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Jurgen Klinsmann

Klinsmann: "We Want to Win."

Pre-Game Quote Sheet
U.S. Men’s National Team Press Conference: Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
Oct. 15, 2012

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and midfielder Michael Bradley fielded questions one day before the team’s Semifinal Round qualifying match against Guatemala, which takes place at 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
On tomorrow’s match:

“I would say we are all looking forward to the match tomorrow night. The stadium is a state-of-the-art place. The team is ready and aware of the situation: we need to get the game done and qualify for the next round. We’re all excited about a sold-out stadium. We’re ready for it. “

On the decision not to call any replacements for injuries and a suspension to Jermaine Jones:
“We think this group gives us enough options to deal with those problems that have come up, whether it’s injures or a yellow card. We feel like we are strong enough to take care of Guatemala tomorrow night with the players that are here.”

On the areas that the team has improved over the last 14 months:
“I think for us as a coaching staff, you get your hands on the group, make the group bigger and introduce new players and you look through the system here in the U.S. with the Under-23s and Under-20s if there are young, promising players coming through then you try to get them connected to the senior team, which we did. The entire process has a lot connected into World Cup qualifying, where the major concern is to get your points and qualify. It is a team that is growing and changing. We have a couple of players who have integrated into that process pretty well.”

On having different players contribute to the team’s success:
“We always have an open-door policy that if something interesting comes up, we open the door and see where it could lead. For example, Eddie Johnson right now. He worked his way back into the picture. I was connected with Sigi (Schmid) and he mentioned him several times and he got this chance now and he took his chance. There’s a lot going on. At the same time, we want to improve the team chemistry and become more confident to push the whole game a little bit more forward. That’s a process that will take time anyway. It’s all about getting things done right now. It’s all about that game tomorrow night against Guatemala and beating them, winning the group and advancing to a very busy 2013.”

On whether he expects a very defensive match from Guatemala:
“It could be a defensive one, it could be that they come out with more offensive ways. No matter how they build their shape, they will be very physical, they will run and fight for every ball. It’s the game of their lives really. The way they played their game with Jamaica was the first 20 minutes they ran after everything on the field. We are prepared for that. We respect them. I expect and we expect from ourselves that we will take care of that game, that we will be in control of that game and that we will score sooner rather than later and make things clear.”

On the unique challenges in CONCACAF qualifying:
“Every game is a new challenge for whoever is involved in it. It is definitely different in CONCACAF than it is in Europe or in South America. All you can do is adjust to it. You go into Antigua and you take the things the way they are. Play on a cricket field of the smallest size possible with a horrible field and special conditions, but you play your game and you’ve got to get it done there. We would’ve rather seen the second goal earlier instead of the last minute, but at least it came. All you can do is adjust to it. Like Michael (Bradley) adjusts to different countries within a couple years already in Europe and he works himself through that process. He works himself through ups and downs that are natural and tries just to give his best every time the next game comes along. That’s what we do as well.”

On knowing a tie is enough to qualify and how that change the approach:
“Our approach to the game is clear: We want to win. You only can win a game if you attack and go forward, and that’s what we’re going to do. We are not looking for a tie.”

On any lessons from the previously match against Guatemala:
“It’s a team that plays very direct with long balls into Carlos Ruiz or into [Minor] Lopez. They drop the ball off and go for the second ball. They try to draw fouls close to the box and Marco Pappa, as he showed in the first game, is an excellent free kick taker. So, there are a couple of things to avoid. Don’t give them those free kicks, don’t give Pappa that opportunity to shot those ones and keep Ruiz out of the game. It’s a very difficult task, he’s on a roll. We are aware of that. We discussed that. We are well prepared.”

On the lack of offense so far in World Cup qualifying:
“We all hope we’re going to score more goals because that’s the most exciting part of the game. I always said it’s a process and we will continue that process. I think the team understands what it takes and is patient as well. In the Columbus game, we could’ve scored three, four, five goals and at the end of the day it was only one. At least you have the three points, but obviously we wish a few more goals are coming.”

On the growing expectations from U.S. MNT fans:
“I think it’s exciting times for soccer in the United States. Look at the growth of MLS, the growth of the youth soccer environment, all of the things happening there. It’s exciting to see our players stepping it up individually, if they’re in Europe or here in MLS or in Mexico, wherever they play, and it’s exciting to see that the fans care more about their national team. They care more about soccer in general and they ask more questions than they have and raise their expectations, which is good. It gives everybody involved a bigger sense of accountability. You’re accountable for what you’re doing – me as a coach, as a player and everybody involved. I think that’s great. When you’re down to the wire in the last game of the group stage, it’s because certain things happen for a reason. We gave away too many free kicks in Jamaica – we conceded two, instead of taking at least a point home, which we would already be through then. You have to battle in the game tomorrow night, and we are looking it. You just have to take it the way it is and work yourself through it. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer than you wish it would, but that’s all right. The expectations from the fans are getting bigger, and rightfully so, and the discussion is getting a little more intense, rightfully so.”

On the environment for the sport in the United States:
“In general, I think it’s exciting times to see how soccer has grown in this country over the last 10, 15 years. It’s just amazing. It was my first time yesterday walking into the stadium in Kansas City. The locker room is something else, just the locker room. There’s no locker room in Europe like that. Not even close. It’s just cool. It’s really fantastic. You’ve got to give them a huge compliment, but it’s also exciting for the players to see what they have here. You have a league with 19 teams that’s really competitive now, playing games in the CONCACAF Champions League, and that’s just within a few years, in a very fast period of time.”

On the difficulty of maintaining continuity and consistency with new players brought into the mix:
“It’s always a challenge in the national team environment when new players come in or players that weren’t there for two or three years like in Eddie’s (Johnson) case how fast can they adapt right away to the group again. In general, if you have a good group together that has a good chemistry, which these guys have, it’s not such a big deal. It’s not really a big problem. You tell even an Alan Gordon, even if you haven’t experienced the group many times, if you carry your mentality from your club team into the national team environment and adjust to it, it’s good energy here in the group and you do what makes you strong in your club team. We sent him into the Antigua game telling him you’ve got to win those battles in the air for us, you’ve got to give us more presence, you’ve got to push it harder, and he did that in a very simple way. Over time, obviously, a team develops more fine-tuning, a better understanding, movement off the ball, certain players make certain runs and you read them better and you read them earlier. As a coach, you always have to react to certain different challenges and also the availability of who you have. Injuries kick in like they kicked in now and you adjust to it and give the players that come in the confidence and belief to settle in and connect to these guys. They will help you and you will see it’s not that difficult.”

On Michael Bradley’s role and leadership:
“Michael really developed already before my time under his dad, but also especially during my 14 months, into one of these players that has a lot of weight in the group. He’s always ready to step it up, always ready to analyze things and comment on things and is ready to take over responsibility. What I try to encourage from the first day on is always to help the players understand where they are and where they could be. There’s always another level for you waiting, and I encourage that, and Michael took that very positively. Clint Dempsey took that very positively saying “I’ve got to push the envelope. I want to go to a bigger team.” I’m going to get more experience on another level. The amount of experience Michael already has is outstanding because he’s already played in several countries, fought his way through different systems, different mentalities, different approaches, and it seems like it is easy for him to adjust and to adapt to that. Coming in with that experience for the U.S. National Team, that is what you appreciate as a coach. You know he can handle different circumstances, different approaches in different cultural environments. You go through growth as a player, from what happens on the field, but also grow as a person, by learning all these different things that come with the different places you play in. It’s exciting to see a player like Michael go through that and handle it, and it’s even better for us as a group to draw upon the experiences he has."

On what changes he has seen with the team compared to two years ago:
“There has just been a natural progression in the team. As Jurgen said, there have been new faces brought in, there has been a process of guys that have been around before trying to establish ourselves even more to become bigger leaders and better leaders in the group. I think this is a natural process within a team. If you compare to two years ago, the team is certainly younger so it’s the responsibility of a certain group of players to take more on and to try to play a bigger role in the team as far as helping younger players, helping new players when they come in. This is something we’re working for every day. When we step on the field for training, as we go through the day and have different sessions in the gym, it’s a constant process. The really positive thing is that nobody has lost sight of that. It is a group that is tight, even when things don’t always go our way and there are difficult moments and difficult times. It’s a group with a hard mentality that says ‘even if things don’t go our way and if we have to fight through things a little bit more, that’s not going to put us off.’ We’re going to continue to work at that and try to improve ourselves and in the process make sure the results on the field are as good as possible.”

On the importance of getting a commanding win before the long break:
“We still look at the win the other night as a big win. We’re honest enough with ourselves to look at things and say ‘this needed to be better,’ or ‘our response after going up 1-0 should have been more aggressive – could have been to try to put the game away.’ But I can assure you the mentality and the spirit within the group are really good. A quality of a big team is also to be able to come away with points and come away with wins on days when maybe you don’t play your best, when the conditions aren’t the most perfect. We take great pride in that as a group. We’re honest enough with ourselves to now use these few days in Kansas City to look at things that need to be better as we go forward. We’re excited to step on the field tomorrow night in front of a big-time American crowd, a great stadium and give ourselves another chance to put a great performance together. A great performance can mean a lot of things – it can mean from the first whistle playing and being aggressive and maybe on that night the goals come quick and you can come away and win a game that everybody says ‘that looked really nice.’ A great win can also mean being committed as a team for 90 minutes, even if the goals don’t come as early as we hoped, to have the commitment, the personality, the strength to keep playing, to keep fighting and come away with a win toward the end of the game. Our mindset is to step on the field tomorrow night and from the first whistle be aggressive and impose ourselves on them and really from the start play a good game. How that pans out, you never know, but we’re excited for that challenge and confident in ourselves.”

On playing at LIVESTRONG to take the edge off going from other qualifier environments:
“I think we all look forward to big nights. The reality of soccer in this country at the moment is at times we do play qualifiers in stadiums where even though we’re playing at home, it doesn’t feel like it. A lot of guys have played here. For the guys who haven’t you can feel the excitement, you can feel the passion that this area has for the game, and for the national team, already yesterday during [public] training. The opportunity for us to step on the field tomorrow night in a beautiful stadium, on a great field, in front of a big-time American crowd, that’s something that we don’t get all the time. That’s another mark of big progress for soccer in our country. We want to make sure we use the crowd and use the support as a way to push us on and put an even better performance.”