Jurgen Klinsmann's hiring as United States manager was met with great excitement. After five years of being tempted by the possibility of his being hired, U.S. fans finally had the man they wanted and expectations were through the roof.
Things did not go as planned early in the Klinsmann era. A draw against an understrength Mexico wasn't too bad, even if they got outplayed, but then came losses to Costa Rica and Belgium. A draw against Honduras raised hopes again, but then the U.S. followed that up with losses to Ecuador and France. The Klinsmann era was a bonafide failure, or not. As Klinsmann continued to remind people, it was "a process" and results in friendlies were insignificant. It was all about building for World Cup qualifiers.
The U.S. closed out 2011 with a 3-2 win over Slovenia so then they could at least start 2012 trending up. With none of their European based players with the team, the Americans beat similarly understrength Venezuela and Panama. Finally came the big match, at Italy in a stadium that the Azzuri were seemingly invincible. Clint Dempsey struck for a goal and the defense held out, giving the U.S. a 1-0 win over the Italians, their first statement match under Klinsmann.
Here the U.S. is, winners of four straight, but if the losses were insignificant then the wins are too, right? Not quite. Nobody is going to call friendly wins a big deal, but confidence means something and right now the Americans are riding high. With just three friendlies separating the U.S. from the start of World Cup qualifying, some major momentum wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.