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Why Saturday’s U.S. national team win matters

May 28, 2012, 9:35 AM EDT

Scotland v United States Getty Images

A bit of a Sunday hangover developed yesterday regarding the U.S. national team, which had shellacked Scotland in a Saturday night Florida frolic, 5-1.

So Saturday brought euphoria over the accomplishment. The United States doesn’t beat European teams this way, after all. Yes, a team led previously by Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena might open a can of U.S. might on Cuba or some other economy car on the CONCACAF highway, but a four-goal win over Scotland? That’s one to Facebook about!

Then came Sunday. I got a few Twitter messages and blog comments that were all along the same theme: tap the brakes, ye media mavens, for Scotland is a poor, poor side at the moment. Saturday’s win doesn’t mean so much.

Only, I’m not buying it. The naysayers and buzz killers don’t get it.

It wasn’t the score; it was the manner in which it was achieved, stylistic, tenacious of pressure and perfectly representative of the plan manager Jurgen Klinsmann hatched nine months ago. (And Scotland, weakened no doubt, is a squad just the same of proud pros from quality European leagues.)

We all see contests where the score doesn’t accurately reflect the match’s true colors, where things just kind of get wackily out of hand at the end. This wasn’t one of them. The United States dominated front to back against a Scottish side that was never allowed to locate a groove in the steamy Florida night.

But again, it wasn’t just the margin. It was the U.S. flourish and the new way of playing that has everyone toasting Uncle Soccer Sam and rushing to laptops to order up another U.S. scarf or T-shirt.

This was a night where U.S. fans saw Klinsmann’s devilish plan come to beautiful fruition. He has preached of how best to get after opposition: he wants players stationed further up the field; greater tactical aggression from a less rigid arrangement, more pressure applied on offense and defense, a ploy that demands high confidence and higher degrees of fitness.

He’s been gradually building the elements, and Saturday it coalesced impressively.

By the way, the best two U.S. forwards of the moment, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, weren’t even on the field. So how ‘bout them apples?

Yes, this Scotland was a poor version of itself. But players and managers had promised a typically spirited effort, if nothing else. Only, that didn’t matter. Spirit only gets you so far against a confident bunch that’s committed to a high-pressure methodology.

It doesn’t mean that the United States can go do the same to Spain or Germany or Argentina. Or Brazil, for that matter, as we might see Wednesday. But it does say this: The new way gives Klinsmann’s side the ability to dominate regional sides the way fans have long wished they could. And they won’t need to sit back and take it, hoping to bang something in on the counter against the global bully boys.

The new way just “looks” more American, more assertive – and no one needs to apologize for feeling good about it.

  1. greej1938l - May 28, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    THank you Steve! Good article!

  2. ezmagic - May 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Beat England, Germany, Spain or portugal or any south American team, then brag about a 5-1 game. But I’m glad USA is improving.

    • btrocco - May 28, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      USA 1 – England 1…. USA 2 – Spain 0…USA 1 – Italy 0

      get off your high horse and remember your RECENT history.

  3. crayzeeguy - May 28, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Was a 1-0 win against Italy not progress enough for you?

  4. orbmech - May 28, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    For friendlies I’m more concerned with how they play than the score and Steve hit it right on the head – impressive. Now just think what it will be like with Dempsey and Holden (when healthy). I just got goose bumps.

  5. tarotsujimoto74 - May 28, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I was just pleased to see goals being scored and handling an opponent that should have been easy to handle.

  6. footballer4ever - May 28, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    I root passionately for the USMNT and this win against Scotland can only lift the confidence level in the short term. The overhype by some people is what concerns me. I was pleased with the style play shown, but can they duplicate that against a Brazil, regardless of the final score. Can they keep that style against a Mexico at the Azteca or in San Jose against Costa Rica? Noone is trying to be a party-pooper, but i want to see a consistent US team no matter what the final score is. A team we can all feel confident when on the pitch regardless who’s playing or not. I hope these games prepare the US to get to the next level needed to at least consistently become the king of Concacaf which they’ve lost a big chunk of ground .

    • section1guy - May 28, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      What was our record against European teams in general before Klinsy? I know it was some crazy streak, right?

      Well we’ve won five games in a row including a victory over Italy, a huge win over Scotland, and a win over Slovenia. That’s three european teams in a row with victories and impressively.

      Are they Spain and Germany? No, but we beat Spain in a competitive match. We should’ve beat Brazil too.

      The US is not a world soccer power, but significant strides have been made. I don’t know why people have a problem saying that.

  7. footballer4ever - May 28, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    @ Section1guy- great strides is one thing, but until US teams can do a streak win in significant tournaments, then those “friendly” wins become pointless in a way. By the way, the standard and goals have been set higher every year as it should as to not become complacent.

  8. greej1938l - May 29, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    @footballer. Winning is never pointless in anyway especially with mens us soccer.

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