Jürgen Klinsmann has had his ugly moments on the road. I once saw him take a 50-lira coin on the head at Atalanta, while he was playing for Inter, around 1989 or 1990.
Those things were nearly an inch in diameter and weighed two ounces, and a few of them in your pocket could slow you down. The coin that clanged off his head undoubtedly felt like a manhole cover.
Klinsi returned with a mesh wrap over the bloody bandage, and staggered to the end of the match. Welcome to the road.
Now Klinsmann is coaching the United States in its quadrennial adventure in the Concacaf region, which is nothing like what he experienced on the road with the West German and German national teams.
The mood swings of the U.S. team were evident in the last week when the U.S. lost in Jamaica, 2-1, and then beat Jamaica four days later in Columbus, Ohio, winning by a 1-0 score after overwhelming Jamaica in the first half.
It was obvious from watching Wednesday’s match that U.S. is not the same squad without Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, who were injured for both matches. The rare home-and-home format is an inequity in the qualifying round because it penalizes a team twice if its star player, or players, cannot make it against a formidable opponent. Although, in Concacaf, all road games are formidable.
The U.S. survived at home without the practiced explosiveness of Donovan and the intense control of Bradley at midfield.
The highlight of the match was Clint Dempsey’s rubbery face as he taunted the Jamaican players, twisting his features into more expressions in a few seconds than an old Vaudeville comic could do. Check out the video at:
I must admit, I had never heard of Graham Zusi, who replaced Bradley on Wednesday and took command. Turns out he is a stalwart with Sporting Kansas City. It is impressive that Major League Soccer can send a home-grown player right into the starting lineup of a must-win qualifying match. The league continues to grow and play a role in the development of U.S. soccer.
Now the U.S. must play at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12 – Columbus Day; supply your own jokes – and then play host to Guatemala on Oct. 16. Klinsmann is no fool. He is learning what Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley knew from experience in the American program – take nothing for granted in Concacaf.
The mood swings from road to home matches are a reminder that U.S. soccer is very much a work in progress. The mood against Antigua and Barbuda will not be as hostile as the receptions in Mexico or Guatemala or Costa Rica, where the fans are intense and some of the calls mysterious and strange objects fly out of the stands, although not necessarily those old 50-lira coins.
9/15/2012 01:03:18 pm
Dempsey's face reminds me of how the Baldwin coach looked at me when I shanked a new ball into Reynold's Channel at Long Beach at what I think was Long Island's first night soccer game. I didn't get many minutes after that. Glad to catch up on your view of Concacaf.
9/16/2012 01:37:56 am
I' played night softball down there a zillion years ago.
9/16/2012 03:15:49 am
It is interesting that both you and George had an affinity for water.
9/16/2012 03:31:44 am
I kept thinking of the USA-China 2011 Women's World Cup final during the second Jamaica game. The announcer continually commented that not putting a game away early by missing good scoring opportunities often comes back to haunt you.
9/18/2012 02:07:21 am
Then there was the direct east-west field at Met Oval -- where you could also cut your legs by attempting a sliding tackle. The sun was low in October and was right in your eyes if you were defending the east goal, or trying to score to the west. Maybe that is why those Grover Cleveland High forwards went right around me, clearly one of the most traumatic memories of my life. GV
9/17/2012 04:17:29 pm
Zusi was a standout at the University of Maryland. During a period of time where Maryland fans were hard at work earning a poor national reputation for impolite behavior, our men's soccer fans rallied and inspired a revolution on campus. "The Crew" is now a proud tradition at Maryland, bringing a European atmosphere (minus the alcohol and profanity...no really, I promise) to college soccer. It is truly second to none and I encourage anyone to take in a game at Ludwig field, witness the revelry (again, minus the profanity) and enjoy the match. I may be an original founder, but I will cease the self-promotion there.
9/18/2012 02:09:33 am
Pamitha, thanks for the update. He was remarkably poised, considering the central role and position he was asked to play. Almost Michael Bradley-like game face. Now I know about Zusi.
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.