Jurgen Klinsmann and the coaching staff are busily preparing for the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico, ussoccer.com sat down with the U.S. head coach to get his thoughts on the growing relationship on the field with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. He also talks about the importance of the Under-20 Men’s National Team qualifying for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, updates the status of players heading into the March qualifiers, and discusses the start of the MLS season and what it means for the National Team. [LISTEN TO FULL PODCAST HERE]
Here are some of the highlights:
On the shorter offseason in MLS:
“We hope the players respond positively to it, that they feel, ‘OK, I can adjust easier or faster to a heavy rhythm of games.’ Once the season starts, they are traveling all over the place, playing games every three, four, five days. Also, mentally, you need to adjust so that hopefully, with the shorter offseason, it is easier for them to get back into that rhythm and their bodies adjust to it. It’s all about how fast you can recover from games, about how quickly they can regenerate and hopefully it makes them even stronger.”
On the significance of the U-20 MNT qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey:
“We’re all excited about the qualification for the Under-20 World Cup and it’s well deserved. I think we have a couple of individual talents coming through the ranks there, altogether it was very positive. I’m very happy for Tab Ramos who is doing a tremendous job.
On what the U-20 World Cup represents for YNT players:
“The Under-20 World Cup is a huge growing experience for these players. Playing there against all the other nations around the globe helps them, helps them develop, helps them to see if they’re still lacking some things and what’s the gap to other nations that may be better than we are. So it’s a big learning curve they’re going to take in Turkey.”
On what he looks for in U-20 players:
“Obviously we look at the individual talent, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they connect with each other. There are a lot of elements we talk about afterward with Tab Ramos because they’re the future a couple years down the road. We want to see them in the Men’s National Team and we want to see them play professional soccer here in MLS or overseas, so therefore we’re really pleased that they made the big step to Turkey (and the FIFA U-20 World Cup).”
On Jermaine Jones performing well in the UEFA Champions League and how that impacts the National Team:
“When they have the opportunity to play in Champions League, which is the crème de la crème, the top level you can play at in a club system, you want them to take that experience, and take that attitude, and take that desire and bring it back into the National Team environment. Jermaine is a guy that never stops. He’s always ready for the next step and the next challenge. He never shies away. His inner drive is unbelievable and this is what you need when they come into our environment. They have to adjust in different ways. CONCACAF is a very different tournament for him or any European-based player. They have to switch mindsets a little bit but you need their leadership, you need their experience and then hopefully they influence the atmosphere within your team in a way that everybody is full of confidence to face Costa Rica and Mexico.
On Michael Bradley’s good form and the partnership between him and Jones:
“It’s very crucial, the partnership between Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. It’s really important that they over time develop a real fine-tuned understanding that when one goes forward and is attacking, the other has to secure him and stay back. Here and there they both end up in the opponent’s penalty area and you leave kind of a hole behind. Those are things we would love to work on in the near future, when we play both next to each other and maybe we play without a number six that secures them. It only works if one stays and the other goes, and this is very important. Hopefully now we have the time and more training sessions before a game to work on that, and I think in time if we develop that fine-tuned understanding between these two guys then we have a big plus.”
On the potential availability of Landon Donovan when he returns to playing:
“We always have the approach in our environment that the door is always open. I’ve always said I have all the respect for what Landon did in his career … but we also told him that the team is developing, the team is moving on. He’s been barely a part of it since I took over almost two years ago, and therefore we’ll see where he’s at when he comes back into the game: what his rhythm is and what his shape is. How we look at him [and] how we evaluate him is different than how the Galaxy evaluate him because his role with us is a different one. So we’ll see where he’s at and whether he comes back or not.”