Jurgen Klinsmann answers questions about the current US squad
By Kim Tate
U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann answered questions on Friday after U.S. Soccer released the most recent roster selections for the MNT's five game stretch beginning in late May with two friendlies: The first in Cleveland, Ohio, at FirstEnergy Stadium against Belgium on May 29th, and Germany on June 2nd at RFK Stadium in Washington DC.
The friendlies against Belgium and top ranked Germany will give the USA a chance to find their rhythm in a competitive enviornment before they play three World Cup qualifiers in 11 days. The team will travel to Jamaica to play the Reggae Boyz in the first qualifier of this stretch, and then head back to the states to wrap up their run. They face Panama on June 11th at Century Link Field in Seattle, Wash., and finally, Honduras on June 18th at Rio Tinto Stadium near Salt Lake City, Utah.
A few of Klinsmann's roster selections will be coming into camp late. Michael Bradley is playing for AS Roma against Lazio in the Copa Italia Cup Final on May 26, and is expected to come in on May 30. Edgar Castillo and Joe Coronoa are still playing with Xolos de Tijuana in Copa Libertadores and are expected to arrive the same day as Bradley. The timing for Herculez Gomez is unknown at this point, but is expected to file in around the same time.
Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson and Michael Parkhurst are in relegation battles with their overseas clubs and will come in in late May, as well.
Below is a sampling of Klinsmann's comments on various players and roster topics:
Klinsmann: Has been monitoring his progress and play with the LA Galaxy. They see him catching up and finding a rhythm; however, still feel as though he's not ready for group play. "There are players in this group that are ahead of him" and the positions in which he can play. Coaching staff will asses further and take it week by week or month by month, to determine whether Donovan has a chance to be called up for September qualifiers. If Klinsmann and staff feel he's ready, Donovan could see playing time in the Gold Cup.
Klinsmann: He has some catching up to do, but coaching staff are very optimisitc about Holden's return. He noted an ability to build a "special" team chemistry. In terms of playing, he is a fast thinker and his approach is simple. He knows how to position himself. He's always one thought ahead; a one-two touch player. He doesn't waste time dribbling. His ball control is in the right direction, and feeds consistently and precisely into the feet of a striker with ease.
Although Bocanegra has played seven straight, 90 minute games for Racing Santander, the question has come up several times. Why is he still not a choice for team USA?
Klinsmann: He is in constant contact with Bocanegra and expressed genuine good feelings toward the fact that he's back at full strength for his second division club. "It all comes down to positions we have to fill, currently," said Klinsmann. "I don't see Carlos as anything but a centerback." Klinsmann feels there are members of the current squad who are coming out of good performances against Costa Rica and Mexico, who are ahead of Bocanegra.
Klinsmann: Johnson can play left- midfield easily and could be considered in addition to left back. He's had two exceptional games in the previous World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, so it's a possibility they'll try a midfield positioning out against Belgium. Klinsmann noted that Johnson played the role successfully against Slovenia and cited him as one of the fastest in the Bundesliga.
Klinsmann: Williams' lack of playing time due to injury isn't too much of a concern right now. He's back in shape now, and has been training at full speed for two weeks. He also made mention of Williams' flexibility, and noted that he could be utilized on the right, which is good for them.
Bill Hamid and the Goalkeepers:
Klinsmann: Hamid and Sean Johnson are future goalkeepers who are being monitored and nurtured in their development. Over all, Tim Howard will be number one, Brad Guzan will be number two, and Nick Rimando will hold the number three spot, with Hamid and Johnson as four and five.
Klinsmann's response to a question on Bill Hamid's recent performance: "These guys need to know if they have a couple bad games, that doesn't mean they're out of the picture."
On overall roster:
Klinsmann: Sees this roster as high quality. Selection process goes position to position, and each is set up to have strong alternatives. Selection was based on consistency of playing style, and if necessary they can alter style based on available players. Klinsmann expressed efforts in developing a style that will ideally shift more and more forward. He noted it always comes down to quality of players, how they're performing and competing with their clubs on an individual level, and additionally in the context of this team as a whole.
On that note, he stated that working with MLS to get players released hasn't been an issue. The working relationship with MLS and each club is exceptional, with everyone trying to work hand-in-hand. He expressed the overall goal is to improve US soccer, so their cooperation only ensures that his and the Federation's goals are attainable in doing so.
Play on the wings and wide players providing enough service to the forwards:
Klinsmann emphasizes the need for creating more chances is "crucial." He notes that Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City, MLS) and Joe Corona (Xolos de Tijuana, Liga MX) can both play well on the right . DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Liga MX) can play full back or wing in the midfield. There are also options in Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo, MLS) and Brek Shea (Stoke City in EPL via FC Dallas, MLS.) Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders, MLS) is a strong player on the left.
On Major League Soccer vs. European clubs:
Klinsmann: The goal is to improve the product year by year in the U.S. and to make it a year-round season, playing 10-11 months out of the year. A longer schedule will allow for them to be truly competitive with the rest of the world.
Training camp for the upcoming matches officially begins on May 26 in Cleveland, Ohio, ahead of the first game of the five-game stretch against Belgium.