ussoccer.com: You made it a point to include younger players in these opening World Cup qualifiers. What did you see from them against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and how valuable is it for them to get this type of experience in Trinidad & Tobago?
JK:”I think those are the experiences that our younger players need. It’s also about getting a sense of the atmosphere of World Cup Qualifiers. It’s a very different environment then you have with friendly games, no matter if it’s Europe or South America or in the United States. The learning curve for our younger players or those that haven’t gone through that process yet is very important, no matter if they step on the field or even if they’re on the bench and experience the atmospheres in the stadiums and the circumstances they’re thrown into and obviously the quality of the opponent. This is big for us, and I’m glad it worked out great in the first game where we actually could get some youngsters on the field and feel it first hand on the field. Hopefully they have many more learning experiences like that over the next couple of years.”
ussoccer.com: What were some of the specific things you liked from them?
JK: “What was nice to see was that the younger players settled with the game and they felt more confident and positive. For a striker like Bobby Wood, you wish that he gets to score a goal and he scored one after 10 minutes and he had several chances to score even more, or a Gyasi Zardes who is sometimes on the wing and sometimes up front. You expect a little bit more from these guys because you want them to mature in their own game and you hope they get that opportunity to show it, and they did it. When you talk about players like Matt Miazga, who we’ve followed for quite a while or even Darlington Nagbe, who is a little bit older but is obviously fresh with our group, you hope for them that they find their foot in the game, they find their rhythm, they feel comfortable and become part of that group. I think that’s what we saw. You saw DeAndre Yedlin - it didn’t look good with the first goal we conceded - but then he worked himself into the game and obviously on the attacking side with his speed, he can always make a difference which he did right away. Five minutes after the St. Vincent goal, he came down and gave the assist. All these little things that you’re hoping for, they actually happen. The fact that we had Fabian Johnson play in his Borussia Monchengladbach role as a left midfielder instead of being a right or left back worked out really well. He scored a goal for us as well with a free kick, and he’s a tremendous free kick taker. This was a good start because they worked themselves into that position and now we have a far bigger challenge ahead with Trinidad & Tobago, but you feel good that you brought these younger players along.”
ussoccer.com: You said before the start of these two games that Brad Guzan would play the first game against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Tim Howard would play the second against Trinidad & Tobago. With two top quality goalkeepers, how important is it to make sure both are getting consistent games for the National Team?
JK: “Having goalkeepers like Tim Howard, who has been with Everton for a long time, and Brad Guzan with Aston Villa is huge for us. I think it’s a big advantage we have in the United States, but it’s also tricky because you want to have both of them on board. You want them both to be highly motivated and highly committed to their National Team, which they are. We’ve come up with a compromise in a certain way to give them each their games. To rotate them is definitely the best way to go. We have a long way to go to Russia 2018. We have tournaments in between like the Copa Centenario and the Gold Cup 2017, so it’s important that we keep them both on board, always with their typically positive attitude and their leadership that they bring to the table. The good thing about these two is that they both get along with each other. This is really the foundation for having made that decision is that they’re on board with it. They keep their fingers crossed for each other. If Brad plays, Tim sits on the bench and cheers him on and if Tim plays, Brad sits on the bench and cheers him on. Having these two goalkeepers here always with us is huge.”
ussoccer.com: Do you think the support that they give each other is also an example to the other guys on the roster as to how they can contribute even if they’re not playing?
JK:”I think when you have an example where one goalkeeper supports the other one and they both get their games over time, this is a signal to the entire team. The team needs to understand that yes there are starters. It’s only 11 players that you can put out there, but they always need to be ready coming off the bench and emotionally they need to be into the game. They need to be there waiting for that chance, being hungry and having that inner drive to say when my moment comes, I’m going to be there for the team. Having these two outstanding goalkeepers setting that example helps you with the other players as well. Obviously when you’re on the bench, you’re not happy because you want to be on the field, but over the stretch of the next three years, you need every one of them. Maybe we will find even more players that are part of the National Team program over three years. It’s great to have these two ‘keepers setting that example and those guys following it.”
ussoccer.com: Is their flexibility in where you can use Fabian Johnson moving forward?
JK: Flexibility is a good word for Fabian Johnson because of his special talent. He’s undoubtedly one of our best players and he’s playing in a Champions League team in Europe. Obviously we observe him there and talk about what the best way is to utilize him, but it’s also about who is available for us, how are we put together on the right defensive side and the left defensive side and depending on how everybody is in that specific moment, we can make a decision with him because he can literally plug in everywhere. This is wonderful to have because at the end of the day, the opponent never knows where Fabian Johnson will show up.”
ussoccer.com: What were your initial impressions of Darlington Nagbe?
JK: “I think with Darlington we have a player that obviously has tremendous technical talent. He’s very comfortable on the ball and he knows when to accelerate, when to go through midfield and when to find his teammates in different positions. We want to see now over the next couple of months and years how he finds his spot in the senior National Team. Obviously we saw many of Darlington’s games in MLS and speaking to Caleb Porter I got all the insights that I asked him for. Already in that half hour on the field, he showed his skill set.”
Read Part One of our Q&A where Jurgen Klinsmann discusses the team’s 6-1 win against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the preparations for Tuesday’s match against the Soca Warriors and the challenges of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF.