Klinsmann boosts US hope for World Cup18 May 2014 AFP, Washington
Jurgen Klinsmann has not hesitated to take unpopular decisions in his mission to toughen up the United States team going into the World Cup finals.
The 49-year-old coach, who as a player helped Germany capture the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship, took over the American side in 2011.
The progress may not be clear in the results but Klinsmann has backing for his tactics as he prepares to take on his former country in their opening group.
"One of the reasons we hired Jurgen was to advance the program forward and we've seen the initial stages of that happening on the field and also off the field in various areas," said US Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
"In the past two years he has built a strong foundation from the senior team down to the youth teams and we want to continue to build upon that success."
Klinsmann, who guided the Germans to third in the 2006 World Cup on home soil, was the first non-US coach in 16 years for the Americans, but his success in leading North American qualifying for the World Cup was rewarded with a four-year contract extension last December that will keep him in the post through the 2018 World Cup.
"I am very fortunate to continue the work we started more than 2 ½ years ago," Klinsmann said. "It's exciting to see the progress we have made. We continue to make improvements on all fronts."
Klinsmann has made goalkeeper Tim Howard, strikers Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore and midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones the "spine" of a US squad that has developed backbone but has been unable to duplicate its run to the 2004 quarter-finals in the past two World Cups.
Klinsmann has juggled lineups often in analyzing talent, a move that upset some players, notably when he benched defender and former captain Carlos Bocanegra just before the first qualifier last year at Honduras.
Klinsmann saw it as another test of character as well as talent.
"All those elements we throw at them now because if we don't do it, it's too late in the World Cup," Klinsmann said in March. "The only way we get them to that next level is to run them through this uncomfortable period, and they have to learn and they have to swim in the cold water. We're going to convince the world later."
The Americans came together to advance and the wisdom of Klinsmann's toughening efforts proved out in the end.
The US are in Group G against Germany, now coached by his former assistant Joachim Loew, Portugal, featuring superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and Ghana.
"The group is a real challenge," Klinsmann said. "But we have built up our self-confidence over the last 2 ½ years and we have the most successful year in the 100 years of US football behind us.
"We have a completely realistic chance of making the knockout phase."