U.S. MNT vs. Guatemala
2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying; Semifinal Round
LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 16, 2012
U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
On the match against Guatemala:
“We’d like to thank that amazing crowd here and the people involved in the game here in Kansas City. It was phenomenal. It was quite an experience for all of us, even for the European players who are used to big places. I think the performance overall was very good. We did not need [give up] that first goal – that was not necessary. The good thing was that they responded right away and turned things around immediately and that calmed things down. In a game like this you can never be sure, you never know what could happen. In the second half, you could give a goal away then suddenly the dynamics changes and the momentum changes. I wish there would’ve been a fourth goal to kill it off, but overall I’m very pleased. The players responded well. Their attitude overall the last couple days has been very positive, the team is growing and supporting each other.”
On the relationship between Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey:
“I heard that they know each other quite well and for a long time – longer than they’ve known me. They have good chemistry and they get along. On the field, you want to see guys that are there for each other. When you have a mistake, the other guy comes and gives you a pat on the shoulder and says, ‘Come on, let’s keep going.’ Eddie was definitely a big plus for us to have. For us coaches, it was wonderful to see his qualities in our group. I think he matured a lot, I spoke a lot with Sigi (Schmid) over the last couple of months about his path. He went through ups and downs in his career, but he understands the moment. I told him when he came in, ‘If you give us everything you have and just kind of adjust to what we’re doing here, don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.’ He felt comfortable and confident and he responded with a wonderful performance tonight. It gives us another card we can play with, a very important one.”
On if there is a sense of relief after the match:
“We expected a very difficult qualifying campaign and that’s what it is. We discussed it a couple days ago. We didn’t necessarily get it down to the wire in the first stage, but that’s how soccer works. If you give away a game like we did in Jamaica then you have to pay the price for it a little while and you have to correct it. We go through now in first place and we made things clear that we were the No. 1 team in this group. The next round will be even tougher. You have very good teams in there, every game will be a battle, every game will be a fight and we are ready for that. It’s just a normal path that you go through and you take a lot of new experience with that. Players grow and coaches learn and it’s just normal.”
On what went well tonight that hadn’t gone well in the past:
“I think they understood the moment and that’s why they responded well after the first goal. They wanted to keep the tempo high, they wanted to come over the wings, they wanted to combine and keep the ball. Sometimes even a little bit longer than we want to see it, but it’s better if we have it than they have it and be patient and wait for these penetrating balls between the full backs and center backs. I think they developed a better chemistry. We are, step-by-step, breaking in new players into that team and I think you see players that grow into that team like a Graham Zusi. At the same time, we have to take care of qualifying and see some new players come in and make a stamp on the game and developing through it. Thankfully this is done now, and 2013 will be very busy for us. We are going to play friendlies, World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup. We have to build two rosters for that because we can’t have the players do both. That’s good to see that we have players now coming through MLS, they are knocking at the door and getting stronger in MLS. This gets into their system, they are getting used to it. They are getting used to playing every four or five games, which is very important. This is not coming over night. If you talk to the MLS coaches, it takes years to get that into your system and it’s growing. So, we take a lot from that.”
On if that means he’s not sending the best team to the Gold Cup:
“We don’t know how we’re going to manage that whole thing. It’s more down to how their own schedule looks like and what league they play in and how does the league work and we have to put that puzzle together. It’s not going to be an easy one.”
On the partnership of Herculez Gomez and Clint Dempsey and Danny Williams and Michael Bradley:
“I think that both partnerships are getting smoother and better. You add Eddie Johnson to it know because he also has a good understanding with Clint. Danny Williams is a player we follow closely that is a real No. 6, he’s a similar player like Kyle Beckerman. They play a similar role. Especially, when you play a team like Guatemala who hits long balls and live off the second balls and whatever drops down – you need to have a No. 6 cleaning it up. That partnership with Michael is developing, we told Michael to play in front of him so that not only they play next to each other defensively but when we go forward Michael plays the attacking role and that worked well. You have to do that because otherwise you get caught in counterattacks.”
On the biggest thing he learned about the team through this qualifying round:
“Obviously you learn with every game and every day you work with that group. You know the players better and better, and you make your decisions based on what you see and what you experience, like decisions now for the roster that we’ve already discussed a couple of times. You learn that the games in Central America or the Caribbean because that’s new for me, too, and I adjust to it and I learn everything about it. I know about World Cup qualifying. I’ve done that as a player. It obviously comes down to the wire. But most importantly as a coach and as a coaching staff, you want to see your players develop. You want to see your players getting a feeling that they’re actually improving, getting better and responding that way. For them, it’s not easy. Coming from different places flying in and stepping up like this, it’s not [easy]. To get it in the right perspective when you play 50 to 65 games a year, we try to work them through it.”
On capping off the Semifinal Round with a strong finish:
“It’s definitely a good way to end the first round and advance and to make it clear that we were the No. 1 team in that group. With every game you try to earn respect. That’s what you do – every friendly, every qualifying game, every competition, you try to earn respect. You know that in soccer everybody’s watching you. You want to always make statements that say we’re ready for whoever comes in. We want to go to Mexico with the confidence that say we want to beat you there, which happened fortunately. That’s something you have to repeat to the players all the time. Every game starts at nil-nil, and you have to have the right attitude and spirit for it and match the opponent right away with that fighting spirit.”
On the versatility and positioning of Eddie Johnson and the tactical changes against Guatemala:
“I think it’s a great option now to have with Eddie. He can play wide but he can also play up front. It’s exciting to see that. I think Graham Zusi brings an element to this group. He’s technically so gifted, he keeps the ball and his passing is accurate. I told him before the game – he was extremely excited playing in his home stadium – to keep things simple. When you have this special moment you try to overdo it. He didn’t – he kept it simple. That gives us weapons at certain moments. The danger from Guatemala comes through the middle. So that’s why shifted things around a little bit to be stronger, Mo (Maurice Edu) came in to be really strong, as well, in the middle but still keep pushing forward. Fresh legs gave us that element, as well. It’s a good thing to have.”
U.S. Men's National Team Midfielder MICHAEL BRADLEY
On the team’s formation and movement forward:
"At times I moved a little bit forward and Clint came next to me so there was a triangle [with Dempsey, Gomez and Williams]. Obviously the movement between the three guys up front was good [Johnson, Gomez and Zusi] and those movements helped us play the game game on our terms and put them on the back foot from the start."
On having to win after going behind:
"We talked beforehand about wanting to be aggressive and wanting to start the game well. But we also talked about just because you want to do that, doesn't mean you have a divine right to step on the field and win. There's still another team on the field and things don't always go your way or exactly how you planned. For us, the response was great. Far from a perfect start but when the goal went in guys looked around at each other and said "Hey, we've been here before and we're going to have to win the game in a different way now." The response, the mentality and the commitment was all great."
On Graham Zusi:
"Age-wise he's not so young but as far as experience in games, he's on the younger side. He's come in and from the first time he's been shown a real eagerness to improve and to try and make a difference. His soccer ability really helps us. If we tilt him out on the right, he finds a good way of playing out wide but coming inside and playing between the lines. Going forward we're going to expect more and more out of him."
On the crowd in Kansas City:
"It was phenomenal. The atmosphere was great. Even going down 1-0 you could tell they would be behind us all night and they were going to be loud. I can't stress enough how big a difference that makes. When we step on the field and we feel like we're playing in front of a crowd that's going to push us and support us no matter what, we appreciate that and thank everybody who comes to be a part of that."
On what to expect in the Hexagonal:
"To start with you have to take care of your games at home. That's always the first thing. You've got to play good games at home and come away with three points. You go to different places on the road and you have to know how, even on tough days and in difficult conditions, come away with points. Whether it's on the turf in Saprissa (Costa Rica), or the altitude, heat and smog in Azteca (Mexico), or the difficult field in Jamaica. There's so little room for error and from the start we'll have to be committed to doing whatever we have to do to get the job done. That changes every game depending on the opponent or where the game is played but we have to be committed to getting points and doing whatever it takes."
U.S. Men's National Team Midfielder GRAHAM ZUSI
On the win against Guatemala:
"We talked about this game as being one where we didn't want to do the minimal to get the result. We wanted to come out, score some goals, take it to them and win the game. We were a litle shocked they scored but continued to pressure them and were dangerous throughout the first half. We responded very well to their goal, got one back quickly and kept on going after that. I thought it was a very good performance."
On the movement of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson:
"When those guys are being as dangerous as they are, it opens up space for other people. I found myself in some decent spots and tried to whip the ball in when I could."
On playing at "home in Kansas City, where he plays for Sporting KC:
"It's a different opponent and different team. But it's familiar at the same time because of the venue and the fans. All in all it was a lot of fun for me tonight. It was just an incredible atmosphere and you'd expect nothing less."
On his growth as a player:
"I guess you can say it was a quick ascent but in my eyes I don't just look at this as the last year of work. It's been a long road with twenty hard years of a lot of dedication and work that went into this, so I'm extremely happy it paid off. I don't think I deserved to be here earlier [in my career] but as of late my game has evolved a little bit and, especially with my club, I've found myself in the position to play a lot more games, get my confidence up and make a difference. When you feel confident, you're allowed to take a little bit more risk and you can believe in yourself a little bit more."
U.S. Men’s National Team Midfielder CLINT DEMPSEY
On the response to going down 1-0 early in the match:
“I thought we started the game well, but they hit us on the counter and got the early goal. It was not the ideal start for us, but I thought we showed a lot of character bouncing back from that creating chances and finishing the chances we got. You could see in the second half we were comfortable, they were sitting back and we were still trying to push for more goals. We’re happy to get to the next round. I think the key for us in the next round is to do a better job getting points away from home. It will take a little bit of pressure off us trying to get results at home.”
On his partnership with the forwards on the team:
“We have a lot of good forwards on this team, whether it’s Herc (Gomez), Eddie, Jozy, Alan who is doing really well in MLS. We have a lot of depth, so that’s good. It keeps people hungry, it keeps people working hard and keeps people trying to make sure they stay on that field. That’s what you need. You need that fire under you a little bit to know that your spot is not guaranteed and if you don’t put in a good performance you could find yourself getting dropped. It’s definitely important to build chemistry. It’s good for us to get wins and when we get wins we get confidence and when we get confidence that will keep carrying us forward. He (Gomez) works hard, he has a good engine and pressures their defense and causes them to make errors. We are able to get throw-ins and free kicks. He’s really good on set pieces. You can’t really single out one player, we have a lot of players who work hard. It’s important for the whole team to get chemistry, not only the forwards. I thought we put in a solid performance tonight.”
On ending the round with a good performance and entering the break:
“We know that there is still a lot of work to be done. We know that we can be better and sharpen up in order to qualify for the World Cup. We know the next round is going to be tough, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ready for it and not let this opportunity slip by.”
On the difference from the match against Antigua & Barbuda:
“We were able to do a better job keeping possession. The balls that you’re able to get were the balls that you’re used to. You’re able to get good touches on it and you know what kind of bounces are going to come your way. Instead of just a free-for-all where you don’t know what kind of bounce you’re going to get, you don’t know if it’s going to get stuck in the mud or your foot is going to slip in the mud. It’s a totally different game and you were able to see that tonight. I think that we’re able to show our quality on a field like this and that’s the way football should be played – on a quality pitch. It’s good for the fans, it’s good for the teams playing because you can play the game in the right way. That’s what you love about the game, is playing the game you grew up watching. I didn’t grow up watching long-ball, kick it and Hail Mary and hit-and-hope types of things. You have to be confident on the ball, the ball is your friend. It’s not your enemy. We showed that tonight that we have that confidence on the ball.”
On being better in the next round:
“We know it’s going to be more difficult in the next round. No matter what, we got out of the round. Whether we played great, didn’t play great – we got the job done. Next round we need to be better, but we need to be better away from home. We need to get points away from home that will alleviate the pressure of getting points at home. Still, we want to maintain our dominance at home, it’s great to play in front of crowds like this. It’s important to keep that winning mentality and that fight that we showed tonight, we have to bring that every game. It’s difficult with travel sometimes, being able to have your energy levels at that peak level that you need to have it and we’re just doing a little bit better job at trying to manage that. It’s difficult for the coaches because they’re sitting and waiting for the players to come in and try to do everything with them, but you only have three days. That’s a dynamic that every team has to face. We just have to keep working on things and make sure that we get that chemistry and together that we can get the job done and get to the next World Cup and try to do something special there.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Defender CARLOS BOCANEGRA
On the match against Guatemala:
“It was good. We played pretty well tonight and we did well with the ball and spread them out and moved it side-to-side. It was a good team effort.”
On responding to going down 1-0 early in the match:
“It was just a little bit frustrating because it was too easy of a goal to give away. We were a little bit spread out and that one pass beats us. It was early in the game and I don’t think anybody really put their head down. We knew we were going to get at least one back, they came quickly tonight so it was nice.”
On the team’s quality of performance overall:
“Minus the first goal, I thought we did pretty well. We were organized and the guys did well to hold the ball up. The attackers did a really good job of moving the ball from side-to-side and letting the ball do the work and they [Guatemala] had to chase.”
On the atmosphere at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park:
“It was good. It was a nice field tonight. It was a big field, a great surface. With the pro-American crowd and the support here, it was a great atmosphere to play in.”
On becoming the highest-scoring U.S. MNT defender of all-time with his goal against Guatemala:
“That’s cool. I didn’t think too much about that. It’s a nice honor. It was better for us to get the win. It was an important goal for the team to get us back on track. Luckily, it bounced to me and I was able to finish it off.”
U.S. Men’s National Team Goalkeeper TIM HOWARD
On Eddie Johnson's performance over two games:
"Aside from the two goals, which obviously stand out, I thought he played great. He was aggressive and got the ball. He was tight and played on the turn. He's playing with a ton of confidence, which is awesome to see."
On moving forward to the Hexagonal:
"We feel like we're the best team in the region. Mexico feels like they are. In order to prove that, we've got to go out there and do it every game. You can't have off games. We have to be better at putting together good performances more consistently."
On giving up an early goal and the response:
"It was just a sloppy goal. There wasn't enough pressure on the ball. We needed to drop our line and probably play it safe but credit to Carlos Ruiz who finished it well. You get frustrated but sometimes the best time for them to score is early on. The crowd's response was fantastic and we kept pushing the tempo, got back on level footing and that made it easier for us."
On how the team shook off the early goal to go on the attack:
"You never want to get scored on, of course and we get frustrated. But we're all experience enough to keep playing you don't let one become two, become three. You never want to give one up early on but credit to us because our response was fantastic. I thought we played well defensively besides that one hiccup. We were mostly solid, kept them out and on the balance of things deserved what we got tonight."