PHILADELPHIA – Jurgen Klinsmann sent a message in his U.S. coaching debut without saying a word. He stripped the names off the back of the jerseys and assigned Nos. 1-11 for the starters and 12-18 for the reserves.
He wanted the Americans to know that all that mattered was representing their country.
Klinsmann's debut is out of the way, and now the real work begins.
Klinsmann's first game coaching U.S. soccer was bolstered by Robbie Rogers' tying goal late in the second half to help the Americans salvage a 1-1 draw against Mexico on Wednesday night.
"It was a special moment," Klinsmann said. "It was a special moment before the game, listening to the anthem and feeling the energy from the stadium and the players."
Oribe Peralta scored for Mexico in a rematch of the Gold Cup final.
Klinsmann kicked off a new era in American soccer less than two weeks after he was hired.
He needs more time to make his mark. Klinsmann only held three practices since he took over a program that needed a clear jolt from the top after years of lagging behind soccer's perennial powers.
The Americans, with a revamped midfield, have to develop a feel for each other and an understanding of what to expect out of Klinsmann.
Klinsmann surprised them with the new-look uniforms.
"It's a little bit of a signal that there's a fight going on for those numbers," he said.
Klinsmann, one of the greatest players Germany ever produced, was put in charge of making the U.S. competitive again. After reaching the round of 16 at last year's World Cup, the Americans took a step backward this year. They were routed by Spain in early June, upset by Panama in Gold Cup group play and then blew a two-goal lead against Mexico in the Gold Cup final, costing Bob Bradley his job.
Klinsmann's debut in the international friendly will be remembered for Rogers' goal and Brek Shea bursting onto Lincoln Financial Field with a bundle of energy.
"We wanted to see a performance with energy and excitement and with the goal that the fans were really going to enjoy their team," Klinsmann said.
Rogers tied it in the 73rd minute when he tapped in a nice crossing pass from the 21-year-old Shea. Rogers had just subbed in for Michael Bradley, playing for the U.S. team for the first time since his father was fired.
"I have really enjoyed played for Jurgen," Rogers said. "He has a lot of confidence in us, and to get that goal made me feel good. I had just entered the match so it was a little surprising. I'll take it."
That goal was good enough for the 30,138 fans who saw the U.S. earlier blow what had been their only true scoring opportunity.
The U.S. nearly tied the score at the 56-minute mark, but Carlos Bocanegra's header off Landon Donovan's corner kick was turned away by Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa kicked away a soft rebound and Mexico stayed in control.
Just not for long.
Mexico struck first when Peralta got fired a crossing pass past Bradley in the crease, and goalie Tim Howard could not make the save for a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.
"I think we are building something great here," Howard said.
The U.S. failed to put offensive pressure on Mexico had no shots or corner kicks in the first half. Led by Shea, The U.S. turned it around with a spirited second half.
"We certainly have larger goals ahead for our club," Shea said. "This was a good step forward, but there is plenty of work to do."
Until Rogers and Shea sparked them, it looked like the U.S. picked up where it left off against Mexico.
The Gold Cup loss to Mexico was a sign that the U.S. team's progress had stalled under Bradley. The U.S. almost hired Klinsmann twice — first after the 2006 World Cup and again last year before giving Bradley what turned out to be a short-lived contract extension.
This time, the Americans got their man. Klinsmann clapped and exhorted his players from the sideline, all while starting the process of evaluating what exactly he has to work with.
This was a "friendly," the first since 2008, but it was hard to tell when a brief skirmish broke out in the first half. These are the two best teams in CONCACAF, and it's a heated rivalry whenever and wherever they play. Mexico has only beaten the U.S. twice on U.S. soil since 2000, but the wins have been in the past two Gold Cup finals.
Those games are gone. Klinsmann cares only about what's ahead — a first game with plenty of positives.
"I think we can be very satisfied with that performance," Klinsmann said. "It was great to see some young players stepping into this team and being guided by the experienced ones. The spirit and the energy from the experienced ones, it's fun to watch. It's enjoyable to see how they go for it."