Jurgen Klinsmann ought to return as the United States’ manager.
Klinsmann, if for nothing else, should stay around because of his hatred for complacency. The Americans long have reveled in any finish that saw them go past the group stage, but that didn’t feel like the case this time, even against a Belgium side that deserved to go through to the quarterfinals.
Klinsmann bet the farm on his ability to evaluate talent, and nobody can say the U.S. manager erred in his decisions.
He kept DaMarcus Beasley as a left back, and Beasley was great in qualifying all the way through the Americans’ games in Brazil.
He saw something in Kyle Beckerman when few else did, and Beckerman became the defensive midfielder Klinsmann imagined. He wad solid -- if not particularly creative -- the entire way.
He added John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, both of whom were criticized as selections, and the dissenters are awfully quiet at this stage of the tournament. Brooks came on in relief of Matt Besler and scored the most important goal of the tournament. Yedlin turned into a sort of super-sub with his speed and ability to affect the game down the wings, even if it isn’t his natural position.
And not least, let’s not forget Jermaine Jones. Klinsmann went all-in on Jones from the beginning, which drew heavy criticism from people who thought Jones wasn’t a starting XI regular, including yours truly. Jones, by a wide margin, was the Yanks’ best player in Brazil. He was creative and tough, tireless and important. At no point of any of the Americans’ four games was Jones not a factor.
(And thankfully, he cooled it on the absurd challenges.)
A certain degree of talent has been there for a while for the U.S., but if we are to believe in American exceptionalism even in soccer, it will take someone who can turn a current crop into something better.
After a qualifying cycle and an atrocious World Cup draw, it’d be difficult to say Klinsmann isn’t that type of coach.
Hopefully U.S. boss Sunil Gulati feels the same way.