JACKSONVILLE, Fla — On a night where talk of formations, positional awareness, and confidence dominated the narrative landscape, one thing stood above all.
They say “form is temporary, and class is permanent.”
The focus of that saying is usually to explain how a certain player or team will be able to pick themselves up during a difficult stretch, but not often is it used to describe positive runs of play.
If the United States is to advance through one of the most difficult groups in 2014 World Cup play, they will need to not only match up with the other team tactically, but they’ll need to be on their very best form as well.
That’s why, after a performance like the US’s 2-1 victory over Nigeria, it’s important to point out that the pathway to Brazil has included a steady improvement culminating in one of the more solid performances the US has produced in some time, against a fellow World Cup opponent.
“We were very fortunate to have the progression of Azerbaijan into Turkey into Nigeria, that worked out really well,” said head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “At the same time it’s nice that we got away with wins, but there’s always something you can take away.”
This kind of steady improvement doesn’t happen just on the pitch. There is so much behind the scenes the public doesn’t see, and it all comes to fruition in the form of chemistry between the players.
Nowhere in this send-off series was that chemistry apparent than here at EverBank Field against Nigeria, where every piece to the puzzle came together in the first 70 minutes to build a comprehensive performance that gave supporters a real boost of confidence.
“We see that the team is making real progress the last three-and-a-half weeks,” Klinsmann said. “Everybody’s growing in his own role within the team of 23 guys. They see that everybody’s so important to the chemistry, to every training session, to the environment, and when you know you have a striker that had a tough year at Sunderland…we see he’s back on the right track, he’s happy here, and he takes that spirit with him to Brazil.”
With that mention of Jozy Altidore, Jurgen gave airtime to one of the most confidence-relient players in the squad, and his two goals – whether he admits it or not (which he didn’t) – is exactly what the doctor ordered for the 24-year-old who hadn’t scored for anybody since December 4 of last year.
Nothing about this match was perfect – things broke down late when substitutions came pouring in and the shape was disrupted – but as a whole the team has shown that the past 30 days haven’t gone to waste.
In fact, every training session, every beep test, every team meal, it’s all built towards this moment. That’s why they call it the Send-Off Series, because they built towards the moment where the team leaves for Brazil.
Had the US blown out Azerbaijan like everyone expected, then struggled against Nigeria, the tune would be completely different. Instead, they made mistakes, fixed them, made different mistakes, covered those up, and worked towards a more complete result. They didn’t blow out Nigeria by any means, but 2-1 might look closer than it really was.
“Obviously the Turkey game was a lot more open because we left too much space open,” Klinsmann said. “So we worked on it the last few days, we explained a lot on the whiteboard as well, and I think [the players] took it really well. They had the right focus, and it wasn’t difficult for them to open things up again.”
Form is temporary, class is permanent.
These players have the ability, but to be riding the best form of the summer into Brazil is exactly how Jurgen Klinsmann drew it up. It doesn’t last forever, and the team better ride it now while they can because they’ll need every bit of it when Group G comes to play.