The US' World Cup qualifying campaign won't turn into a soap opera. Brian Strauss' Sporting News article about players' lack of faith and growing impatience with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann took the back burner last Friday when the US defeated Costa Rica, 1-0. Nevertheless, doubts will continue to swirl over Klinsmann's direction, especially if the US loses tonight's game at Mexico.
But regardless of the score of tonight's game, don't expect to see Klinsmann, the players, or even the Federation hit the panic button.
Strauss' article aside, the US is not favored to win in Mexico City tonight. They have a 1-22-1 record at tonight's venue, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The US' only victory there was in a friendly last August by a 1-0 score, a result that seriously battered Mexico's pride and will motivate them more tonight. Mexico also has only two ties so far in the final stage of World Cup qualifying due to lapses and blown leads, and will push even harder for a result against the US.
With those kinds of odds stacked against them, neither the US players nor Klinsmann can afford to worry about one article.
But players are well aware of the cauldron of opinion, sensationalist, and analytical pieces churning together in the soccer world. And while pieces like Strauss' gain momentum, players and coaches simply ignore them and do their jobs.
Klinsmann faced a journalistic firestorm, again for his coaching strategies, before the 2006 World Cup where he helped Germany finish in third place. All of the US players are subjected to that kind of scrutiny too, though it happens more often in Europe than the states.
Strauss' research on the innards of Klinsmann's coaching was noteworthy. But so is Klinsmann's inability to find a goal scorer and his arduous task of teaching his players to consistently employ an attacking, possession-based style.
Klinsmann may need to work on his communication with players and find a better way to teach his tactics. But he consistently demands that players play to their potential. And players won't play to their potential if there are internal disagreements between the team or against the coach. Klinsmann seems to be aware of that. It's the reason that he has training camps that are closed to the public. It's why coaches in every sport sit down with their team when times are tough.
Klinsmann will likely continue to stay cool over allegations that he's out of touch, even if he loses tonight against Mexico or anytime down the road. If Klinsmann has a discussion with his team, expect the players to rally around their coach again.
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