ussoccer.com: What did this win against Germany and the way the team played show you about your team?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “I think the win against Germany has been a great signal by a team that has tremendous chemistry and spirit to go closer to the big nations and challenge them to go at their tempo in their half, trying to get eye-to-eye and just learn. Obviously it’s a nicer learning curve when you win a game at the end of the day, but still it was about just taking the game to them and not looking like an away team. I think the way the team looked at the end of the first half and also at the end of the second half, it didn’t look like an away team. We were in the No. 1 team’s nation and stadium and we played this game open with them, and so I think from a learning perspective it was a huge step forward.”
ussoccer.com: There were a lot of USA fans in the building tonight. How important was their support for the team and what does there being there say about the growing interest in U.S. Soccer?
JK: “It was unbelievable. We already had tremendous support from our fans in Amsterdam and they took it to an even higher notch in Cologne. I think the German crowd was surprised. The German crowd didn’t really know what to think. They probably thought ‘did they all fly over from the United States’? It shows that they’re paying more and more respect to what we’re doing. They follow what we’re doing in Europe. They look at our results and they actually give us compliments and they see that we are progressing as a soccer nation in all levels. Things are improving. We still have a long way to as we always say. We are not there yet, but it’s not getting unnoticed. People now look at what we’re doing, and they’re curious and I think after this game against the world champions a lot more people will be curious about our work and our progress and ask questions.”
ussoccer.com: How do you assess the performance of Michael Bradley during the last two games?
JK: “I think if there’s one player that deserves a very special or additional comment in these games, it’s Michael Bradley because he just took it to another level. The people in Europe know him. Obviously he played in the Bundesliga, he played in Serie A and they know about his qualities and about his capabilities. But one thing is you show that in your club environment wherever you play in the world, and the other thing is you show it in your national team jersey and he was captain which I think is something very special as well. People were just thinking, ‘holy moly, this guy is unstoppable,’ and he’s just taking it to Germany and giving the team so much energy and so much belief that you can actually make a surprise happen. We kind of made two surprises happen within a couple of days.”
ussoccer.com: What are the biggest takeaways from these wins?
JK: “I think the biggest thing that we take away from those games is the mental side of it, that we actually start to lose fear or having too much respect for big names because of who they are or what they’ve done in the past. They deserve every compliment in the world, but I think we had too much respect for Germany in Recife (Brazil) in the World Cup. We had too much respect probably for most of the time during the game against Belgium, and we need to lose that respect in a way that we kind of give them eye-to-eye confrontation and make it an aggressive battle. When you get results like we did now in these last 10 days and a couple of other results over the last few years, over time it will add up and it will kind of set a new mindset within our players that, yeah it’s going to be a tremendous amount of work and you’re going to have to give everything you have, but it’s actually doable. You can also beat those nations on any given day and maybe more often if possible, so from a learning perspective it was very, very valuable.”
ussoccer.com: The past several months have been a developmental period where a lot of new faces have made their mark on the team. With the Gold Cup coming, does the transition period come to a pause?
JK: “I think we keep on being in a certain way in a transition period, because always when you have new talent coming through, you never want to stop transitioning. Obviously we have to kind of now bring it to an end in the way that the Gold Cup is in front of us and we need to have results. It’s not about developing players for the next couple of weeks, it’s about winning that Gold Cup and qualifying for the Confederations Cup 2017. So we’ve got to put the development side on the backburner for a few weeks, and then we’re going to pick it back up because the only way we can develop the players and get them better and better is by giving them opportunities. If you look at some young players where they were right after the World Cup and in joining our program and where they are right now, it is really encouraging for everybody involved because they see now that there’s always a chance, there’s an opportunity, there’s help and there’s support from the national team program on and off the field. We are super excited with the Under-20’s and what they did in New Zealand. We are super excited about the Under-23’s finishing third in Toulon. Obviously we’re proud of every win now that the women will have in Canada and we are the biggest fans of them. Every age group we want to move forward and we want to instill this kind of belief and this kind of mindset that you can do it, but only if you put a lot of work in and if you outwork your opponent.”
ussoccer.com: What are the next steps for finalizing the Gold Cup roster?
JK: “Finalizing the 23 out of the 35 is not a big deal because we have the opportunity to switch six players after the group stage, and we have a pretty clear picture. We have to approach the games different mentally because the opponents now will be very different. The opponents will be mostly defensive minded. We need different types of elements in our game to break them down, but at the same time we want to open up the energy that we’ve now generated with wins like in Holland and in Germany to give our players an extra kick in order to win this very, very important Gold Cup.”
ussoccer.com: What was it like to see Bobby Wood score game-winning goals in matches against Netherlands and Germany?
JK: “It just gives you such a big smile and a real kind of emotional boost seeing a young player that is trying so hard to break through here in Europe. He was playing in a second division team, he didn’t get the chances he needed, he moved onto another second division team, got injured, finished off strongly, but the team got relegated. We brought him along because we know he’s good, otherwise he’s not on the national team. Every national team player is damn good and they deserve to be there. We want these guys to succeed and have that special moment now. With that goal in Holland and especially this wonderful finishing in Germany, the world is opening up for him. He’s not going to be a part of our Gold Cup roster because I want him to have a break now. He struggled with a lot of injuries and then he has to sort out his club situation as well, so he’s getting his break. Hopefully he sorts everything out. We’ll see him back in September with our group, but seeing a goal like against Germany is just a wonderful thing to enjoy.”
ussoccer.com: What do these wins mean for the team?
JK: It means that the guys wrote a piece of history. I think that no matter what the situation - Germany was at the end of the season just having an easy qualifier to finish things off against Gibraltar, or Holland - it’s huge because the players will look back at this time and say we did it. We got into Amsterdam and Cologne and we did it. Especially the way we played in the second half against Germany, we totally deserved it to win this game. It’s going to be something that they’ll look back on one day with a big smile on their face.”