ussoccer.com: You opened the camp by saying that this was an opportunity for players to prove their point. How much do you take away from these two games?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Before the two games against Peru and Brazil, we said that it was really crucial that the players make a statement, make their point, and I think we learned a lot in both games. Obviously against Peru we came back from 1-0 down and played a very good second half and won against the No. 3 team from Copa America, which is pretty cool. Then in the second game against Brazil we got a lesson in all dimensions of the game. Physically they were sharper and they were bigger. Technically they were very sharp. It’s Brazil, we cannot pretend that we are as good as them technically. For us it was very interesting to see that no matter what background our players are coming from, whether they coming from the Premier League or the Bundesliga or the French Ligue or MLS or Liga MX, every player deals with it differently. Looking at the game again, there is definitely a lot to take away from it. This is why we need those games. We need those benchmarks, and we need to play the best teams in the world so that we can say ‘okay, what are we missing? What are we lacking compared to those teams?’ It was definitely worth it. One win, one loss, a lesson from Brazil, but a lot to take forward.”
ussoccer.com: Are the lessons from a loss against Brazil as important as the lessons of winning against Holland and Germany?
JK: “With our team, it’s always about adjusting to different situations. Every time we go into camp, every time we go into a friendly game or a World Cup qualifier, we have to adjust to the club situation. Where are the players right now? Are they healthy enough, are they fit enough? Not having a Fabian Johnson, a Clint Dempsey and a DaMarcus Beasley in that game against Brazil shows you that we don’t have the same quality right away to sub them. At the same time, I look at it always as a huge opportunity for whoever steps in, whoever gets a couple of minutes to prove a point. Those minutes later on will be very valuable to all those guys that played against Brazil. Maybe it doesn’t look so good in that game, but they experienced the level of a Neymar, a Hulk, a Marcelo … When you play on the same field as these guys, you realize how much you still have to learn. That’s why I’m very grateful to Brazil and these nations that play us. Here and there you surprise them and you might beat them like we did against Germany, or Holland, or Italy before, and here and there you’ll get a lesson by those nations because they always have another gear in their games. That’s why we badly need those games.”
ussoccer.com: What was your message to the team as they left camp and turned the page towards Mexico?
JK: “Our message for the players going into the Mexico clash is to take that experience from both games, against Peru, which went well, and against Brazil, which went not so well, and zoom in. Get yourself on the highest level possible. Get yourself even sharper and do some extra work in your club teams. A couple of our players are not 100 percent fit yet, so they have now four weeks to get ready. We just simply told them please have in the back of your mind Oct. 10. Have in the back of your mind the Rose Bowl and 90,000 fanatical fans, which we all look forward to. The message was not negative from the Brazil game, because those things happen. That’s part of the game too. If you learn from that lesson and get even more stimulated to go towards the Mexico game and put even more energy into everything you do, you will benefit from it when you play against them at the Rose Bowl.”
ussoccer.com: Why is the Confederations Cup so important?
JK: “Winning now this CONCACAF Cup is really crucial because it’s the ticket to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. This Confederations Cup is extremely important towards the World Cup 2018 because it lets you check out everything that you want to figure out before the big tournament. You get to know your hotels, your training facilities, and you get to play in some of the stadiums. You get a feeling for the people and the culture and you get to know a lot of people, which is really crucial. If you have that experience a year before the World Cup and then you go back there, you feel like you have a pretty good feeling about this country and about this World Cup. This is a huge advantage for every team that goes to the Confederations Cup, and that’s why it’s really crucial that we get there.”
ussoccer.com: How do you see Mexico at this stage?
JK: “Well obviously Mexico now after what happens during the Gold Cup and how they won and obviously what happened to Miguel Herrera afterwards, they have their own issues. It’s always been a very, very strong rival. They’re technically a very gifted team with outstanding individual players. We know them inside out and they know us inside out, but they’re going through a lot of changes right now. A new coach comes in and has his clear ideas and wants to do his job and we are prepared for it. We have, as always, a lot of respect for I, but this is our game. We’re playing at the Rose Bowl and we hope for huge, huge support from the U.S. fans and I think it’s going to be very, very exciting. It’s going to be a tight game and hopefully we’re going to finish it off with a win that takes us to Russia. Therefore we need to be best prepared. Everyone needs to be highly focused. It’s going to be very exciting and very emotional, but that’s what the game’s all about.”
ussoccer.com: What will be important in the preparations for this game?
JK: “What’s really important during the preparation for this game, talking about the week that leads up to game in the Rose Bowl clash, is that everybody understands how serious it is. It’s a huge game. It’s a game that’s never been played before. It’s a playoff for the Confederations Cup. They’ve named it the CONCACAF Cup, so they’ve given it a title and a trophy. Everything has been done to set the game up in a big way, in a big stage, and this is exciting because as a player you want to be in a final that is played in front of 90,000 people and that gives you a trophy and takes you to a very important goal. It’s pretty difficult to make it any bigger than that. The players should just enjoy it and be ready and well prepared and give everything they have.”
ussoccer.com: The same day we face Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, our U-23s will hopefully be playing for a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
JK: “Obviously it’s not only a big time for the senior team with the clash against Mexico, it’s a big, big stage for our Olympic team going into the qualifiers towards Rio de Janeiro 2016. They had two friendly games in England earlier this month. They lost 1-0 against England and they beat Qatar 2-0. It was great to see the team out there and finding chemistry and getting to know each other. They’re going to go in early October to the qualifiers and they need our support. They need every support possible from our fans and from the Federation and we’ll keep our fingers crossed for them. It’s a big stage for U.S. Soccer in the next couple of weeks.”