When Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the squad going to Brazil, it was no act of domination, showing who was boss. I thought he was wrong, and still do, because, as a lot of people have said, sometime in this first round the USA just might need somebody to bust a goal, late.
Then again, they did that Monday in the steam bath of Natal, and it came from one of the five German-Americans, players with two passports, Klinsmann recruited to this team. John Brooks, 21 years old, with a father from Illinois and a mother from Berlin, inserted at halftime because of injury, popped in a header in the 86th minute for a 2-1 victory over Ghana.
This would not have been Donovan’s kind of game. But the next one against Portugal, or the one after that against Germany, might be the place where a wise, fleet attacker could pull out a draw, or a victory, to get the Americans into the round of 16, now a possibility.
When the Donovan debate was going on – and maybe it still is, since I am bringing it up here – I never could summon up any vitriol toward Klinsmann’s impact on this team. His credentials are too good. He was a fast and wily forward who scored World Cup goals, won a World Cup as a player and coached a third-place German team in 2006. “He knows stuff,” I told people. “He is no fool. He may think Donovan is soft, or past it. I think he’s wrong. But he’s a good coach.”
The USA has had other good coaches. Bruce Arena coached two of the best matches the USA has ever played, over Mexico and a bitter loss to Germany in 2002. (Klinsmann, uninvolved, thought the USA outplayed his homeland.) Bob Bradley had a team that scored a desperation goal against Algeria in 2010 -- yes, the Donovan goal. Now Klinsmann has done something neither of them did. He has beaten Ghana in the World Cup.
The Portugal match? They have injuries and a red card absence by the hot-headed Pepe. Klinsmann will put together a team for Sunday. He knows what he is doing. Now it is time for the players to recuperate. And us.