Refinement Required For Klinsmann's USA

USA won the hearts of many in their defeat to Belgium, but Jurgen Klinsmann must add some finesse if they are to take Russia by storm in 2018, says Tim Stannard.

Last Updated: 03/07/14 at 12:06 Post Comment

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It was as if the DJ in the local hook-up spot in Luton had switched off the speakers, and turned on the lights before the traditional last slow song and final lunging opportunity of the evening.

After 122 minutes of madcap anarchy against Belgium, the increasingly large army of USA fans were abruptly kicked out into streets, blinking dozily and wondering what an earth had just happened to them. The World Cup dream was over.

It will take a long time to process the madness of the clash against the mighty Belgium, a game that could just as easily have seen the US squeeze into the quarter-finals and face Argentina or be battered by double figures. Indeed, the epic clash was a microcosm of the whole tournament.

In the cold light of day, the figures showed that the US scraped through into the last 16 on goal difference having just won the single match in four in the whole competition. Then again, Jurgen Klinsmann's side put on a wonderful - dare we say it - heroic display in Brazil that had fans around the world purring admiringly about the guts and never-say-die-attitude of the American team. Those in England seemed to be especially observant of this fact.

Indeed, it was a traditionally cheerful English approach to the post-match analysis in the States in that the positives were poured over at first after an epic loss. The main reason to be cheerful was a truly outstanding display from the beautifully bearded and ever modest Tim "just doing my job" Howard who kept Belgium at bay in a one-man Alamo scenario.

Had Howard been Iker Casillas, for example, then the US could have lost the match in 40 seconds and suffered a frightful thrashing. Instead, the Everton stopper is now a mega-celebrity with a White House petition starting up to have the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport renamed in the goalie's honour.

But with the USA out, it is time to poke through the entrails of the Brazil journey and assess whether it was a successful one or not. But that is nearly impossible to do, so topsy turvy was the ride. At times the US attacking was relentless - as in the final minutes against Belgium and in phases against Portugal - but ruined by woeful finishing. The defending swung between non-existent to triumphant. For this reason Klinsmann is going to have to take a while to work out what is needed for the team.

One certainty is that a few key players from Brazil will soon be shuttled off, including the wrong side of 30, Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones, the latter being a fine performer in the centre of the park. Tim Howard says that he will take some time to decide on his international future. Michael Bradley was a huge disappointment, while 31-year-old Clint Dempsey was probably enjoying his last World Cup, a bruising encounter indeed.

Some fresh faces such as DeAndre Yedlin and the still mysterious Julian Green are set to be promoted to the first team, but these won't make up for the lack of a serious international class striker that is blunting a lot of Klinsmann's plans. The look on the German coach's face after the late miss from Chris Wondolowski painted quite the picture. A solid centre-back, Messi-style playmaker and incisive winger would all be nice too, but these kind of players don't grow on trees.

The one advantage that Klinsmann does have in his rebuilding is time. The national coach has built up a lot of credit among US soccer fans in his strategy to overhaul the national scene to make a real impact in Russia in four years. The ex-poacher has been wanting the country to develop its own style of play, like Germany or Spain (at their peak).

This tournament in Brazil set up the foundations of this style, which was commitment, energy, physicality and courage. Now all that is needed is some flourishes and a sharp point to forge what could be a very decent footballing sword, indeed. The USA were a lot of fun to watch, and for this the world is grateful. Now what is needed, is a little bit of finesse.

Tim Stannard - Follow him on Twitter

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