The United States should not believe that they will win, they should know that they will.
Eight years ago Claudio Reyna deflated like an air mattress, and Ghana thumped an uninspiring United States Men’s National Team from the 2006 World Cup.
Four years ago, the U.S. engineered the greatest escape in program history, scoring a stoppage-time winner to scratch into the knockout rounds only to again crumble against Ghana.
2006. 2010. 2014.
The narrative is redemption. The narrative is justice. It has been written with a variety of metaphors and analogies: to exorcise the ghosts of World Cups past. It’s a product of the exhausted, us against the world jingoism of the American fan base, eager to crucify an entire country because they’ve played better football than the United States.
But this game isn’t about Ghana, or the cruel, random reality of international football.
For all the positive growth American football has made since 1994, they’ve moved from being minnows to halibut in the ocean of international football. Like many teams at the World Cup, the United States can be relied upon to show up, try hard, knock in a few goals, and—with a little luck—squeak into the knockout rounds. There the Yanks will dutifully bow out to a Germany or a Brazil, one of the few, predatory killer whales who possess the skill and invention to punish the most disciplined, defensive-minded teams.
Enter Jurgen Klinsmann. For Gulati and the U.S. Soccer Federation, the United States men’s program had plateaued. Though the U.S. team was the pride of CONCACAF and had eclipsed El Tri, new ideas were needed, and Klinsmann promised to take the U.S. to “another level.” He brought in new players, left old ones at home, and—most importantly—attempted to rewire the underdog psyche of American football.
The United States should not believe that they will win, they should know that they will. Klinsmann—energetic, pragmatic, merciless—does not care much for ungrounded superstition.
Klinsmann has until 2018 to take the United States from upstart outsiders into the global football’s mainstream.
The first test of his progress begins today.
Tune in for tomorrow for The Match Report, where we’ll relive the action.