Two games remain for the U.S. Men’s National Team in its 2014 slate. First up, the team will face fellow FIFA World Cup finalist and No.3-ranked Colombia on Friday, Nov. 14, at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN and UniMas). Four days later, the USA heads to Dublin to face the Republic of Ireland at Aviva Stadium.
U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 25 players that will head to training camp in London in preparation for these final matches of the year. The USA roster consists of a strong mix of newcomers and established veterans, including 16 players that were part of the squad that reached the Round of 16 this past summer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Among those bringing the expertise are midfielder Kyle Beckerman, defender DaMarcus Beasley and forward Chris Wondolowski.
On the decision to bring these specific 25 players, Klinsmann explained that the biggest reasoning behind putting this group together was to create a teaching environment for all the younger players who have recently been called up into the National Team with the hopes that this young crop can absorb some guidance from the players that have been here before.
With 12 of the players in the roster being either 24 years old or younger, and thus being age-eligible for the Olympics, Klinsmann expects that the leadership and maturity of the older players that have been there, such as goalkeeper Nick Rimando, will carry over and present a new challenge for the younger bunch.
“I think if you look at these veterans – Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Nick Rimando, Jermaine Jones – I think those are all players that have to help get the younger players to another level,” said Klinsmann of the role the veterans must play moving forward. “It’s literally their jobs; it’s what we’re asking. I know everybody is busy with themselves and wants to play and show what they have, but in a transition phase after a World Cup, having a year until you play that Gold Cup in July, we need these older players. Beasley is a very important player in this going forward, and Beckerman and Rimando. They have to show what it takes to become consistent and a real professional.
One aspect that Klinsmann stresses out of this tutelage process is the mindset of maintaining the professionalism and athleticism 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as the nutritional and caretaking aspects that go into this lifestyle.
“We want to have these guys telling them these things, to have an education off the field,” Klinsmann said. “We have 10 days now together in London, and then we go to Dublin. This is what we coaches will watch very carefully – how the experienced players play that role and not their own role. They’ve played enough caps, they know what to do. For me, it’s really important to see how much they pass on, and can these younger players become more alert, more urgent and understand that they have to break through and not miss the train.”
In addition to seeing these big games as an opportunity for player development and personal growth, Klinsmann is also aiming to use them as a way to close out this successful year for U.S. Soccer on a high note.
“These last two games against Colombia and then Ireland in 2014, we want to finish on a high note,” Klinsmann said. “This has been a tremendous, positive year with the World Cup and coming out of the Group of Death, showing really good games there and proving to the world that we can play with the big names, compete with the big names and beat the big names. But you obviously have to do that consistently, so we want to show Colombia, one of the top-five in the world right now, and that we are here to beat you. We want to have a good game against them. We have a lot of respect for them. We also want to go to Ireland, a team that is doing very well in European qualifiers, and we want to go into Dublin and we want to win this game.
“At the same time, we want to gain experience. We want our younger players to grow, mature and step it up, but we also want to send signals to our CONCACAF region that we are ready to rock it in 2015. We want to win the Gold Cup because that qualifies us automatically for the Confederations Cup in 2017. We want the No. 1 spot in our region and to show the European countries that it is not that easy to play against us. We want to continue our growth and we want to see the players understand that moment in time.”