Shep Messing, former championship goalkeeper with the New York Cosmos, believes the United States has a chance to advance from the Round of 16 all the way to the World Cup finals.
He just doesn't think the U.S. coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, has done much to help the cause.
Appearing on ESPN Radio's "The Ian O'Connor Show" on Sunday morning, Messing, who helped the Cosmos of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia to the 1977 North American Soccer League title, was critical of Klinsmann, who said before the start of the World Cup that it was "just not realistic" for the Americans to talk about winning the tournament. Klinsmann, a former World Cup player and coach for his native Germany, had also told The New York Times Magazine in December that the U.S. "cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet."
"I'm not a fan of Jurgen Klinsmann," Messing said, before referring to the coach's comments about the Americans' chances -- or lack thereof -- to win the World Cup. "And that's the most anti-American thing in sports you can ever hear a coach say. Now maybe he just said it and went back into the locker room and told his guys, 'Hey guys, I was just taking the pressure off you.'....I've never heard a coach say that to me in my life and I've never thought that. Maybe it's just a great psychological ploy by him."
Messing also took issue with Klinsmann's decision to put seven dual nationals on the U.S. team, including five German-Americans raised overseas.
"I'm not a guy who's a fan of his roster selection, of bringing in dual-citizenship players at the last minute to represent your country," said Messing, now calling World Cup games for ESPN Radio. "But look, it is what it is. It's a bunch of guys in the locker room led by Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, and these guys don't quit....I'm not a fan of [Klinsmann's], but I'm a fan of the team."
The U.S. plays Belgium on Tuesday in the Round of 16, and Messing said the Americans' hopes revolve around improved play from a struggling Michael Bradley, and near flawless play from Tim Howard, whom he called one of the top five goalkeepers in the world.
"We have a real shot," Messing said. "If we beat Belgium, and maybe the Swiss beat Argentina, we can end up playing Mexico in the semifinals to go to the World Cup finals. So anything can happen. You've just got to get out of the group. I think if you're a U.S. fan, you can be optimistic."