“We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not on that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.” —Jurgen Klinsmann
I appreciate almost everything about Jurgen Klinsmann, and that includes the head games he played with the U.S. men’s national team and its competition before the World Cup even started.
Because that’s what his statement was about, head games. The savvy German was playing them with his own roster and its competition in the World Cup.
I loved his statement. You probably hated it. I know my colleague David Ramsey hated it.
What was Klinsmann doing, anyway?
“When you think about it, it’s eighth-grade psychology stuff,” Colorado Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni told me. “By saying what he said, it puts all the pressure on him (Klinsmann). It takes all the pressure off the players. And the other teams are seeing that and saying, These guys don’t even believe in themselves! Let’s get ‘em!”
This is why Klinsmann is smarter than media, smarter than America’s sudden soccer fans, smarter than the rest of us. Just as he unpredictably inserted John Brooks into the Ghana match (and Brooks scored the winning goal), just as he named Clint Dempsey the team captain (even though Dempsey is hardly a hard-working piano mover), just as Klinsmann railed against FIFA (to garner empathy from FIFA officials for the Germany match)….
… he laid the groundwork for a successful tournament by claiming the U.S. can’t win it.
The whole time, Klinsmann has been one step ahead of the game. Yet the U.S. soccer community seems to believe any success will be in spite of Klinsmann, not because of him.
Why is that?
As I wrote today, it would be lovely for the U.S. to advance out of Group G. Not simply because it would allow for more American soccer in this World Cup. But so Jurgen Klinsmann can look into the camera and say:
How ya’ll like me now?
Because to this point, after two matches, the U.S. has played above its heads, in large part because of its coach’s controversial decisions. Four points after two matches? Take it and run.