ussoccer.com: What are your thoughts now looking back at the CONCACAF Cup?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “I think looking back at the CONCACAF Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, it’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t win the game, but overall I think it was hugely exciting. There were 93,000 fans, a crowd with American support that we’ve never ever had before against Mexico where I think more than 30,000 of our fans were in the stadium and made a tremendous atmosphere and tremendous support for the team. For the players, for us and I hope also for the fans it was enormously exiting. I talked to a lot of people afterwards who said they have never experienced anything like that, so it was definitely a huge game to remember for all of us.”
ussoccer.com: What does the team learn from the recent results?
JK: “I think as a team everyone is growing far more when things go the wrong direction than when things go well. When you have a couple of tough results and when you have a couple of defeats that are bitter to swallow, that’s when a team really becomes a team. That’s when players start to stick together. That’s when players and coaches start to solve problems and have discussions internally on how to move things in a positive direction again. Going through tough times teaches you far more than going through good times, and that’s what we’re going to do right now.”
ussoccer.com: How do you keep the World Cup in mind as you go through these moments?
JK: “It’s always difficult in a negative moment to talk about the bigger picture, but it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. The bigger picture is Russia 2018. Every competition and every game, whether it’s a friendly game or a World Cup Qualifying game and the upcoming events like a Copa America or a Gold Cup 2017, are there to build towards Russia 2018. That mean to break in younger players, to help them grow and get through some growing pains. That means to build to chemistry and build new leadership within the group and to fine tune a lot of things over a couple of years because you only have a limited amount of time with the National Team players when they join in from their club teams. So this is the bigger picture, to be highly competitive in 2018, to get further in 2018 than we did in 2014 in Brazil. We will go through ups in that period and we will go downwards sometimes, like right now through a negative moment, but we all do that as a team.”
ussoccer.com: What is the message now for the team and for the fans?
JK: “When you talk now to the players, when you talk now to the coaching staff, you talk to everybody involved in U.S. Soccer and to our fans that were unbelievable at the Rose Bowl, the message is that we’re going to go through tough times as well. We had 2012 where we equalized the best record in U.S. Soccer history. We had 2013 where we set a new record for the best record in U.S. Soccer history. In 2014, we surprised the world when we came out of the “Group of Death” leaving Portugal and Ghana behind us, and now we’re going through some tough times, but our slogan is One Nation. One Team. And we do that together. We take the results and we take the critics, and you especially as a coach get it all over the place right now, but you stand up in front your team and you say ‘listen, there’s not only sunshine.’ We’re going to go through it and refocus and we can’t wait to be in St. Louis in front of our crowd and get the first three points in World Cup Qualifying.”
ussoccer.com: The Olympic team finished third in Olympic Qualifying to set up a March playoff against Colombia for a spot in the Olympics. What is the message to that group?
JK: “You can see how competitive CONCACAF is nowadays with the Olympic Qualifiers. Our U-23 team won four out of five games, but unfortunately they lost the wrong one, the decisive semifinal against Honduras, but then they beat Canada and they now have the playoff games with Colombia, which shows you how difficult it is to get all the way through. But they need our support. They need to know that this is just part of growing and getting better. So they will get the job done in March and they’re also going the tough way, but that’s what the game is all about.”