Klinsmann seems to have changed that, and players have become greatly committed to the team.

Team spirit has long been his strength, said CNN sports reporter Patrick Snell.

"It's not a team full of superstars," Snell said. "It's a team that never knows when it's beaten."

Klinsmann also handles the public well, Snell said. His candor about Team U.S.A.'s readiness served to downplay expectations.

He is a pro at controlling narratives, deflecting media hype away from players and onto himself. "I think he is a very shrewd manipulator of the media," Snell said.

The hero's shadow

"That bugs me," analyst Doyle said.

He feels like Klinsmann has contributed to media narratives he has grown tired of: The U.S. team is David; Germany is Goliath. Klinsmann is the savior.

"He's not the savior, and we don't need saving," Doyle said.

The team improved greatly in the 10-plus years before Klinsmann came along, and the new coach is building on that success, he believes.

The United States has shined in international tournaments, coming in first and second. It spent a decade fighting to get the upper hand on the formidable Mexican national team.

For all his real strengths, Klinsmann has some weaknesses, too, Doyle said. Some of his stints coaching professional teams have proved lackluster.

In Germany, Klinsmann has come under fire from current national team captain Philipp Lahm, who has said the current U.S. coach lacks tactical finesse.

And he has left some vulnerabilities in American team's lineup, when he had better alternatives at hand, Doyle said.

"A guy like Landon Donovan gets left at home. That frustrates me," he said.

The team has also made a serious consistent error.

"Four games in a row now after the 80th minute, we have given up a goal," he said.

In his eyes, Klinsmann is no better than his recent predecessors -- unless he beats Germany on Thursday. Do that, and all is forgiven. No more questions.

The moment of truth

The strengths of Germany's coach, Joachim Loew, fall right where Klinsmann's weaknesses lie. He is the master tactician and technician.

The two once made a great team -- they balanced each other out, when Loew worked under Klinsmann in 2006.

And they have become the closest of friends. Standing across from him, his former team and his native country will feel strange.

"Facing Germany, obviously, for me personally will be a very emotional situation," he said. "Having both anthems play before the game, looking at their bench."

The German press has reported that he will sing along with them. He has already taken a beating from disillusioned journalists there for singing "The Star Spangled Banner."

"Coach Jurgen Klinsmann obviously sings every national anthem," wrote one German news website.