Jurgen Klinsmann: “Our approach to putting together the roster is mainly to see younger players coming into the Senior National Team environment and proving their point. We want to continue the energy that was created in Prague last month when we won against the Czech Republic and see how far these younger players can take it.
“We left quite a few of the experienced players out because we want to give the younger players a chance to break in. Guys like Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski and others are not in this roster, not because they aren’t part of the National Team moving forward, simply because we want to see the youngsters make their point.”
ussoccer.com: How will you balance the changes to the roster following the game against Ecuador?
JK: For us it’s always important to mix things up. For this first game we are mixing things up with MLS players and with players that are coming from overseas but they are not as established yet as we would like them to be, so maybe we let a few ones go after the Friday game back to Europe so they have a whole week of preparation for the next game, bring in some MLS players to fill in the blanks, and continue to grow this culture of competition and also of accountability. We want them to understand that they are accountable for whatever they do, no matter what their background. It’s exciting when you see young players coming in. They look at you with big eyes and have many questions. You have some more experienced players coming in who know how things are, having just played in a World Cup and you see them then communicating and understanding what it takes going forward.
"For us it’s exciting to start a new cycle with many big competitions coming up on the horizon. We have the Gold Cup next year, the Olympics in 2016 which we have a huge focus on, the Copa America in the United States in 2016, in 2017 the Confederations Cup if we do our job, and then the World Cup in 2018 in Russia. Now it’s our job to connect the different age groups and make the younger ones understand that time will fly by and you must take advantage of the opportunity and not waste it. For the experienced players, it’s a signal that the younger ones are breaking in and want to steal their spot. It’s about building a new hierarchy of the senior National Team, because after every World Cup, it’s time to start fresh again. And so whatever the experienced players have done deserves a lot of respect, but it in a certain way it’s behind us. They need to be on their toes; otherwise the younger ones shoot by them.”
ussoccer.com: There were several younger players in the game against Czech Republic that were sent with the U-23 team to Brazil instead of coming here. Why was that important?
JK: “It’s a huge opportunity for our U-23 team to get invited by Brazil to have a game down there. We need to build already the chemistry of a new team, so every time they have a chance to get together at the age group, we have to take advantage of it. That’s why guys like Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin, and Jordan Morris go; otherwise they would have been with us in Hartford. If we have any injuries up here, I would pull some of those kids back to the United States because we also understand that we have to deliver results with the senior team. I think it’s becoming very clear to everyone involved that the senior team, the U-23’s, and even the U-20 team that goes to the World Cup in 2015 are all connected. The coaches are connected, and the players are getting moved between the groups. A U-20 player now understands that if he does extremely well, there might be a chance to bypass people and show up in the senior team.
"We evaluate people based on their potential, based on talent and their willingness to learn. Sometimes people on the outside might think it’s coming a bit too early for a player like Jordan Morris who still plays in college, but we don’t think so because we see the potential. If we find a player in the NASL like we do with Miguel Ibarra or other kids in the league we watch on a consistent basis, we see talent. Have those players broken through already on a bigger stage? No, but we coaches don’t’ necessarily have to wait for that. We can already take that talent and help them understand the path over the next couple months or years how far they can go. We took Rubio Rubin from Utrecht as an 18-year old who has barely played for the U-20 team and we bring him with us for a moment, and he suddenly understands that this is completely a different level and sees a path ahead. The earlier we can give those players the messages, the better it is.”
ussoccer.com: In the case of Miguel Ibarra, what qualities do you see in him and what message does this send to other players aspiring to the National Team?
JK: “First of all, a call up to the Senior National Team is something very special. When we do that, we have the feeling that the player deserves it because of certain elements he brings to the table. Miguel in his game is maybe a bit of a late bloomer coming now through the NASL system, but he has done tremendously well there the whole season. We watched him and a couple other players in the league, and they might go a different path than coming through MLS, Europe or Mexico, but he’s a good example that there are different ways to get all the way to the top. He knows he has to prove it now: he has tremendous skill, he has speed, he has an engine, he can take people on, and he keeps everyone on their toes. Now the tempo and the pace in every league is different, and especially is different on the international level. This now gives him over the next couple days a really good feeling of what he has to work towards in the future. When he trains with us, and maybe even plays with us, he understands what is expected at the international stage. Then, he goes back to his club Minnesota United and I want to see him do that work every day, maybe an extra shift when the other guys are not training. I think that message is very important to everyone out there who becomes an adult player that based on the workload they are putting in and their talent that anything is possible. Our job as National Team coaches is to find that talent and to help them understand their next choices and their next opportunities. I think it’s exciting.”
ussoccer.com: What are you hoping to accomplish in the next four days in camp heading into the game against Ecuador?
JK: “We are looking forward to young players that bring a lot of energy to the table and really enjoy what they are doing. They want to prove a point, but all in a team context. We want them to have a great team chemistry, to support each other and do everything as a team: going forward as a team, defending a team, expressing themselves and enjoying the two games on this stage. Obviously the first game is a special game against Ecuador because it’s Landon Donovan's testimonial. He comes in on Thursday and has a chance to really enjoy the atmosphere and the support of the fans. We also want the whole group to embrace the opportunity of playing Ecuador, a very, very good team that went to the World Cup in Brazil and did very well there. They just had two friendlies, barely losing to Brazil and then beating Bolivia 4-0 in the other. This is a very good side that will definitely put us on our toes. We want to see our players show us they understand the moment and bring all the energy and skills on the field and prove it. If mistakes happen, no problem. We want them to take risks, take people on and give them a real game. We want to beat them.”