As the seconds ticked away in Zurich and the U.S. Men’s National Team held its ground with the scoreboard reading 1-1, while playing a man down, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann could have been forgiven if he was concerned that another late goal might be in the offing. However, he sensed something different.
“I felt like we were going to be fine,” said Klinsmann. “I was angry that we conceded a goal because I wanted to win the game even though we were a man down, but I felt really comfortable because I saw the energy of the players. I saw the way they were doing their defensive job. I saw their connection and heard their encouragement to each other. There was a lot of life. That says a lot about chemistry, about being there for each other when it gets difficult. I felt coming away with a result was well deserved.”
The United States turned in a solid performance, beginning with a promising first half. The defense stifled the Swiss attack while creating solid opportunities at goal for Gyasi Zardes and Michael Bradley before Brek Shea delighted the U.S. faithful with a picture-perfect free kick that gave the USA the lead right at the halftime whistle.
“We controlled it for a good hour,” Klinsmann said. “We created a lot of chances in the first half, and the beautiful free kick from Brek Shea gave us the lead. The second half changed a bit with Jozy’s red card. They scored their goal, but I thought the team did really well to grind it out and stay focused.”
The incident with Altidore that saw him sent off in the 68th minute left the team short-handed, but the USA coach and former striker, empathized with his star forward.
“I told Jozy afterwards that these things happen, you make mistakes. Obviously, it had an influence on the outcome in a certain way. It’s not Jozy’s fault that we gave up a goal, but we probably would have had a better chance to take three points away without it. I’m not mad at Jozy or anybody that makes a mistake as long they understand what happened. I was a very impulsive, emotional forward. I was often right on the edge of getting in trouble with the referee. Jozy gives everything he has for the National Team, not only by scoring but by the way he throws himself into every game. Mistakes happen, and if you realize that, then it’s cool and you move on.”
Switzerland’s goal from a short corner kick in the 80th minute didn't diminish the defensive effort; something the U.S. team was able to improve with nearly a week’s worth of training before the match following the loss the Denmark in the team's first match of the trip.
“Tactically from a defensive standpoint, it was a very good performance,” Klinsmann observed. “We worked hard on shifting the whole group, to stay connected and double team on the sides where they have very good players, and we stayed disciplined.”
Combined with the game against Denmark, the 10-day trip was a huge opportunity for the players and coaches in the buildup towards the Gold Cup. For Klinsmann, it proved extremely valuable.
“We look at the whole picture. We were up 2-1 against a very good team in Denmark in the 84th minute and looked like the winner. Then we gave the game away, but we also saw a lot of good stuff. This camp was really important because it gave us time to spend with the players and to meld together all the guys that come from different places around the world in order to get a job done. We had time to introduce two new players in Ventura Alvarado and William Yarbrough, and also some guys who hadn’t been around in a while. The camp was necessary. It was a very good experience. There was great spirit within the group. Overall, it was more than worth it.”