Column: Great night for US _ against Belize

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 10, 2013 at 3:14 am •  Published: July 10, 2013
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But little more than three months later, Klinsmann has his team on top of the region's World Cup qualifying group and within easy reach of a spot in Brazil for 2014. Between qualifying matches and friendlies, the United States is riding six-game winning streak. They still retreat into a defensive shell against better teams, for the most part, but they've won at home and nearly every match they're supposed to — and as they did again against Belize — played some very attractive soccer along the way.

Klinsmann took heat for casting aside veterans such as Carlos Bocanegra and, for a while, Landon Donovan, for a revolving-door approach to the roster that has resulted in nearly 30 different lineups during his tenure, and even for involving himself too deeply with the national team's youth development programs. The experiment is a long way from over, let alone successful.

But what's coming into focus already is the depth of Klinsmann's ambition. He's relied on most of the core players that Bradley did, but has mixed and matched them with young and old teammates of differing abilities and experience levels in search of a style that will succeed in Brazil and beyond. In short, rather build a team, he's determined to build a program with the kind of continuity familiar to fans of Spain, Italy, Brazil and Argentina, but unseen on these shores so far.

The jury will be out for some time on that one. For all the arrows that are pointing in the right direction at the moment, it's important to remember this was still Belize.

"A little disappointed to give up a goal," said Donovan, who's been on fire in the two since his return to the team, "but I think it was a great night for us, a great night for the fans and a good start for the tournament."

Right. But remember, that's all it was.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke@ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.