He said it in Italy. He said it Mexico. He pretty much says it every time the U.S. team comes together. “We want to win,” is the mentality of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. It’s not just about points; it’s about approach, and that mindset has never been more important than at the start of the Final Round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Klinsmann has made that point abundantly clear.
“One of our key messages to the players is to have that sense of urgency to go into Honduras and give them a fight and go for three points,” said Klinsmann. “We aren’t calculating anything. We want to go in there and start getting points with urgency because that builds more confidence for the next games. This is really important that the players understand that it’s not going to be easy. It’s World Cup qualifiers and if you want to go to Brazil, be ready for it right away.”
Coming off a productive three weeks, seven players from the January camp have earned a spot on this first World Cup qualifying roster. The rest of the roster is made up of players in Europe and Mexico who gathered across two days in Miami before heading to San Pedro Sula. The short window of time makes preparation no easy task.
“The challenge for us with a huge amount of European players in our roster is traveling, is time differences and all the locations in a short amount of time. There is a lack of time to prepare them properly in meetings, get the tiredness out of their legs and get them up to speed mentally and be really ready.” Klinsmann said. “Those are challenges but other teams have those challenges too, we’re not the only ones and we accept those [challenges] and with the right mindset going into this game I think we can get the job done.”
The United States is bringing the right combination of history and momentum to Honduras. The U.S. has posted a 3-0-0 record against Honduras in matches played at Estadio Olimpico, and every goal scorer from the Semifinal Round is featured on the roster. The U.S. is also coming off one of their most successful campaigns of the modern era, one that included wins at Italy and at Mexico.
“We had a very good year in 2012, won big games away from home and surprised quite a lot of people, but you’ve got to confirm that every time you go on the field.” Klinsmann said. “I think we can have the confidence necessary, but we also have to have the respect for Honduras and we’ve got to be prepared for working very hard in those 90 minutes.”
Honduras, which is enjoying one of its most successful eras in team history, is unbeaten in its past five qualifying matches and figures to be one of the toughest tests the U.S. will face in qualifying. However, recent history is on the MNT’s side as the U.S. is 3-0-1 in the first match of the Final Round its past four qualifying cycles and has collected three consecutive victories.
Confidence. Respect. Ability. Sounds like the makings of a winning formula indeed.