Klinsmann has answered critics

From roster decisions to in-game tactics, U.S. coach has proved his value

Updated: June 26, 2014, 8:08 PM ET
By Adrian Melville | ESPN Insider

United StatesKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJurgen Klinsmann's roster, lineup and formation adjustments have worked well so far for the U.S.

The United States produced a thrilling 2-2 draw against Portugal in its second World Cup game, putting the team in a solid position to advance out of what has been regarded as the hardest group in the tournament. Although the U.S. will bemoan a missed opportunity to secure a berth in the knockout round, the four points that the Americans have earned so far are evidence that they can compete with just about any other team in the field.

The fact remains that the U.S. was virtually even in possession with a Portugal team that is technically ranked among the top five in the world, and on Sunday the Americans were ultimately done in by their own mistakes in execution.

Given the team's position heading into its final game of the group stage, perhaps nobody feels more vindicated than manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who, among other things, was heavily criticized for his personnel decisions leading up to the World Cup along with his comments about the team's chances of success heading into the tournament.

The criticism persists, as certain roster decisions and untimely injuries make it impossible for Klinsmann to avoid hypotheticals. But the fact remains that the U.S. was virtually even in possession with a Portugal team that is technically ranked among the top five in the world, and on Sunday the Americans were ultimately done in by their own mistakes in execution as opposed to being outplayed by a country that is perceived to be miles ahead in terms of football culture.

In the process, Klinsmann has been personally responsible for making both pregame and in-game adjustments to put the U.S. in a position to win. And while history will not do this team justice if it does not advance to the knockout round, it's clear that Klinsmann has made the proper lineup, formation and roster moves to propel the U.S. to success and silence some of his critics in the process.

Timely substitutions

Klinsmann has made a number of meaningful substitutions in the team's two World Cup games, and each has contributed positively to the team's current status near the top of Group G. Against Ghana, Klinsmann's hand was forced by injuries to striker Jozy Altidore and central defender Matt Besler, but their respective replacements added value. Aron Johannsson filled in admirably for Altidore, combining with teammates as best as he could in an attack that provided little support going forward, while John Brooks played the hero by scoring in the 86th minute (on a corner that Johannsson forced) to secure a critical 2-1 victory.

Injuries aside, Klinsmann also has shown that he can make sound tactical substitutions. The inclusion of 20-year-old Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin late in a 1-1 game appeared risky at first glance, but it was a direct response to Portugal's substitution of Silvestre Varela for Raul Meireles, as Klinsmann needed an extra defensive presence to keep Fabian Johnson from being overwhelmed defensively on the right side.