Jurgen Klinsmann Q & A: “What’s exciting is always to find another two, three, four guys that will break into that inner circle of the senior team.”
Under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the January camp for the U.S. Men’s National Team has provided a launch pad for a handful of players who have become regular performers with the senior side. This year’s camp has added an interesting component as the team will travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in an effort to gain an advanced understanding of environs and circumstances it will face at this year’s World Cup. With places on the squad that will travel to Brazil still up for grabs, the January camp will set the tone for the competition to secure the remaining tickets to this summer’s World Cup.
Jan. 3, 2014
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: What went into the process of selecting the roster for this January camp?
Jurgen Klinsmann : “In putting together the January camp roster, we were looking at new talent coming through the ranks, young players coming through Tab Ramos’ pathway, and also players that we had previously in camp that we wanted to reevaluate. We looked at their entire season. Who had an impressive season? Who had a good run? We talked to coaches out there, obviously, because their opinions are very important to us. For us it’s a huge chance to see some players that we haven’t seen yet so closely. Other players we always had on the list and want to reevaluate them. Some of the guys are always part of the inner circle of the senior National Team.
“So, all these different elements come together. We are probably going to cut down to 23 players after one week of an evaluation process. We’re going to go down to Sao Paulo to test out the facilities down there. We are going to plan with 23 players doing that and maybe have the couple of guys who don’t make it now reconnect with us in the last week prior to our friendly game on Feb. 1 against Korea Republic.”
: How has the January camp helped players springboard to consistent success with the U.S. MNT?
JK : “I think the January camp always had a tremendous value to the senior National Team program already far before I came on board. It’s very important, especially for MLS players to get off vacation and start working again and get into a rhythm to build a foundation for the entire season of that upcoming year. Therefore, it’s extremely important for us to see with what attitude and with what physical base they present themselves in the January camp. Do they understand that in the offseason they have to work, they have to do something to stay decently fit?
“Already, the first week of January camp gives you a lot of answers. It shows you what they’ve done in the offseason, how prepared they are, how serious they are about their job. For the players, it’s exciting because they can come in and make an impression, they can really send out some signals, ‘Hey, National Team environment, I’m here, I’m ready for this! I want to show that I deserve to be part of that group going forward.’ If you see the last two years, a couple of players broke through because of the January camp into almost the starting lineup of the senior National Team. So, there’s a huge opportunity out there for the players coming in, and we want to see them take that opportunity.”
: What are the primary goals for the team and the staff for the two weeks you will be in Brazil?
JK : “Primarily we want to get the guys going and build their base for 2014 and we want them to have a jump start into this very exciting World Cup year. At the same time, it gives us the chance to train at the facility where we are going to train for the World Cup at FC Sao Paulo training ground, to stay at the hotel where we are going to stay. It’s meant to connect ourselves with Brazil, connect ourselves with the people that work there, with the circumstances you’re going to meet there and to get a real good feeling for how it’s going to be in June. It’s a tremendous advantage for us to do that trip. Therefore, we are going to focus on a lot of things in Sao Paulo off the field, not only on the field.”
: At the end of camp, the players have the reward of potentially playing against Korea Republic. How important is that match for this part of the year
and also moving forward into the summer?
JK : “It’s a huge opportunity. It’s going to be three-and-a-half, four weeks of work. You want to finish it off on a high note, you want to make an impression to the National Team coaching staff that you deserve to go to Brazil. So, no better way than having an official game, an official friendly with one of the best nations from Asia who is also going to Brazil this summer, and prove your point.
“I think it’s a different caliber this time. Often these games at the end of January camp don’t get the right value or the right recognition. I think in this case it’s different. ‘Shoot, I want to go to the World Cup.’ They sold already more than 15,000 tickets for this game, so hopefully it’s going to be a sellout game at the StubHub Center and a big opportunity for the players to prove their point.”
You and the coaching staff will work closely with the players during this initial camp, but you will not see a lot of them until the World Cup training
camp kicks off in May. What is your approach to monitoring them while they are with their club teams in the run up to this summer’s tournament
JK : “Five to six months out from the World Cup we try to be as close as possible to all the players no matter where they play. If they play in Europe, if they play in Mexico, if they play in MLS, we monitor them week in, week out. Right now, the Premier League and the Championship in England are still in full run. Those players are performing. We are happy, for example, with Brek Shea who made the jump over to a Championship team in order to get playing time. That’s what he needs. He doesn’t get that at Stoke City. We see how Geoff Cameron is doing at Stoke, he’s doing fairly well.
“We see that Jermaine Jones has a bit of a struggle with Schalke right now. It’s not his first one, so he will figure out a way to get out of that one. A move maybe somewhere else or maybe he finds his way back into the starting lineup with Schalke, which he often did. Obviously, we are pleased with Clint Dempsey, our captain, making the jump for two months to Fulham to get games in now. He had a very difficult couple of months because of injury and the transition back into MLS. I think it’s a great decision from Clint to start off the year in the right way going on loan for two months to Fulham, his old team. They need him to get them back up in the table of the league, and he will come already in good shape back into MLS. That is great! We see other players coming back, like Steve Cherundolo at Hannover.
“So, we all monitor them. Mexico is on its way to start again with our players down there. Then we have a big opportunity with the January camp to get the jump start for the MLS players. We are all over the place. We have Andi Herzog and Matthias Hamann in Europe being constantly on their way to games, to talk to players, and we do the same here. The next five months is constantly monitoring them, talking to them, and directly talking to their coaches to get the best opinion possible about what they’re doing. Then the closer it gets to the camp in May, the more difficult the decisions will be to leave somebody out.”
: In regard specifically to Clint Dempsey, what will you be looking for over the course of his loan spell?
JK : “He really read the situation well. When he came back to MLS, he didn’t have a preseason, he had no foundation. They just threw him straight in, which was understandable, and his base was not there yet for going 200 miles per hour. He understands that now, so now he builds the base the last couple weeks. Hopefully now he gets games with Fulham and then he comes in completely different shape back to MLS and continues that path towards the World Cup. It was very difficult for him, that transition. But it’s over; it’s way back. He plans it out now the right way and we are thrilled that he’s with Fulham. By the middle of May when the season stops in Europe and we get into camp for the World Cup, I think he’s going to be in tremendous shape.”
: What excites you the most heading into a camp where you’re going to have a group that you’ll get to mold for a month?
JK : “It’s really exciting to start working with players that don’t know what it really means to go to a World Cup, or what it means to be part of the Senior National Team program. That kind of educational part that we are going to play, to start working with them twice daily and then guide them throughout those couple weeks will hopefully give them a lot of messages about how to work on the field but also what it’s about to be a professional soccer player off the field.
“What’s exciting is always to find another two, three, four guys that will break into that inner circle of the Senior Team. This is the opportunity now. Prove it in the next four weeks that you should go. It’s a never-ending process. You always want to see the players taking the next step and challenging themselves for the next level and never be content with what they have achieved to this point.
“What’s also exciting over a period of three to four weeks of the January camp is to get to know them as people as well, not only on the field where we say, ‘He’s doing this really well, but here he has to improve,’ but also, how does he handle life off the field and what can we give him in order to improve it? It’s an exciting time for us and hopefully with a good test against South Korea that gets the people here in southern California excited!”