"The result, in this country that’s all that matters to a lot of people." - Jurgen Klinsmann, after the US Men's National Team's 4-0 win over Costa Rica.
After the United States Men's National Team victory against Costa Rica (they're biggest win in the history of the series with the 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists), Jurgen Klinsmann provided this gem of a quote to the post game press conference. Some have characterized this as standard Klinsmann media gamesmanship or an attack on the soccer knowledge of US fans and media types. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he wasn't actually whining that any progress in the team wouldn't matter because the chattering class only cares about wins and losses, the irony being that a lot of complaints about Klinsmann through his tenure have been about process. To me, it really appears like he was trolling.
Klinsmann has the best winning percentage of any coach in US history who has coached more than 5 games. For those not enamored with friendly wins (because wins in Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Germany were old hat in Pre-Klinsmann times), an examination of strictly competitive games produces a similar result leading into the Copa America- still the best winning percentage for a US coach in competitive matches. If results of all or even just few stripes were all that mattered, it's hard to imagine that there would be much complaining on account of his record judged strictly by results are good by US standards.
The nattering nabobs of negativism paint a much more gloomy tale, and if you think it's weird using a Spiro Agnew quote here (essentially ghost-written by William Safire), I'm guessing some of Klinsmann's critics wouldn't mind his ouster coming from a plea deal for tax evasion. To be fair, since the tournament has begun, one win and one loss by the US has actually driven Klinsmann's winning percentage slightly below Bob Bradley's (62.5% vs 63.4%), and that's actually an interesting parallel when legitimizing the rancor towards Klinsmann:
Klinsmann's record in competitive matches (W-L-T): 25-10-5
Bradley's record in competitive matches: 26-11-4
The match today against Paraguay will mark Klinsmann's 41st game in charge and will tie him with Bradley for 2nd all time in competitive matches coached for the United States. A loss today, would leave Klinsmann even with Bradley in the loss column with one fewer win and one more draw. And the parallels don't end there.
Bradley's run after the World Cup in 2010 did not go well. A series of friendlies after South Africa produced a dreadful 1-3-4 record leading into the 2011 Gold Cup which featured a loss to Panama and a defeat at the hands of Mexico to miss out on the Confederations Cup in 2013. While Klinsmann's post World Cup friendly record was not nearly as bad and featured some premium victories in Europe, things got dicey once the 2015 Gold Cup began. Never convincing, the US lost to Jamaica in the semifinals, tacked on a loss to Panama in the 3rd place game, and again lost out to Mexico in a playoff to go to the Confederations Cup. Klinsmann's record since the Gold Cup knockout rounds is 9-6-2, and though better, is hardly inspiring in that it features a few gimmes and a peach of a loss to Guatemala.
There are some pretty big differences. Bradley kind of became head coach by default whereas Klinsmann's been charged with revamping the whole culture of US Soccer, and in the breadth and furor of discontent, he's surely succeeded to some degree. The other big difference is that Bradley's team's failure to beat a good Mexico team in a de facto home game at the Rose Bowl. Klinsmann's charges will enjoy a strong, pro-US crowd in Philadelphia against a team in Paraguay that does not boast the same quality as 2011 Mexico did. That said, they should not be underestimated as an opponent.
Paraguay has made it to the knockout round in each of the last 3 Copa Americas. They have made it at least to the semifinals in the last 2 Copa Americas and were runner-ups in 2011. Suffice it to say, that if you see somewhere that they have a 1-6-9 record in their last 16 Copa America matches, you have to ask what reasonable person would produce that kind of stat since it's impossible to get to the semifinals in one tournament and the finals in the next without at least 3 wins.
The only way you come to this number is by calling victories won by penalty kicks a 'draw' and by picking their two worst results from Copa America 2007. While, it's technically true that a win after penalty kicks is counted as a draw for record keeping purposes, they did win a knockout game in 2015 and two knockout games in 2011. Paraguay's de facto record in Copa America since 2011, is 4-4-6. Paraguay's de facto record in Copa America since 2007 is 6-6-6. That's their real record in recent Copa America history, and their real record in CONMEBOL is that of a team that's in the middle tier- below Brazil and Argentia, but honestly, with a better track record of success than Colombia over the course of the last 20 years having qualified for four consecutive World Cups before losing out in 2014 qualifying.
Another misleading thing about Paraguay's recent record is that they've played only 5 home games since 2014 and only 10 since 2013. If anything, being on the road is the norm for this team, and the hostile environment will seems like a warm bath compared to most CONMEBOL venues (please be extra Philly today, Philly). That said, a result here seems pretty doable.
First off, all the US needs to do is not let Paraguay score. Outside of a miracle strike, Paraguay (which isn't to say no chances) hasn't scored. A focused defense can save the day. Second, for all the moans about Klinsmann's tinkering, he's rolled out the same starting lineup in consecutive matches. Neither game has been slop free, but neither has been horrible either. Maybe a third game will produce a little more chemistry in preparation for what looks to be a quarterfinal matchup with Brazil. Finally, simply rise to the occasion. The pressure's there, but it should seem like a warm blanket at this point. Be dangerous early, score early, coast to the finish line, and Klinsmann will go on to at least a 42nd competitive match in charge of the USMNT.