SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — It's the question on everyone's mind after the US national team's dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina: What did US manager Jurgen Klinsmann say at halftime to spark the turnaround?
Down 2-0 in hostile territory after goals by world-class strikers Edin Dzeko (eighth minute) and Vedad Ibisevic (30th minute), things looked bleak for the Americans.
"I said at halftime that, 'We have a game here because I think we can play with Bosnia,'" Klinsmann said after the match. "We have a good team as well. We have players that play in Europe in big clubs, too. And to stay confident, stay calm and start to create your chances."
Simple enough. But there was also a change in tactics from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 with Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson paired up top. And then came the turning point just 10 minutes after the break.
"The key moment was obviously the first goal for us," Altidore said postgame. "This was a key. Because it turned the game around and everybody started to believe a little bit more that we could get a result sand I think the response from the guys was fantastic."
The tap-in goal by Seattle's Johnson off a touch from Altidore was the first of four unanswered tallies, including three by Altidore himself. It was a remarkable turnaround, especially when considering the Americans' inability to generate meaningful attacks in the first half.
"I don't think we were as comfortable as a whole, as a team," Altidore said. "We didn't create so much. And I think the two errors [on the Bosnia goals] made us lose confidence but I think in the second half we knew that we could play against Bosnia. We stepped up the tempo a little and I think we created enough chances."
Continued Klinsmann: "I think we had a little case for penalty in the first half [on Mix Diskerud in the 19th minute], I got a bit too much upset about it and then we had two or three good breakaway chances there, too. But then the goals came for us in the second half. It was an open game. But I think if you look at the entire game, I think we deserved to win today."
It was the sixth match on European soil in the Klinsmann era and after two losses by the minimum to Belgium and France (both 1-0 scorelines), the US are undefeated in four straight matches against Slovenia, Italy, Russia and Bosnia with a 3-0-1 record.
What's been the formula for the success?
"We learned to keep the tempo higher and higher like European teams do," Klinsmann said, "and we have players who can make a difference within a second like a Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson. Like a Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones in the middle.
"We're working on catching up. We want to break into the Top 15 in the world one day. We still have a way to go. But you can see that we are becoming more confident and we can really play the game. We came here to play, not to defend, not to counterbreak. We came here to play eye-to-eye and make the best out of it. Therefore we are very satisfied."