It took nearly four months in real time and more than nine hours of action, but finally the Jurgen Klinsmann that United States fans have been waiting for stood up to be counted.
The coach’s first six games in charge of Team USA were a far cry from the adventurous, aggressive approach he favored with the national team of his German homeland, and concerns began to grow as a barren spell of scoring turned into a full-fledged drought.
However, a 3-2 friendly victory over Slovenia on Tuesday could represent a significant turning point for Klinsmann and his new era, coming, as it did, courtesy of a far more positive game plan.
Team USA players celebrate their opening goal during their international friendly vs. Slovenia on Tuesday.
Playing two strikers in Jozy Altodore and Edson Buddle, the American attack had some real teeth for the first time since former coach Bob Bradley’s departure following the ill-fated CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign earlier this year.
Buddle got things rolling early with the first goal, with Altidore and Clint Dempsey also chipping in to complete the victory.
“We were pleased with the result,” Klinsmann said. “It was a new system. We brought two strikers in from the beginning. Buddle has gotten sharper and sharper and did an amazing job. We pushed everything farther up, and it looked much better.”
After a string of disappointing results, this performance and victory could not have come at a better time for Klinsmann and will ease the pressure on him. The team does not reconvene for international duty until 2012, with a training camp followed by a friendly in Panama.
Buddle, the former Los Angeles Galaxy forward now playing in Germany, looked lively throughout and has given himself a chance at cementing a regular place in USA’s lineup. He was a little fortunate with the first goal thanks to a drastic mix-up in the Slovenia backline, but still took his opportunity perfectly with a fierce strike from outside the area.
Tim Matavz equalized quickly for Slovenia, but the U.S. took control before halftime. Dempsey put the visitors back into the lead with a powerful header from Michael Bradley’s corner before Altidore extended the gap from the penalty spot on 43 minutes.
Slovenia exerted some pressure in the second half as Matavz added a second goal to make it 3-2, but Klinsmann’s men still had good value for the victory in what was U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra’s 100th national team appearance.
The scoreline was both sweet and ironic for many, with these teams having met during the group stage of last summer’s World Cup. USA has been denied a famous comeback triumph when Malian referee Koman Coulibaly ruled out Maurice Edu’s legitimate late goal.
Coincidences aside, this can be seen as a genuine step in the right direction for the Klinsmann camp. This long-awaited success against a tough European opponent will boost confidence and should convince the coach about the value of using a more open and positive style. It was that kind of prospect that made national team followers excited about Klinsmann’s arrival in the first place, and this performance has helped ease emerging doubts.