-up game with Azerbaijan prompting more panicking from pundits. Yet when it mattered – the U.S. have been superbly fit, playing at a high-tempo throughout the game both with and without the ball. The physical conditioning work has clearly paid off. The decision to opt for players with pace at the expense of more experienced, but slower, alternatives, looks the right one so far.
3. Klinsmann is too loyal to Jermaine Jones who is a ‘liability’.
After his outstanding all-round display against Ghana, bustling all over the field, winning balls, keeping possession and pushing forward, Jones was excellent again against Portugal. His superb long-range strike to bring the Americans level showed his power and technique. With Michael Bradley not yet able to find his true form, Jones has become the heart and soul of this team. His aggression has been controlled and his stamina extraordinary. Klinsmann’s faith in Jones has been entirely vindicated.
4. Klinsmann doesn’t respect MLS players.
Where to start with this one? Not only has Klinsmann taken more MLS players to the World Cup than Bob Bradley did four years ago, he has also given them key roles in his team. Sporting KC’s Matt Besler at centre-half has been dependable. Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, a 32-year-old MLS ‘lifer’, has been given the task of anchoring the midfield. Seattle Sounders’ Yedlin, a player whose inclusion puzzled many, quickly showed his value on the right flank. Klinsmann may have criticisms of MLS and want to see more Americans in the big leagues in Europe but he has certainly been willing to give key roles to MLS players.
5. Klinsmann’s German-Americans don’t care enough and have upset team chemistry.
Does anyone other than hardcore ‘soccer nativists’ believe this one anymore? Was John Brook’s goal celebration against Ghana not enough? Has 180 minutes of Jermaine Jones not been convincing? Fabian Johnson destroying Portugal’s left-side? Klinsmann singing the anthem more noticably than many American-born players on his team? What more do they have to do? Beat Germany and celebrate it?