ussoccer.com: Describe how you and the coaching staff went about selecting this 23-player roster for the Gold Cup:
Jurgen Klinsmann: “It’s kind of a roster where you have to go player by player and evaluate each situation to see where they are at and see how strong they are, but we are excited about a roster for the Gold Cup that really has a shot of winning it. This tournament gives us a huge opportunity to see where a lot of the players are. Even though we don’t have the European-based players that were part of our World Cup Qualifying process, we put together the strongest team possible for this huge opportunity at the Gold Cup. We had talks with MLS before the summer about how we would handle using MLS players for these two different camps, and through those great discussions we compromised so we have access to all the MLS guys that were part of the World Cup Qualifying games if we need them for the last stage of the Gold Cup.”
ussoccer.com: You have talked about two goals for the tournament. One is obviously winning, but you also said this is a chance for players to “make their case.” What are you looking to accomplish in the next month?
JK: “First, you want to win a Confederation competition, which is a 50 percent ticket to the Confederations Cup in Russia. We don’t want to watch the Confederations Cup on TV anymore; we want to be there. At the same time, the players that are representing us in this Gold Cup, they clearly know that this a huge opportunity to prove their value and their case to the coaching staff one year prior to the World Cup. So, two big things, one is to win the competition and two, allow the players to build their case for the World Cup. The door is always open; you never shut the door in soccer to players, no matter what difficult stretch they are going through with their club teams. This is a good way to show them that even though they went through tough moments with their clubs, we always kept things open. We made it clear that it’s down to the player to understand their opportunities. If you look at Oguchi Onyewu or Michael Parkhurst or Stuart Holden, this is their opportunity. Things didn’t go the way they wished over the last season or months, but there is the opportunity because some players can’t be here and because they deserve it.”
ussoccer.com: You have a number of players on the roster who carry over from the May/June camp. What role do you expect them to play in the Gold Cup?
JK: “I think it’s huge that we have a consistent message with all the players, and these guys that were already part of the May-June process can really showcase that philosophy and the principles that we have been working on over a long period of time. They can really lead the group now with clear messages, and they understand what we ask and expect of them. It can help fine-tune this group in a big competition. It’s been a tricky process for all of us to plan for these two and a half months, but I think we found solutions here with both MLS and even with European players coming into the Gold Cup in building that bridge from one camp to another that hopefully gives us a very good foundation to be successful and deepen our player pool. A year from now, you do not know where players will be at or who might have injuries. You can’t look into the future, so we need to find solutions now, deepen our pool and make players understand what we expect from them, introduce them to the high competition in order to get them adjusted to it. We also have to be patient in that process.”
ussoccer.com: Earlier you mentioned that for this roster selection you looked at each situation case by case. In the case of Landon Donovan, what have you seen at this point that now says to you he has earned a chance to be back on the National Team?
JK: “When Landon came back in the end of March after the long break, he needed time to get back in a rhythm, get back in shape and work on his game again. I think now the process is on a good roll. He’s getting sharper every game and every week. We’ve watched his games and believe now is a good time to get him back into the National Team and give him the opportunity to prove his point. He knows that the group that played the World Cup Qualifiers is ahead of the curve and have a very strong position right now, and that he’s been observed by us and has to rebuild his case. We have all respect for what he has done in the past, but sports are about the present and about the future, and that’s what we are building on. We are really happy to have him back in the group, and he has the opportunity now to show where he’s at.”
ussoccer.com: There are six players called in who are based in Mexico, and players from that league have had an increasing influence on the National Team. How has the relationship grown with clubs and players in Liga MX?
JK: “Over the last two years, especially through Martin Vasquez and other people that are connected well to the Mexican league, we have built partnerships and good relationships with the clubs in Mexico and we are very pleased about how the players have built their case and grown through playing in Liga MX. It’s a very good league with very good clubs. We are very respectful with each other about the way we communicate and work together. You can see now the number of players that break through in Mexico who have American passports and are on the radar screen. In some cases we are able to help them make connections down there. The relationship with teams south of the border has never been better than it is today.”
ussoccer.com: Once again MLS players have a prominent role on the squad. As you continue to build depth, what does it say about the league that you have so many options?
JK: With every season MLS is getting stronger and more consistent. This is the big word we use in our program: consistency. You have to prove your case and your qualities week in and week out and not just give us one good performance and five mediocre ones. A lot of MLS players are becoming more stable and more consistent, and therefore they deserve to be a part of the National Team program. Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis are great examples of how consistency will help your personal case and actually improve your chances, and the next wave of MLS players is on the way to breaking in there. We are curious to see Jack McInerny coming in for the first time and to help him become a part of the senior team program. Will Bruin we had already in the January camp and he left a very good impression. Chris Wondolowski has been a top scorer in MLS for several years and shows consistently in his work. Tony Beltran we saw in January and played against Canada. Corey Ashe we had called in before the Belgium game and unfortunately he got injured, but he’s also been consistent. We want to give those players the opportunity to come in and prove their point and be confident about themselves. That’s why we are happy to have a foundation of players now coming out of MLS that every year become more mature and more consistent.”
ussoccer.com: You have warned in the past about young players getting too much too soon and the need for patience. How will you manage the situation with Jack McInerny to make sure he is brought along in the right way?
JK: “It’s a partnership that we always have to build with the club coach. John Hackworth has known Jack for a long time already and really gave us great input on his personality and his game. Jack seems to have his feet on the ground and is strong enough to come and experience things on the senior level. There is no pressure on Jack at all, just the wish that he gets integrated and adjusted and gives it his best. He seems to be a player who is pretty hungry and has a great instinct for the goal, which is why he has 10 goals already this year. Off the field, we want him to take it one day at a time and become part of the group. It will certainly be important that we keep his feet on the ground and don’t make things bigger than they are. I think he is in good hands in Philadelphia, and that’s the case with many players in MLS. I think that proves more and more that we don’t differentiate a player’s background; whether it is MLS, Mexico or Europe, we look at each case individually and try to build on that.”
ussoccer.com: In this camp you have the opportunity to see more of the Scandinavian-based players, in particular Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud and Joshua Gatt. What have you seen from them, and what do you hope to learn during the Gold Cup?
JK: “We follow all their games. We know where they are at and we are very pleased. All three of them are starters in their clubs. All three have become more mature players. They really have talent. We brought them in for that short period of time for the Russia game in November 2012 and already they started to prove a point. This is a big chance for them to come back into our group and keep developing in the senior team environment.”