Alexi Lalas will be the first to admit that he’s been critical of Jurgen Klinsmann over the years. In fact, he’ll be the first to admit that he’s been highly critical of Jurgen Klinsmann over the years. But he also thinks he’s been more than fair to the U.S. men’s national team coach.

He also agrees with Klinsmann’s comments about the Americans’ underdog status – or lack thereof – going forward, at least in the short term.

“Jurgen Klinsmann the other day said he’s sick and tired of this U.S. men’s national team and that narrative of them being the underdog,” Lalas, a FOX Sports 1 soccer analyst, said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Well, you know what? You won the group, you play against Ecuador, you’re hosting the tournament and you’re playing in Seattle. Jurgen Klinsmann has more talent at his disposal, more depth, more resources, more power, more titles and more leash than any national team coach in history. You know what? You aren’t the underdog against Ecuador, and I expect this team to go out there on Thursday and to win this quarterfinal game against Ecuador and to go on to the semifinals.”

Indeed, the U.S. will face Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals this Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET. at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

The Americans, who opened the Copa America with a disappointing 2-0 loss to Columbia, beat Costa Rica 4-0 and Paraguay 1-0, to win the group. The U.S. beat Paraguay on a beautiful cross from Gyasi Zardes to Clit Dempsey in the 27th minute and then played down a man for almost the entire second half after DeAndre Yedlin was sent off.

Nevertheless, the U.S. advanced. It’ll be interesting to see how far they can go, especially since Brazil didn’t survive group play.

Overall, though, Lalas would like to see more consistency from the Americans.

“I don’t think we lack the physical abilities when it comes to finishing,” Lalas said. “I do think that at times we don’t consistently have what we saw Gyasi Zardes, for example, do the other day. Look, Clint Dempsey is as good in the box as anybody. If you look back in history, you got a guy like Brian McBride, who I would put in the box any day of the week on any team and be confident that you’re going to finish it off. I think when you look at this team and you assess whether it has progressed and whether it has played differently, it’s a real belief that the U.S. is going to be able to dictate the flow of the game – and I’m not sure that has necessarily happened under Jurgen Klinsmann. So I’ve given up trying to assess Jurgen Klinsmann with this living up to having a brand new way of playing, a more proactive (style), to use his word. Right now, all I care about is that when the U.S. team takes the field under Jurgen Klinsmann that they become a better version of themselves. I think you’re seeing that to a certain extent.

“I don’t really care how the team beats Ecuador on Thursday,” Lalas continued. “I just care that they figure out a way to do it, and if they do it by going back to the past and using all of those attributes that have been part and parcel of the U.S. team, that’s okay with me. You got to tweak it and you got to be a better version of it, but that’s okay. Because to me, that’s a type of progress. Is it living up to being a completely proactive and different type of team? No, but I think that’s not going to happen, certainly not in the short term right now.”


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