ussoccer.com: Having reviewed the win against the Czech Republic, what are your lasting impressions of the performance?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “There are a lot of positives we can take out of this game. We asked this younger generation - the group that here and there was not a big part of the World Cup in Brazil - to step it up and make statements. I think that young group made a very, very strong statement. We asked players such as Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona, Jozy Altidore and others to take the responsibilities into their hands and guide that young team in Prague, and that’s what they did. Winning in Prague against a Czech team that barely missed out on qualifying for the World Cup is a strong statement. So overall, it was a very positive trip. We learned a lot, and this group deserves to come along.”
ussoccer.com: There seemed to be an increased aggressiveness in the midfield. What were your instructions to those guys?
JK: “With every young group that comes through the system, you want them to step it up physically year by year. You want them to take over responsibilities, you want them to grow, to be louder on the field, but also to send out signals physically. It’s a physical sport, and in many cases it’s about one-on-one battles on the field and winning those battles. That’s what Mix, Michael Orozco, Joe Corona, John Brooks, Jozy Altidore, Ale Bedoya did. They stepped up and showed they can compete physically. That’s what we wanted to see, so for that reason they deserve a compliment.”
ussoccer.com: The team also seemed to show a commitment to playing out of the bac, particularly with the distribution by Brad Guzan. Did you ask them to stick with that plan and not be afraid to take risks? Is that something you plan to preach moving forward?
JK: “It’s definitely a huge step for us to play out of the back, to find defenders and open up the game right away and not to play long balls all the time. Pretty much every long ball is a turn over. In the first half with Brad Guzan delivering those balls into Diskerud, into the fullbacks, into the centerbacks, that looked really nice. Obviously for Nick Rimando, he’s used to doing that. He’s almost like a field player and he’s very comfortable playing out of the back. We told them not to worry about making mistakes. Here and there it might happen, but we want this game to be developed from the back into the midfield and then into the forwards and not to be forced always to play long balls. This is something we are going to encourage more and more going forward. We want to keep the ball. We want to build out of the back. We want them to have the confidence to do that and not worry about mistakes. I think it was a big step forward, and we will emphasize that going into the October games as well.”
ussoccer.com: While Jozy didn’t have many scoring chances, he seemed to show improved hold up play. What were your impressions?
JK: “It was huge for us to have Jozy Altidore back in our lineup. This was the biggest bummer for us in the World Cup, to lose Jozy in the first game. I think we could have made a huge step in the World Cup, especially facing a team like Belgium in the Round of 16, if Jozy had been on the field. I asked him to guide this young group. He’s still a young guy himself - he’s 24 years old but he already has 70 caps. We made him the captain and told him to guide these guys and he enjoyed that. He battled the whole game. He won most of his one-on-one battles, he provided great assists. He connected with Joe Gyau to the right and Julian green to the left, and connected to the midfield. It was a very strong performance by Jozy, even if he didn’t score. This is what we want to see from him. Sooner or later, I told him you are going to score your goals in the Premier League and continue to score goals for the National Team.”