It took his team about 60 minutes to wear down and then crack open Jamaica, but the eventual 2-0 win over the visitors clinched first place in the final round qualifying group for manager Jurgen Klinsmann and his team.
Here are the “highlights” of what the manager had to say, starting with an explanation of why it took so long for the United States to find its feet Friday at Sporting Park.
Klinsmann said the first half “obviously did not go as they would have liked” and that he urged his team to find another gear at intermission:
Well, we expected a tight game. Jamaica is not coming here to give us points. … They are very well organized. They closed the spaces down in the first half. They are physically a strong team and they can always hurt you on a counter break. They hung in there and made sure we didn’t find those gaps to create chances.
“We said at halftime, ‘Guys, you have to raise the bar here. You have to raise the tempo.’ That’s what we did. After 55 or 60 minutes, we passed it through faster, there were a lot of positive sequences, one touch, and that’s how you open up any team. I felt on the bench it was just a matter of time until we got the first goal.”
It doesn’t sound like there was any “message sending” in regards to Landon Donovan’s halftime removal. Klinsmann did say, however, that the left-sided midfielder’s halftime substitution (never a great moment for any player – and surely not something that has happened often in Donovan’s career) was not about those recent ankle issues.
The sub at halftime, we discussed as a coaching staff, as we always do. There were options that we had. We thought we had to do something to speed up the game. We thought Landon had trouble getting into the game, but he was not the only one, other players as well in the first half.
“We talked about moving Landon up top with Jozy, but we thought Aron [Johannsson, who would have been replaced in that case] had some chances and maybe he puts one in. And then it was a simple performance-based decision, but it is no problem at all.”
Later, Klinsmann was asked what he hopes Donovan “takes from” being removed at half. Again, the manager more or less shrugged. He said it was “no big deal.” And it probably isn’t … because we are talking about Landon Donovan, after all. The guy has a lot of good performances with the national team to balance out a stinker here and there. It’s different with a younger guy who hasn’t proven himself the way Donovan has over such a long period.
We spoke right after the game, I told him [Donovan] we wanted to make a change, we thought that you are not getting into the game the way you hoped to. Everybody has a bad game, and some other guys had a bad game, too. It’s no big deal.”
Klinsmann also said DaMarcus Beasley’s second-half removal was due to a hamstring issue, which the manager said puts his starting left back in question for Tuesday’s match in Panama.
Related, he said discussions would take place tonight on any roster changes ahead of Tuesday’s match. “There will be a couple of changes. Not many, but a couple,” Klinsmann said. Remember, Clarence Goodson, Chris Wondolowski and others were in the stands tonight, not dressed for the contest.
On the starting lineup, Klinsmann said he thought Alejandro Bedoya deserved a start after a good spell with his club and thanks to those late, bright performances in the Gold Cup. He admitted it was a difficult choice not to start Graham Zusi.
Graham was fine with that. I told Graham to be ready at halftime, that ‘You are going to play in your home stadium, don’t worry about that.”
Klinsmann is not a manager who is blind to such things, a player’s desire to perform in front of his home fans and such. (Not all coaches care about that stuff.) The manager noted that his goal would be “a special memory for him. He deserves that.”