COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jurgen Klinsmann was thrilled by the boisterous sellout crowd that stood the entire match on Tuesday night.
What the US national team coach loved even more about his first visit to Crew Stadium was the pristine grass that allowed his team to move the ball quickly without the trepidation that help stymie them during a surprising 2-1 loss at Jamaica last Friday.
Faced with essentially a must-win in the World Cup qualifying rematch, the Americans dominated play on Tuesday night, but needed a 55th-minute free kick from Herculez Gomez to claim a 1-0 victory before 23,811 fans.
“That crowd out there in Columbus gave us tremendous support, a tremendous atmosphere,” Klinsmann said at the postgame press conference. “That pushed the players. Every one of us really appreciated that. That was fantastic.”
The US outshot the visitors 10-3, and while the Yanks were credited with just two shots on goal, they hit both posts and the crossbar in the first half.
“The team did really well,” he said. “What you saw the first 30 minutes was outstanding. The only thing missing was scoring goals. Posts, unfortunately, don’t count.”
He credited the US success in part to simply being able to handle the ball.
“In Jamaica, you couldn’t pass the ball around because it was bumpy in the middle,” Klinsmann said. “It was impossible to control the ball with one or two touches. Tonight, we knew the surface was there. It’s far easier to play a cleaner, technical game.”
Yet, the US couldn’t get the breakthrough goal for nearly an hour despite the exhortations of the coaching staff.
“We wanted the players to know our sense of urgency,” Klinsmann said. “The players played that way. That sense of urgency helped us.”
Before the start of the second half, Klinsmann told the players to remain positive in the face of the numerous missed chances.
“You can’t get frustrated,” he recounted. “Don’t get frustrated. Stay hungry for the next one that comes.
“We said at halftime, ‘We’ve got to keep pushing. We’ve got to force it.’ You have to force you own luck and it came from a beautiful free kick from Herculez.”
That the shot from 25 yards went off the hands of Dwayne Miller illustrated his point.