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Is Klinsmann's gamesmanship really in US players' DNA?

Landon Donovan vs. Scotland

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

LANDOVER, Md. — US manager Jurgen Klinsmann may have made an appeal for gamesmanship, nastiness and the ability to work referees during matches. But is it even possible? Does the American soccer player's DNA allow for it?

The most iconic soccer players of this generation doesn't necessarily think so.

“It’s not really in our character as Americans,” Donovan told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We try to play the game fair. We don’t really dive. We don’t do those kind of things."

Well, then Klinsmann has one tall order he's faced with. And he admitted as much during an emotional rollercoaster of a postgame press conference after Wednesday night's 4-1 exhibition loss to Brazil at FedEx Field.

"Obviously, we don’t want to change the characters [of the players]," he said. "But [nastiness] needs to be developed, certainly. How? I don’t know yet."

WATCH: Klinsmann talks "nasty"

Klinsmann indicated that it started with the way US players work referees. He feels they don't do enough of it and his captain partially agrees.

"If you watch big teams in the world, when there is a call going against them and Barcelona is one of them," Klinsmann said. "They come with 10 guys toward the referee and the referee is confused and he doesn’t even know who to show a yellow card. And I think we just need to be stronger to make our case that 'this is not alright' and be more confident in certain moments."

"Yeah, maybe we can work the ref a little bit better," Carlos Bocanegra told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "But in that first one [the PK call for a hand ball against Oguchi Onyewu], I’m not going to sit here and hammer the refs all day. It’s done. We carry on with it."

But "carrying on with it" is not exactly what the manager is proposing. He wants a different edge to his players.

The US boss' eyes widened when he said "[hurting people] is what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to do that at the end of the day." For all the smiles over the last 10 months, he showed his teeth in a different way here and for a moment you witnessed that nastiness he spoke of with a simple snarl.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard sees where his manager is coming from. The question is whether his other US teammates do.

"We ruffled their feathers on some really good, clean, hard plays and I agree with him in the fact that maybe we need to do that from the opening whistle and stamp our authority on the game,” Howard said. “I understand what he’s saying.

"That needed to probably start earlier on," Howard continued. "We probably needed to try to impose that will and then turn it into a scrap earlier than we did. Yeah, I agree with that."