Today is Jurgen Klinsmann’s 49th birthday. Many happy returns, Herr Klinsmann.
It has been two years and a day since Klinsmann took charge of the US national team on the eve of his 47th birthday.
So have the USA improved under Klinsmann’s 732 days of stewardship?
Let’s look at the journey so far.
After his first six months of charge, murmurings of discontent were beginning to reverberate throughout the US soccer community. Many weren’t happy with the job the much lauded German coach was doing.
In his first six games the USA lost four, drew one and beat Honduras 1-0 in Florida. Klinsi had picked tough opposition, with Belgium, France, Mexico and Ecuador the opponents. But the jury was still out on Klinsmann as 2012 arrived.
However things got better, as marquee friendly wins helped the German coach get a footing with the USA’s ambitious fans.
First the US beat Slovenia away to round off 2011, and then came the historic 1-0 win in Italy as Michael Bradley was the hero in Genoa. A 5-1 rout of Scotland in Jacksonville was followed by a heavy defeat to Brazil, and despite a defeat to Jamaica and a 1-1 tie in Guatemala City, Klinsmann’s men safely negotiated their passage through to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
(MORE: History repeating, Klinsmann and Eriksson’s time in Mexico)
A spirited 2-2 tie with Russia rounded off the year, with the European based Yanks showing their was plenty of depth in the squad.
But there was a storm brewing as 2013 arrived.
And up until March of this year, things weren’t going so well. Landon Donovan was left out of his plans after taking a self-imposed sabbatical and many didn’t agree with the way Klinsmann was treating the prodigal son of US soccer.
Then the US lost 2-1 in the Hexagonal to Honduras. Soon pandemonium broke out, as Klinsmann’s methods and man management were questioned by an anonymous player speaking to the national press. Rumors of discontent with the German’s reign began to spread like wildfire. And all of this came on the eve of perhaps the USA’s biggest World Cup qualifier, a home tie against Costa Rica in snowy Denver.
However that tumultuous period was the turning point.
A 1-0 win in the near white-out conditions vs. Costa Rica, followed by a historic 0-0 tie in the Azteca against Mexico, put the US firmly back in the hunt to make the World Cup.
And despite a heavy friendly defeat to the classy Belgians in Cleveland in May, 11 straight wins later, here we are.
(MORE: Klinsmann’s improvement bid on the line in crucial World Cup qualifier)
Klinsmann may be celebrating his birthday quietly today, or probably in is helicopter above California somewhere, but plenty of national team fans will be celebrating with him and wishing him many happy returns.
A year ago, that wouldn’t have been the case. But if you feel like it, go wish Jurgen a happy birthday on his Facebook page.
The USA have come a long way in such a short period of time. There have been ups and downs but now Klinsmann is producing results and an incredibly strong squad to go with it. Some still aren’t impressed, but I think the Nats have improved drastically since 2011.
July 29 2014 marks Klinsmann’s 50th birthday. That date also marks just over two weeks after the FIFA World Cup will have finished in Brazil.
What will we all think of Klinsmann then?