PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Dealing with disappointment from a Gold Cup final loss that led to the firing of the coach, U.S. Soccer is finally ready to move on.
Jurgen Klinsmann is set to lead the charge. He’ll coach the Americans for the first time against Mexico on Wednesday.
The U.S. reached the round of 16 at last year’s World Cup, but blew a two-goal lead in a Gold Cup final loss to Mexico in June. That led them to fire coach Bob Bradley.
Klinsmann says he’s encouraged by the attitudes and talent after only a few days of camp. He says jumping into his debut so quickly after he was hired isn’t easy, but is exciting.
“We have a lot of questions to answer over the next couple of months,” he said.
He could start to have some answers by the end of Wednesday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Klinsmann, one of the greatest players Germany has ever produced, is expected to jolt a U.S. Soccer team plagued by a series of lackluster results. He spurned opportunities in the past year to coach big European clubs or national teams for the chance to stay in the United States, he lives in California, and take on the challenge of turning around the team.
“After a couple of days, I’m highly impressed with these guys,” he said.
The familiarization process has been sped up. Klinsmann trained with about 13 players for the first time Sunday night and the first full squad training session was Monday morning.
U.S. star Landon Donovan was encouraged by the message and spirit of his new coach.
“Jurgen has very positive energy and it’s infectious,” he said. “I think the guys have already taken to that well. As far as tactical things and a style and an approach to the way we play, that’s going to take a while.”
Some of the best US players — Donovan, captain Carlos Bocanegra, defender Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey — are getting up there in years, and the U.S. didn’t have the best track record of developing promising young talent under Bradley. At least, not enough of it.
That’s part of the reason why Bradley was fired. The Gold Cup loss to Mexico was another sign that the U.S. team’s progress has stalled under Bradley.
His son Michael, a midfielder, called Bradley a “strong guy,” who handled the news like a pro.
“It’s part of the game,” Michael Bradley said. “Nobody would have expected he was going to be here 20 years. You know that going in. My dad, more than anybody, realized that. He was always committed to work as hard as he could and doing whatever he could to help the national team while he was here.”
Now it’s Klinsmann’s turn.
This is a “friendly,” the first since 2008, but it’ll be anything but. These are the two best teams in CONCACAF, and it’s a big game anytime they play. Mexico has only beaten the U.S. twice on U.S. soil since 2000, but the wins have been in the past two Gold Cup finals, 2009 and in June.
“We’re going to give them a fight,” Klinsmann said.
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