Time for redemption

After creating a ripple in international football by reaching the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, the United States has not done anything much. It has been more of a retrograde journey for the CONCACAF powerhouse after its spectacular arrival on the World Cup stage.

The United States went a step back in 2006 and gained just one point from its three matches in the group stage, while in the 2010 edition it could only make the Round of 16 before exiting in an extra-time defeat to Ghana.

Many felt that the United States’ performance hit a plateau because the domestic coaches, who guided the national team, had failed to give the side the edge needed to move through the knock-out stages. This reasoning prompted the arrival of former German star Jurgen Klinsmann, who having won the World Cup and European Championship with Germany and the UEFA Cup with top clubs such as Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, possessed the truly international resume to inspire the team. Added to this was his long association with American culture, being a resident of California for about 16 years.

Given a tough group to play in, with his native country Germany termed the favourite, Klinsmann has been given the unenviable job of inspiring the USA to qualify from the virtual group of death. The 49-year-old coach, who helped Germany to a third place finish in the 2006 edition, will be looking for great performances from the veterans in the team in the absence of the talismanic Landon Donovan. The veteran forward could not make his fourth World Cup appearance, as he was kept out of the final squad, apparently owing to professional differences with Klinsmann.

Michael Bradley, who has earned his name as a box-to-box midfielder in the Italian club AS Roma, will have a crucial role to play for the USA. when it comes up against superior opponents like Germany and Portugal. Clint Dempsey is another name Klinsmann will be looking at for flair and creativity to strengthen the team’s spine. The two have moved back to the MLS after playing successfully in top European clubs and it will be interesting to see whether this will impact their performance in the World Cup.

Striker Jozy Altidore is also a big name in the squad, but his recent lack of form with EPL club Sunderland is keeping the USA fans worried. The area where the Americans are likely to outscore everyone is the goal tending. The first-choice ’keeper Tim Howard and the back-ups like Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando make the the USA, the strongest in this department.