ussoccer.com: You are coming off a win on Saturday and now you have to shift gears quickly to be ready for the match tomorrow, and that starts with a review of the Cuba game. How did you assess that game?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Well we coaches obviously analyze the game and afterwards we try to read between the lines. The most important thing was three points and getting more goals. There are many good things, but also a lot of things we'd like to avoid going forward. We were far too open in many areas and disconnected between midfielders and forwards. We weren't chasing back right away when we lost the ball, and a lot of elements we worked on in training were difficult to implement in that game. They were so deep and defending with nine in the box. There are definitely a couple things we need to work on.”
ussoccer.com: Costa Rica is riding a long unbeaten streak into this game. What do you expect from the match and how important is a win for the USA?
JK: “Costa Rica is one of the top teams in the CONCACAF region and we'll get a real picture, a real benchmark of where we are at. We need to be focused and on our toes because we badly want to win this group and go to the quarterfinals as the No.-1 seed. The team understands that point, and I think we will step it up.”
ussoccer.com: The games are coming quickly on the schedule. How do you take lessons from the previous match and apply it to what happens next in the tournament?
JK: “We definitely use videos from the game and cut together things for them to see. There are a couple of good things - you want to keep the positive atmosphere and confidence levels up - but we'll also show them what didn't work so well. It's really down to the mental side of it. Players understand they need to step it up and that the whole tournament really starts for us with Costa Rica.”
ussoccer.com: The team started on the artificial turf on the west coast in Portland, then went to altitude in Salt Lake City, and now traveled to the east coast and the heat and humidity of Hartford. How do you help the team adjust?
JK: “It's a typical challenge for us to adjust to things like time differences and altitude. We're coming from Salt Lake City at altitude to very hot and humid Hartford. We had a training session this morning and have one this evening at the stadium to get used to the conditions. Again, it's down to the mental aspect of it.”
ussoccer.com: Right now the U.S. has tied the longest winning streak in team history at seven games. It’s happened during different competitions and virtually two different groups of players. What do the results say about the progress of the program?
JK: “It tells us that the mentality in our National Team environments starts to change. We want to win every game, no matter if it’s now a Gold Cup game or a friendly game, we are out there to win. Even against big nations, we want to give it a shot. We understand that if you play Brazil or Spain, those are the best in the world. We develop that attitude that every day is serious, it’s about work, it’s about business. Like in every other work, people that go to the offices and work 8-10 hours a day, they have to be spot on. We have to learn in our environment that you can’t switch off in a game against Belize on a free kick or against Cuba on a counter break that they scored the first goal on. You have to be alert, you have to be awake. We can’t get to relaxed, too confident, too easy on things. That winning streak now has shown that change of culture. We want to beat Costa Rica.
ussoccer.com: Costa Rica is in great form at the moment, unbeaten in their last seven matches and not surrendering a goal in more than 700 minutes. They are also hungry after the loss in Denver in March. What do you expect from them?
JK: “It’s one of the great battles of CONCACAF. They’ve developed a very strong team over the last few years. Beating them is very difficult and we know that. For us, it’s a really good benchmark because we want to show them who is number one in CONCACAF after this tournament, and therefore we’re going to take them very seriously and we want to beat them. They have qualities, especially in their individual players that can make a difference.”
ussoccer.com: Both the U.S. and Costa Rica have advanced to the quarterfinal. Does that change how you will approach this game?
JK: “We are purely focused on this game. We don’t want to interrupt the rhythm that we have going now. There is enough time between this game and the quarterfinal to get everybody back and regenerated to perfect fitness. This game is like the final for Group C. This is a team that we’re going to fight for World Cup qualifying points in September, and we want to send them a signal. We take this very seriously and everybody is ready for this battle. We kind of saved a couple legs in the game against Cuba with some changes that we made there. We won’t save anybody for the game against Costa Rica.”
ussoccer.com: Much like the camp in May-June for the qualifiers, you have players coming in from different circumstances: some in full swing in the season, others from vacation or getting little playing time. How have you handled the integration process?
JK: “This is probably for us coaches the biggest challenge. We want to kind of melt this whole thing together and get everybody on the same page. We’ve been together for 13 days or 14 days with three games now in their legs. It is really interesting to see how players get on the same page, like Oguchi Onyewu, who hasn’t played most of the year, or Stuart Holden, who is coming back from injury and really picking up the pace. Brek Shea had real problems the last couple months, also because he had surgery, and now he’s catching on. You have Michael Orozco and Jose Torres that came from offseason into our camp. For us coaches it’s wonderful to see that now we’re really getting them all in sync. We’re getting them all there, and that’s giving us more options on who to put in the starting lineup and who we want to bring off the bench. A young kid like Jack McInerney learns every day on a level that he hasn’t seen before. The working attitude is tremendous, the spirit of the group is great, but we all know that we have to get better with every day in that process. At the end of the day we want to be in Chicago for the final hopefully in front of a sellout crowd, and then we all know that we need to improve quite a lot of things still.”