Jurgen Klinsmann: ‘There are going to be tough decisions’
With the start of training camp for the critical World Cup Qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico now a little more than a week away, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff are paying very close attention to the action around the world as they work to finalize the roster. In this interview with ussoccer.com, Klinsmann talks about the start of the seasons in Europe, how he will be evaluating players and the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
ussoccer.com: The seasons in Europe are just in the beginning stages. What has been your impression so far, and what are you looking for from the National Team players?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “The beginning stage of every season is always full of surprises and difficulties of getting into a rhythm, especially for the bigger teams. It takes about 4-6 weeks to really get going, but already if a team has a bad result people talk about a crisis (laughs). You have to have a high tolerance level at the start of the season for all the discussion.
“From an individual side, we want to see from the players that represent the U.S. team that they play and start to get a rhythm. If they are not playing from the beginning, it’s kind of a yellow flag for us. We talk to those players and try to get an explanation. We had the opportunity during the Bosnia trip to have some good talks with Tim Ream, Danny Williams and Michael Parkhurst to understand their situations. Going forward, our main consideration is if they are playing week in and week out in the top leagues in Europe. You basically monitor their games and also their minutes of playing time throughout the year to judge their sharpness and their playing level.”
ussoccer.com: How much of a factor will players getting minutes be in the roster decisions for next month?
JK: “It will impact it, no doubt about it. World Cup qualifying is very intense, and you need the players to be sharp and in full swing as much possible. It’s never going to be the ideal scenario. You always have to make some compromises here and there, especially based on what a specific game demands. Having said that, it’s crucial that the guys have their minutes in their legs and are ready for those types of intense games.”
ussoccer.com: The team has experienced very positive results throughout the summer in World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and the win in Bosnia. You’ve had the opportunity to use a variety of players in the process. What have you learned about the program in this time?
JK: “The pool became deeper. We have more flexibility. I think we have more players now that understand what the demands are, and actually fulfilled their roles very positively and are ready to match those demands. It’s been great to see how players came along over the last two years and make the decisions for us even more difficult. That’s a good thing. The tricky part now is how to unite the rosters from the Gold Cup and the games from May and June. There are going to be very tough decisions. There are players in every single position that are not far away from each other. Players all have their strengths and weaknesses, and if they are not called in for the games against Costa Rica it doesn’t mean that any of those guys are out of the picture by any means.”
ussoccer.com: What did you take away from the performance against Bosnia?
JK: “A lot of players are maturing and growing, and becoming very strong 24/7 professionals. You see the consistency they provided us over the last months – if it’s Jozy Altidore with the outstanding performances, the leadership role that Michael Bradley has grown into, the calm leadership of Tim Howard, the way younger players challenge themselves to get to the next level like Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya – players are really making a strong case moving forward. There are many, many positive takeaways. Even if we hadn’t won, I saw a lot of good elements. In the first half people thought because we were 2-0 down it was all negative, and it was not. I thought we played tactically a very good first half, as well. There’s a maturing process in our program, and our job is to keep it going and always push it every time we are together.”
ussoccer.com: With the final selections for the roster coming up, what will you and the coaching staff be focusing on in the next week?
JK: “We will monitor all the games over the weekend. If we have questions we will reach out to their coaches in order to get the best information about individual players, and then it’s going to be a tough roster to put together because everyone in a certain way throughout the last months has made a strong case for himself.”
ussoccer.com: One of the U.S. players who made a big move this summer is Jozy Altidore, and he had a strong performance in his first game for Sunderland. How do you view the move for Jozy?
JK: “We are all excited for Jozy getting into this Premier League season. We can watch him week in and week out. He will score his goals; I have no doubt about it. The professional approach he has developed in the last years will help him become a real strong Premier League player.”
ussoccer.com: As MLS season heads into the final push to the postseason, it’s an extremely tight race in both conferences for playoff spots. What has been your impression of the season?
JK: “It’s been an exciting season. It’s been an even season, and a lot things can still happen in the playoff race. It starts to pay off that you are at 19 teams in the league and most everyone is really competing for spots. For the players, it’s great to compete in high intensity, high pressure matches. Overall, a big compliment for how the MLS season is going.”
ussoccer.com: In Europe, the transfer sagas continue to make news. What’s your opinion of having the transfer window remain open even as the seasons are underway?
JK: “It’s wrong. There is plenty of time in the offseason for transfers to take place. It could be done by July 31 and it would be completely fine. It would be better for the players who are getting transferred, because they could still get in a little part of preseason with their new team. Now it just drags on until the beginning of September and teams are already in full swing. It messes everybody up, and it’s a lose-lose.”