ussoccer.com: Overall, what did you take away from these October friendlies?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Looking at both games, it was for us really of high value to see how guys are going in their personal curves. We saw a lot of good stuff. For example, we saw Greg Garza trying to establish himself as a real alternative as a left back. We saw another step for Mix Diskerud growing and becoming a bit more dominant in his own game. We are thrilled that Jozy scored and got back on track in his own personal difficult moment because of his club situation. We tried to figure out if Jermaine Jones is a real alternative at center back, which he proved right away. Timmy Chandler got valuable minutes, and we saw a lot of the things we wanted to see from younger players.
“Obviously when you play friendly games, you want to win those games. From that point of view, it’s a little bit disappointing because in both games we had late equalizers from our opponents. You want to put those games away and score the second goal before they have a chance to equalize. Overall, two very valuable experiences. It gave us a lot of answers to certain questions about players, so there was a lot of progress.”
ussoccer.com: Going in you said that you wanted to see how the chemistry developed between the veteran players and some of the younger faces in the team. How did that process go?
JK: “I think that mixing it up now with more experienced guys and the guys breaking through, you want to see the dynamic that older players become mentors and leaders, and help the guys grow and push them in a certain way. At the same time, you want to develop a new kind of hierarchy of the team going forward. That’s the message to the younger players – you have to go in there and be confident, have the right body language and be aggressive and make your point. If you look at Alfredo Morales for example, he’s right on the edge now of breaking in there. Obviously DeAndre Yedlin is trying to get his foot in the door even stronger. That’s the only way we can see how far they are in that process, and guys like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey and Graham Zusi have to help them in that process.”
ussoccer.com: Is giving up two late equalizers in these games just part of the growing process, or do you see this as a concern?
JK: “Giving the results away in the final minutes in both games tells you that we struggle at the moment to go through the 90 minutes physically. We already saw that in the game against Czech Republic. We were a little bit lucky with an amazing Nick Rimando in that game to get the 1-0 win, and now against Ecuador and Honduras they punished us for dropping the physical level in the final 15-20 minutes. This is definitely something we have to address and definitely something of concern. Therefore, it’s a topic that we will talk the players through. We have to be able to go 90 minutes at the high tempo and put the result away. We should have scored a second goal against Honduras early on and put the game away and they wouldn’t have come back. They deserved the equalizer because they had their chances.”
ussoccer.com: What were you hoping to accomplish by putting Jermaine Jones at center back?
JK: “With the experiment of putting Jermaine Jones into the right center back position, we wanted to see how he leads the backline. We wanted to see how disciplined he stayed in that role, because it’s in his nature, he always wants to go forward and join the attack. We wanted to see how verbal he is with other guys around him, and how he can shift the whole back line higher up. I think that experiment really went well. Knowing now that we can always put Jermaine Jones in a center back role - if he is disciplined, if he is pushing us up, if he is vocal - is a huge plus coming out of that Honduras game.”
ussoccer.com: Does having Jermaine as an option at center back open up opportunities for different players in the midfield?
JK: “When you shift a position and put Jermaine Jones from a number eight to a four or five, obviously that opens up another possibility for you in midfield. It gives you an opportunity to break in another youngster and get him more playing time and a chance to be more consistent in what he’s doing. In this case it was Mix Diskerud, and Mix proved that in both games that he becomes more consistent, more physical, and stronger. We want him to go into one on one challenges and he did that. For us, it was a win-win in both positions.”
ussoccer.com: With the absence of Fabian Johnson, you were able to get time for Timmy Chandler at right back. Were you pleased with his performances?
JK: “With the National Team program it always happens that if someone can’t make it for whatever reason, it opens the possibility for someone else to step in. Not having Fabian Johnson, who played a fantastic World Cup, in that roster gave the chance for us to see Timmy Chandler in the right back position, which he plays for Eintracht Frankfurt. At the same time, it gave Greg Garza the chance to play left back in both games. This was huge, because it gives them the confidence and the possibility to prove their point and become consistent in our environment. For both players it was huge, and they both played on a very good level. They were focused and played the role way we expect a fullback to play, meaning defense comes first. Cover your side, win your battles one against one, and then go when there is the opportunity go forward as well. They were very disciplined in doing that. It was a bummer not having Fabian Johnson there, but at the same time it was good to give these guys a full run, and I think both Chandler and Garza used that chance to their benefit.”
ussoccer.com: You have asked Alejandro Bedoya to have more of a leadership role, and you have now used him both centrally and as a winger. How do you see that developing?
JK: Having seen Alejandro Bedoya in a more central role is really just another step in the right direction for his own personal development. He plays more of a central role at Nantes; he’s not a winger there. Can he play as a winger? Yes, which he did for us against Honduras. It’s great to see his growth of how he connects between the defensive line and the forwards. I think he can develop into a real box to box player similar to what Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones can do. For us it’s important to have these options on the table that we know we can bring him in from the outside to the inside, and develop some more traditional wingers like a DeAndre Yedlin who maybe becomes a winger over time, or other players in that role. For Alejandro, it was another step in the right direction and for him crucial for him to become more of a center piece for the National Team.”
ussoccer.com: As has been the case many times in your tenure, another player earned his first cap for the Senior National Team. How did Miguel Ibarra fare in his first camp?
JK: “We had the chance to bring in Miguel Ibarra from Minnesota United, and I think it was a very interesting 10 days for him. In the beginning he was a bit nervous, but he calmed down after two or three days and he was very consistent and very proactive in the way he participated in everything we did in training. So when he was able to get on the field against Honduras, even just for a couple of minutes, we just gave him the message to play the way he’s used to playing.
“He tried to fit right in, and I think this is very encouraging. It’s a message to many players out there that no matter what path you decide to go on, there is always a chance to come to the National Team program and to learn. For Miguel it was a huge step forward. We told him to take this confidence back to his club team and keep growing. Going forward, I think he has a huge chance to come back into our program.”