US SoccerUS Soccer
USA vs. ATG Game Preview

Jurgen Klinsmann Conference Call Transcription

U.S. Men’s National Team Quote Sheet
Pre-Russia Friendly Teleconference with Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann
Nov. 1, 2012

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
Opening statements:
“We are looking at a year, 2012, that was extremely busy but also extremely successful. I think it was quite an interesting year for all of us, starting the year going to Italy and beating Italy for the first time ever in Italy and having some special highlights this year like Mexico, winning the other first time ever, and then going through the first round of qualifiers which was very tough and difficult, as expected. But it was a good year but we want to finish it off on a high note in Russia. I kind of connected that game at the very beginning of the year with Dick Advocaat, when he was still the coach there. Now it’s Fabio Capello so we expect a very interesting game there against a side that is probably one of the top five or six teams right now in Europe, doing very well. And, obviously, there is the question of why we are playing in Krasnodar. That was totally up to Russia to choose the site. They chose the site before they had actually chosen the World Cup venues so at the point they chose Krasnodar, it was still one of the sites for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It gives us, at least, a little bit of a warmer climate in Krasnodar than maybe in St. Petersburg or in Moscow.

“The year was highly interesting. We had, overall, about 45 or 46 different players going through the program. We tried to evaluate every one of them and take a closer look at them. I think our player pool is getting bigger, which is needed. It needs to get bigger because of 2013 ahead of us. It’s been great to see some people breaking into the team, making a mark. Some youngsters, whether it’s a Joe Corona, Danny Williams, Fabian Johnson or Graham Zusi coming through the ranks now, too. It’s also good to see players on an individual level stepping it up with their club teams, getting to bigger clubs and more meaningful competitions and in environments where they are even more under pressure and challenged and we’re curious to follow them throughout their whole season to see how they’re doing there.”

On Landon Donovan’s public comments and where he sees Donovan:
“That is probably a better question for Landon. I mentioned a couple of times that I find it very courageous of him to talk openly about what is going through his mind. I can understand all those thoughts so I just try to pick him up every time a game comes a long and the way that I try to understand his personal situation, which I do with every player out there because every player is a special individual person, so I try to adjust and understand everybody’s individual needs and issues. He’s carrying his topic with him since quite a while. What we are doing at the same time is trying to develop a very strong team ahead of the Hexagonal for 2013 and, especially, hopefully, once that job is done, towards Brazil 2014. It’s really down to himself, what he wants to further achieve in his career, what he wants to do and whatever he decides to do will be very respected by us and therefore it might be easier to get that answer from  him, directly.”

On whether or not he expects Donovan to be part of the team during the Hexagonal and other games in 2013:
“Absolutely. Things can change overnight in our environment. Football is just living in the present and it’s all about the future, what you want to achieve. Whatever happens during the next couple of months or during 2013, we will always adjust to it. We will always bring in the strongest team we have into our games and we will slowly develop a culture and chemistry on the National Team that is able to do really well in the World Cup down the road. It’s an on-going process that we’re going through. It’s similar to Landon going through his career in a process where one day you feel sharper and fitter than another day. For us, with the National Team, we just need to evaluate all the players constantly. Whether we are happy with them, we will tell them that. If we are not so happy, we might leave them out. We just adjust to the specific situations based on the timeframe that we have. We are all going to see how this will work out in 2013. As I said in the beginning, we widened our player pool especially because of a very busy and hectic 2013 ahead of us. When one player is not there, it’s the chance for another player to step in and make a case for the squad, and that’s what happens. We’ll all be curious to see how it continues.”

On what he plans in December and January, and in the weeks leading up to the first match of the Final Round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup:
“We are right now discussing the entire approach for January. It’s a bit tricky because we don’t have the schedule yet. We want to wait until next week when we finally have the schedule for the qualifiers, to see whether it starts with a home game on Feb. 6 or there’s an away game. I’m in touch with quite a lot of coaches from Major League Soccer about the topic of a January camp that was traditionally set up. We’ll need to figure out what is the best way to approach it. It also depends on the roster for that February 6 game, how many Europeans, how many MLS-based players, it depends on the MLS calendar for next season so there’s still a bit of homework to get done. We haven’t finalized it yet and Sunil and I wanted to have a deeper discussion and then everybody involved, over the next 10 days, once we finally have our schedule for the hexagonal.”

On whether he has encountered any difficulty getting players for the game against Russia despite it being a FIFA date:
“So far we are all good. I discussed with MLS that whoever is still in the playoffs with MLS won’t be considered for our Russia game. Only the players that are not part of the playoffs anymore are considered for our Russia trip.”

On if there was a feeling that Landon was faking injuries inside the U.S. team?:
“No, that hasn’t been the feeling inside the team. Every time he had injury issues or problems and couldn’t come in for games, we just took the information straight from him. We believe him. When he has a problem, he has a problem. From our end, there is absolutely no problem at all. It is a team sport environment and the National Team is the most profile team in the country. There are hungry fights going on for spots. I don’t know if he has a feeling that maybe some players didn’t buy in, but I didn’t see that. I always told him we take it exactly the way it is and make the best out of it, which we did in 2012. I think we had overall an outstanding year with whoever was involved in every individual game. We missed Michael Bradley here and there, we missed Clint Dempsey here and there, and we missed key players in many games and still had an outstanding year. If that’s Landon thought, than he can obviously talk about it. It’s no problem.”

On the fan interest in Landon Donovan and whether he will reach out to Donovan or wait for Donovan to contact him:
“I was with him in Miami before the last World Cup qualifiers and then he had to pull out. Now he is going into the playoffs. I let him do his playoff games and I hope, for him, that he gets as far as possible with his team, the Galaxy. I will definitely, then, once he has a moment, reach out to him and meet for lunch or dinner with him and talk through his thoughts.”

On how satisfied he is with the development of depth in the back line:
“I feel comfortable with it. I think we saw a very impressive year by Geoff Cameron, not only with Houston Dynamo and now with Stoke, but also in our environment. He kind of fought his way into that team and now he seems to be set in the center back role. We obviously still have Oguchi Onyewu, who played his first game for Malaga, 90 minutes, in the loop. Carlos [Bocanegra] as the captain is always giving you all the experience he has and Clarence Goodson is there as well. I mentioned it a few times that I see Maurice Edu as a possible center back going forward. He played a good game in Mexico, where we won. It’s going okay. There are still some other players in the loop as well coming through MLS, like an Omar Gonzalez or a Matt Besler, or if it’s a Tim Ream that plays with Bolton Wanderers. I think we having a good amount of guys fighting for the center back position and I feel comfortable. I think we took a big step forward with having [Fabian] Johnson as a left back. It gives us a completely new element there, a player that can go forward, is fast and is a very good defender as well. It’s coming along. I’m fine with the process.”

On whether he has been in contact with Timothy Chandler:
“I’m in contact with him. I always told him to take it at his pace. It’s similar to Landon. They have to make their own decisions sooner or later and they will do that. Timmy knows that. He is going through learning years in the Bundesliga. I’m in touch with his coach as well. He is maturing. He is getting more experience and he’s getting more focused. We are in touch and we respect his decision so far that he was not part of the qualifiers, but the World Cup is coming along pretty soon. We’re already going into 2013, so it’s totally up to him how fast the decision on his end will be made.”

On whether the decision to not have a January camp would indicate that he is satisfied with the current player pool or whether he needs to identify new faces in January to build the roster for the spring:
“We are always looking for new faces. We want to dig into the MLS player pool and we want to see where the players are. We’re constantly watching games. I’m in touch with the coaches. We want to help the Under-23 generation that went through a tough 2012 because of not qualifying for London. There is a big case to be made for the January camp. What we need to sort out is, maybe we reduce the time of the camp or lead the camp into that Feb. 6 fixture date so we start it much later, like in the middle of January, and go straight into that Feb. 6 date. Obviously, going through all the names that are out there, we have seen an exciting 2012 MLS season with a lot of names breaking through. You are absolutely right, if you find another Geoff Cameron in that moment, that’s big. That’s why I wanted from an organizational point of view, just wait until we have the draw next week and then talk that through with Sunil [Gulati] and some people about how we do that.”

On whether he still thinks MLS players should go on loan and continue to play throughout the winter:
“We said that because we wanted to shorten the winter break, which already happened with this season. The MLS season is going longer so the break is shorter for the players, so that’s great from the MLS side. We feel comfortable with the break they have now going forward. The other thing is that if a player wants to go overseas and wants to have a training experience, it’s no problem at all to get that organized and get it hooked up. Overall, from a schedule point of view, we are fine with how it is laid out right now.”

On whether he’s been in contact with U.S. forward Jozy Altidore since the World Cup qualifiers:
“We’ve had no further contact since then and I haven’t made up my mind yet if I’ll call him in for Russia.”

On if he’s worried about younger players missing opportunities to play and the likelihood of a January camp:
“It’s an important point to get your hands on those younger guys and see where they’re at. We follow them through the entire year, whether it’s Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, who got injured or Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson and all the kids involved in the Olympic qualifying disappointment. It is an important point to consider a January camp for them. At the same time, we look at them to see how they dealt with that disappointment. Some dealt very positively, like Sean Johnson or Joe Corona – they fought their way through – or a Mix Diskerud overseas. Some of them struggled a bit more like Juan Agudelo or Brek Shea with injuries, and Teal Bunbury got injured as well. In 2013, there will be plenty of opportunities for those youngsters to show what they’re capable of. In May, June, July we have World Cup qualifiers, friendly games, Gold Cup – there are definitely opportunities coming up for them to show what they can do.”

On how much influence he has on the site selection for training and if he’s changed his mind on bigger stadiums versus smaller venues:
“Every location will be chosen by us through an entire discussion with Dan Flynn, Sunil Gulati and myself and having a couple people decide what’s best. I don’t have any problems if a stadium is bigger. We just try to get as much home support as possible, which is logical. (You want) to have the fans as the 12th man behind the team. It worked great in Columbus and Kansas and there are many other stadiums throughout the country that are great to play in. Tampa is great to play in as well. It’s really just to consider game-by-game what is best for us and what is suited the best. It is not a decision that I make myself. We have a discussion within U.S. Soccer and hopefully we make the right decisions there knowing that we can’t make everyone happy.”

On the different opinions from media and fans every time he announces a new roster for a match or camp:
“We all enjoy that because it shows you that soccer is growing in the U.S. at a very fast pace. The interest overall is getting bigger. We have television soccer channels, we have radio stations and the internet. There is so much interest in the game now that it’s awesome. If people discuss every roster and every individual player to a big extent I think it’s great. The more people discuss it and the more opinions that are out there, I love it. There are other National Team coaches out there that maybe would’ve chosen different players, but I think it’s good here in the U.S.”

On if he’ll continue calling Landon Donovan up to the National Team or wait for him to reach out:
“Landon is always in our roster or especially the preliminary roster that we have to send out to clubs two weeks in advance. Depending on the playoff situation, once he’s done with the playoffs we’re going to sit down and talk anyway. He’s always in our plans.”

On the progress he has seen in the team’s playing style in 2012:
“It is a work in progress and a positive work in progress. We’ve tried to push up the back line further and further, we’ve tried to play in the opponent’s half more and more and we try to keep the ball and rotate and play one-two touches fast. This is a process that will take time. I’m pleased with the process. The players understand with every camp we are together they understand better and better.”

On facing Russia on the road and how he will use the friendly to prepare for the Hexagonal:
“The approach is that it’s another learning opportunity against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. In a different environment, the approach was also to play that game in Europe so that all our European players don’t have to fly back again after recently being in the World Cup qualifiers. The distances will be shorter for those players. If we see that there is an opportunity to break in another player or invite somebody that wasn’t part of the roster yet, we might do that, but it’s up to how things end up in MLS and who I have available from MLS. We can only put the final roster together in a week, pretty much. Every time you have an opportunity like that and go into these countries to play Italy or Russia or other big nations, you’ve got to take that opportunity. We got there and try to play a good game and get a win, but we want to see how the players connect and the chemistry develops within the team and we get a lot of good information out of a short, three-day camp.”

On Major League Soccer’s 2012 season and the potential for U.S. MNT talent competing in the MLS Playoffs:
“I think MLS deserves a huge, huge compliment. I think it has been very competitive and also high quality season. I think you see teams that really try to play the game the right way, playing out of the back, keeping the ball on the ground, playing 1-2 touches, nice combinations and teams playing high-pressured games. There’s a lot of energy there. I think the crowds in the stadiums have been tremendous, so I think it’s been a successful MLS season. The most exciting part is the playoffs right now. Our coaching staff is looking all over the place to find players that break through, players that take more leadership roles in their clubs, players that can get ready for the senior national team level. We have an eye on them. Giving you names would not be the right thing because we don’t even know if they would be available for the Russia game. They’re in their playoffs and they are very focused on their teams at the moment.”

On the U.S. Men’s National Team’s identity:
“I think that we’re trying to develop a team that is highly competitive for 2014 for Brazil. I think we try to become more proactive. We try to implement the style that we want to play, hopefully more and more toward the opponent. Obviously if we play Spain, it’s going to be a different story. Overall, we want to step it up ourselves and be more confident. I think we are on the path right now. We need to get qualifying out of the way and get the job done there. I think we’re gaining experience and our players are getting to another level on their club teams, a lot of them. That means they’re stepping up and getting better. They’re gaining more confidence about their individual game and at the same time you have MLS growing and getting stronger, so I think overall we’re heading in the right direction.”

On evaluating the team following the first round of qualifying heading into the hexagonal:
“You learn from every game, especially from the game in Jamaica, which created a more difficult situation for us. It was unnecessary because we gave away cheap free kicks and paid the price. We had to play to the last game to get things done. It shows you how difficult the process is and shows you the players need to approach those qualifying games with 100 percent of the right attitude and the right approach and be focused and sharp. We expect the hexagonal to be exactly the same. We’ve got to go into Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras with the mentality that you are spot-on once you get on the field. I think that if the players are aware of that like they were the last two, three games they got the job done, then we will also qualify for Brazil in 2014.”