USMNT Roundtable: Man of the Round

Good work, fellas (Photo: swoonworthy.net)

Good work, fellas (Photo: swoonworthy.net)

The USMNT roundtable takes a moment to acknowledge the guys who stepped up to lead the Yanks into the second round of Brasil 2014…

One more game and then…maybe another one, we hope. But before the story of USMNT’s World Cup 2014 continues, let’s take a moment to applaud what has been achieved: beating the guys who sent the Nats home last time; giving Portugal another World Cup nightmare featuring the Stars & Stripes; and keeping heads cool and eyes on the prize, to hold a loss to Germany close enough to prevent the prior good work from being undone.

It is entirely reasonable to say USMNT should expect to be in the knockout stages at every World Cup, and shouldn’t be satisfied with anything but a serious run at the final at each tournament. No team should be happy just to be here.

But there are exceptions to every rule, and if Klinsi’s lieblings had bowed out at the group stage, well…it was Germany, Ghana and Portugal wasn’t it? 

They bowed to no one. They are in the second round on merit, and we’ll see what happens next.

The team deserves a lot of credit, but there’s always someone who stands a little bit taller than the rest. The game is cruel: it singles people out, puts them in position to succeed or fail.

We should applaud the tactics and the team, but we remember moments: the work of one player against another, the goals, the assists, the pass, the header or simply that guy who seems to do the right thing every time he has a thing to do.

So who is that guy for you? Who is your USMNT Man of Group G? Your G-Man, to coin a phrase. [Editor’s Note: uncoin it; cut that out.]

The roundtable is gathered to cast its votes; give us yours in the comments.

if you could only pick one, who would it be?  (Image: ussoccer.com)

If you could only pick one, who would it be? (Image: ussoccer.com)

Brendan Carr

In a midfield where Michael Bradley was supposed to take charge, another stepped up to lead the United States to the Round of 16: Jermaine Jones.

The Germerican holding midfielder has been the driving force behind USMNT’s unexpected advance. Where Michael Bradley has failed, Jones has stepped up by winning crucial tackles, making smart passes, and keeping his cool: things he was criticized for in the qualifying rounds.

In fairness to the critics, Jones’s ascent to absolute savior has seen him transform into a completely different player than we saw before. Not only has he been strong defensively, but – thanks to his marauding runs through the middle – he has also got heavily involved in the attack.

Other than being the smartest player on the pitch for the United States, he has also been a risk taker when it was needed: like when his scintillating strike against Portugal started the heroic comeback.

Against Germany his role changed, in a match where he had something to prove. Both Jones and Bradley constantly interchanged in the middle of the park with one joining the attack, and the other sitting alongside Beckerman.

Despite the loss, Jones leadership in the middle has helped keep Beckerman in line and has made him a very reliable player, and has benefited Bradley by taking the pressure off him, and allowing him to stay at home.

Jones will be the most crucial player going forward, and has a huge role against a very strong and creative Belgian side where he must control the middle of the park.

Marauder (Photo: nytimes.com)

Marauder (Photo: nytimes.com)

Emanuel Corpus

Well, the conversation going into the 2014 edition of the World Cup was all about USMNT’s  shaky back four. The back line has performed far better than expected, but an extremely talented and defensive-minded midfield has been an  effective first line of defense.

Michael Bradley has been a bit disappointing, but the work that Bradley puts in is an undeniable asset. Jones has been an offensive revelation, bringing along with him a physicality up front that USMNT would otherwise be lacking since Jozy Altidore’s injury. But no one has had influence on the U.S.’s game like Kyle Beckerman.

With Beckerman on the field, Jones and Bradley can confidently venture forward, which has been an essential element in finding possession in the attacking third. When other teams have attacked USMNT, Beckerman is the hammer to the back line’s anvil.

Beckerman has never been a flashy player, but in the group stage he has shown a side of his game that isn’t often on display. He has always been valuable as an enforcer, but Kyle Beckerman has shown that he’s invaluable as an enabler.

Enabler (Photo: kansascity.com)

Enabler (Photo: kansascity.com)

Rob Thompson

USMNT’s man of the group stage is our captain Clint Dempsey. He reminds me of another true blue American Clint: Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood would always play the lone good guy,  the slightly misunderstood outlaw. That’s uncanny: Dempsey had to play as a lone striker in two of the group matches, and the American Outlaws supporter group loves him.

Clint “Outlaw” Dempsey scored two massive goals for the US Team. His first came within 30 seconds of the kickoff group match against Ghana. It was the fastest score for a USMNT player during a World Cup match, and the 5th fastest score ever in a World Cup match.

The beauty of this goal was how much individual effort it took to score it. Dempsey had to take on players, dribble into space, and switch the ball to his shooting foot for it to happen. It was a classic assassin strike.

Also, the timing was perfect: we can’t really measure the confidence this gave the whole team, early validation of the belief they actually could beat their nemesis, Ghana.

Another reason I give the nod to Dempsey is because he has shown true leadership on the pitch. He suffered a broken nose in the match against Ghana, and did not even wince. The man is tough, and it also demonstrated his leadership and courage to his teammates: a broken bone is not going to stop him from leading this team to its highest level.

So on Tuesday, I’m sure Clint “Outlaw” Dempsey is going to give Belgium a fistful of dollars, and is going to hang’em high.

Finally, we are going to find out who’s the good, the bad, and the ugly!

He sees what you did there, and he likes it. (Photo: theapricity.com)

He sees what you did there, and he likes it. (Photo: theapricity.com)

TJ Zaremba

Leading up to the tournament, Jurgen Klinsmann appeared to the mainstream media and even some soccer “experts” to be a clueless manager. He was described as aloof, lacking even the smallest understanding of the players he was managing despite winning the Hex and the Gold Cup in 2013.

The reality is Klinsi watched the US program for years, understood it completely and decided it needed a top-to-bottom culture change.

Many thought his squad was being assembled more with the 2018 World Cup in mind instead of the 2104 edition. They thought wrong.

The bottom line is Klinsi had a plan from his first day in charge, and the execution of that plan is why USMNT escaped the Group of Death. Therefore, even though he did not play a minute, Jurgen Klinsmann is the natural choice for team MVP for the first round.

To the casual observer, Klinsmann is a gambler: making crazy decisions and getting away with them. The truth is he put his team in position to succeed.

He wanted a team with flexibility, one that could have anyone step in at a moment’s notice. The decisions to insert Brooks and Yedlin when he did proves he has what he was looking for.

He also wanted a team that could survive three games in 12 days in some potentially awful conditions. He succeeded in that effort also.

This team can adapt its style to match up against any opponent. When you manage a team lacking in the technical ability to impose its will on quality opponents, flexibility is critical. The overall success in group play proves this.

Klinsmann puts his players in a position to succeed, and this is why the Yanks have the potential to do real damage in the knockout stages.

It appears no longer is Jurgen Klinsmann considered a German who does not have a clue about American soccer.  Instead, he should be compared to the late, great Herb Brooks.  With each win, the comparison will only get stronger.

Hey Klinsi, we're gonna need you to dress a little snappier. (Photo: democraticunderground.com)

Hey Klinsi, we’re gonna need you to dress a little snappier. (Photo: democraticunderground.com)

James Vlahakis

USA fans are the “12th Man.”

Whether it’s fans in Brazil, fans on social media, or the crowds at watch parties, the United States Men’s National Team is aware of this unprecedented support. I noticed in person how the team basked in the applause after last year’s Gold Cup victory.

While the core fan base may have existed before this World Cup, major news networks have exposed the team to a broader fan base and the players know that they are heroes in the making. 

This World Cup is different from prior ones that have been viewed in the USA. It’s less a product of a favorable time zone, and more related to the growth of social media.  Social media has helped the casual fans to embrace the United States team. And that’s a great thing.

Young and old alike chant “I believe that we will win.” This level of support, especially in Brazil, has helped the team get over tough patches in the final minutes of a game.

At any given minute, if so inc;lined, a player can log into Twitter or Instagram and interact with fans.

I’m looking for a word that defines how American fans are different from European or Central/South American fans. Similar to how the word “schadenfreude” describes the pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others, there should be an American-English word to describe the deep, POSITIVE emotional connection that American fans share with the team.

Let’s see what my editor comes up with . . . .

[Editor’s Note: Nope. I got nothing. Somebody step up in the comments!]

(Photo: thestar.com)

Let’s give this a name (Photo: thestar.com)

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For more roundtables, follow @OTFSOCCER

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Follow roundtablers @TheoneLiberator, @EmanuelCorpus, @roblthom66, @jvlaha and @TJZaremba.

To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.

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