The Americans and Germans could play for a tie on Thursday, and both teams would still advance. Jurgen Klinsmann, the American coach, has said that isn’t the plan, that his team will play to win. And Ben Olsen — a former World Cup participant for the U.S., and D.C. United’s current coach — would argue that’s the only way the Americans know.
“It’s not really in our DNA, is it?” Olsen said in Tuesday interview with NBC Sports Radio’s Eytan Shander. “We’re talking about guys that grew up in this country, the same country where fans are like ‘That’s not good enough, you just tied Portugal, that’s [BS],’ excuse my language. It’s not in our DNA. It’s not in Jurgen’s DNA. I don’t think it’s in the Germans’ DNA. I think there’s some countries and some cultures [where] that might be in their DNA. But these are not the two countries that are going to call each other and say ‘Hey, let’s go for a draw.’
“Now, things play out, right?” Olsen went on. “There’s 10 minutes left in this game, it’s a draw, it’s pretty much spelled out, then maybe the foot steps off the gas a little bit. There can be that. But we’re not gonna, if we have a good chance, pull out of it. And Germany certainly isn’t going to not push forward and give their best to win the game.”
Olsen, as you’d expect, is fired up about the U.S. performance thus far. He suggested that many American fans may not appreciate how remarkable four points through two matches in the Group of Death have been. And he — like many diehard fans — is reveling in weeks of publicity for his sport.
“You get goosebumps,” Olsen said. “I mean, those of us that are soccer junkies, not only are they doing well, but the exposure that our sport is getting and the support that our sport is getting…is just something that we’ve waited a long time for. And each year that the Cup comes around, each four years, it seems to grow so big. The personalities that are out there, the public’s knowledge of the sport — of not only our players but the global game. It’s just a lot of fun to be a part of.
“I’m lucky to have been apart of some of that stuff, having been to a Cup,” Olsen said. “And I think the team that we have right now is what United States soccer is all about. The games have had no shortage of drama, and I think that has also helped this phenomenon of this country getting behind it right now.”
Of course, many will inevitably ask what this will mean for MLS moving forward. I’ve had international media members ask to interview me about whether the current surge of soccer interest and high television ratings will survive the end of the Cup, with its ESPN exposure and friendly start times during a blip in the normal sports calendar.
“The World Cup is a whole different animal,” Olsen observed. “It’s a whole different thing. How many of these people that are buying into the World Cup, how many of them are coming to a D.C. United game in three weeks or in a month when this is done, because they love soccer? Some. But not enough. So that’s part of this growth. And we’ve got to get those people to believe in our league and come out here and make sure they’re supporting us, and not just the global game.”
More from the World Cup: