Has soccer finally cracked the US?

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Jul 1, 2014; Salvador, BRAZIL; United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann prior to the match against Belgium during the round of sixteen match in the 2014 World Cup at Arena Fonte Nova. Belgium defeated USA 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

 1. The success of Juergen Klinsmann and the USMNT

The German soccer maestro had a fledgling playing career, where his biggest success was winning the FIFA 1990 World Cup with West Germany back when the country was still divided. After honing his managerial trade with the German national team and Bayern Munich, Klinsmann was announced as the head coach of the USMNT in 2011.

Klinsmann suffered a rocky start as head coach and came under fire after losing four of his opening six games. However, since then he has stamped his mark on the squad where his coaching philosophy and style of play have helped achieve impressive results with the USMNT. They won the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup in dramatic style with a 100% win record, beating Panama 1-0 in the final in Soldier Field, and will look to retain their title this summer when the competition returns to the United States.

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Pre-World Cup, Klinsmann received heavy criticism for excluding the US all-time goalscorer Landon Donovan from the squad and gave an interview in the New York Times playing down the chances of the USMNT at the tournament.

“We cannot win this World Cup because we are not at that level yet … For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament,” Klinsmann said.

Okay, so the USMNT didn’t play the game of their lives seven times in a row, but few expected them to. However they certainly did for four of those games, and were highly unfortunate not to reach the last 16 after a fantastic display against Belgium, which drew many plaudits and won them many fans along the way.

Speaking to the Irish media before the Republic of Ireland and USMNT friendly in Dublin on November 17, Real Salt Lake captain and World Cup star Kyle Beckermann had some glowing words of praise for Klinsmann.

“He’s huge. He’s so positive and it’s extremely contagious on the rest of us, and he’s really trying to get us all to the next level. He’s been there, done that and whatever he says you respect him,” Beckermann said.

It’s clear that Klinsmann certainly has the backing and respect of his players, and how could he not? What he is trying to achieve for the country and the sport reaches far beyond a quarter-final finish at the World Cup. He’s building the foundations for a team and a sport which is constantly growing inside one of the world’s leading cultural and sporting hotbeds, as outlined in his pre-World Cup New York Times interview.

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