NEW YORK — Over the past two weeks, with the naming of the US’s World Cup roster, interest in the US national team has exploded. The omission of Landon Donovan and the surprise inclusions of the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks saw the USMNT become frontpage news on SportsCenter, CNN, sports websites around the world, and, of course, on Twitter and Facebook.
Clearly, there is more attention on the 23 men Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen to take to Brazil than on any previous US team. Is there also more pressure?
“It’s amazing seeing everyone wanting to get involved, wanting to know what we’re doing, what it’s about, putting football on the map,” center back Omar Gonzalez said on Friday at a USMNT media event in midtown Manhattan. “I think it’s up to us to go to Brazil and get the job done and keep that effect rolling. So maybe there is a little bit of extra pressure. But, hey, that’s what we’re here for.”
Getting the job done — which, Klinsmann has suggested, means advancing to the knockout stages — will be no easy task. Most observers think the USA will struggle to advance from Group G, a.k.a., the “Group of Death,” which also includes African powerhouse Ghana, 3rd-ranked Portugal, and 2nd-ranked Germany.
Arguably, the tough draw might lower the heat on the team. After all, what does the side have to lose if they fulfill people’s expectations of not advancing? But veteran defender DaMarcus Beasley doesn’t see it that way.
“People are really starting to look at our team,” he said, “and they’re, like, ‘OK, we have a good team. We’re a big country. Now we need some results.’”
“We’ve already got a hell of a lot of pressure on our shoulders,” goalkeeper Tim Howard, who is about to feature in his second World Cup, said. “That didn’t add to it. It’s not been a problem. We’ve been focused. I don’t think guys have been rattled. Just the opposite.”
That seems to be the overriding message: The squad has weathered the media storm, and, just as was the case after last year's controversial Sporting News article, has brought the players together to start pulling in the same direction.
“[The players] know how important it is to get out of the group, to have a good World Cup," Beasley said. "Does it add a little pressure? Maybe. But I think the 23 guys in the locker room are ready for it.”