Q&A: Jurgen Klinsmann’s Gold Cup Roster Approach: “Do everything possible to win this competition.”

U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with ussoccer.com about the USA’s Gold Cup roster and the journey to defend its title.

ussoccer.com: How did you go about assembling this roster?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Our approach for putting together the roster for this summer’s Gold Cup, which is very, very important to us, is obviously to do everything possible to win this competition. Winning it would qualify us for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so putting the pieces together is very crucial. That’s why we came out with a roster full of quality, but also a lot of experience; players that are used to playing in the CONCACAF region and also younger players that came through the ranks over the last year that made a stamp on the Senior National Team program. It’s an exciting roster, and obviously we have a chance to make some changes after the group stage if necessary. We put all of these things into consideration, and we believe we have a very, very strong group that can win this prestigious tournament.”

ussoccer.com: You’ve chosen a lot of players with a lot of experience. How important is experience in a tournament?
JK: “Going into a Gold Cup, especially in our region here, experience means a lot. You need players that stay calm in very emotional and very difficult and very tough battles. It can get nasty, things might not go your way in some moments, so you have to stay cool and you have to always be on top of things. I think the experience that players like Brad Guzan, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski, Nick Rimando have, just to name a few of them, those guys bring the experience with them to stay calm and get the job done. The Gold Cup really is about getting the job done and winning it and qualifying us for the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017. That’s why it’s really crucial for us to have players on the roster that have tremendous experience.”

ussoccer.com: Do the type of opponents that the U.S. will face in the Gold Cup impact the roster decisions?
JK: “In the Gold Cup obviously you’ll deal with different types of opponents than if you maybe went to Europe to play European sides, or to South America to play South American sides like last year in the World Cup in Brazil. It’s very different now in the Gold Cup where our main rivals are from Central America and they play a specific way. They’re all different in their own terms, but you need to put that in consideration when you put the pieces together in terms of your roster. You need to have guys that are experienced in dealing with teams like that. If you look at our group, it’s a very difficult with Panama and Honduras and also Haiti is a team that’s a little unpredictable, so you need to have guys in your team right now that can deal with surprises, that can deal with issues, and can deal with maybe being a goal down and turn things around. That’s why we chose a really good mixture of experience and also younger guys that bring really good energy to the table.”

ussoccer.com: How will you approach the possibility of changing up the six players after the group stage?
JK: “I think having the opportunity to change players already after the group stage is something that we took advantage of two years ago when we won the Gold Cup with six consecutive wins.  So it’s important to have that option, but it’s also important to tell the initial group, ‘Hey, you’re in the driver’s seat here, you set the tone.’ And then depending on what happens - if it’s suspensions, if it’s god forbid injuries or whatever, we have the chance to make high quality subs. We will definitely have that in the back of our minds.  But first and foremost comes the group stage, and that is a very difficult group that we have as I mentioned with Panama, Honduras, and Haiti, so first we have to go through there and then we can think about maybe making some changes after the group phase.”

ussoccer.com: What was your reaction to the situation with Clint Dempsey?
JK: “The situation with Clint Dempsey, obviously, is something that I saw basically on the internet.  I was in Europe still after our games against Holland and Germany.  It’s something that nobody wants to see. It’s a mistake, and mistakes happen.  So, obviously when he comes in next week to Nashville in preparation for our friendly game with Guatemala, we’ll sit down and talk through that and we’ll go from there.  It’s something that nobody wants to go through. Nobody wants to get red carded. Nobody wants to get suspended and be in discussion by the fans and the media for a mistake you make. But it’s on the other hand, it’s part of the game too. So we’ll take a little bit of a step back and we’ll discuss it in person in a relaxed way and go from there. “

ussoccer.com: How are you handling the European-based players that have been on break?
JK: “Well the tricky part of this Gold Cup is that because it’s in July, which ideally like Copa America or the Women’s World Cup would have been in June, the players coming from Europe are all done with their seasons, so they went on quick vacations and had a tightened vacation phase and now we have to shoot them up for the Gold Cup. It’s not easy for them, but it is doable and its part of their job. They have a training plan and work out plans in order to stay in shape. We’ll take it from there in Nashville in preparation for the friendly with Guatemala, and get them one step at a time into the Gold Cup because we want to have the strongest team possible with us. Our biggest rival Mexico will come with their strongest group also with European-based players, so we want to meet them face to face and make sure that they stay behind us. I’m sure our players were conscientious in their vacation periods. They are conscious that there is a lot at stake and they’re going to be well prepared.”

ussoccer.com: How important will fan support be during this tournament?
JK: “I think the biggest part that were hoping to get from this summer’s Gold Cup, because it’s a crucial competition because it qualifies us for the Confederations Cup in Russia, is our fans. We need our fans to be behind us. We need the American Outlaws to be organizing in every venue that we go to and we want to show to everybody throughout the country that we have the most amazing fans in the world. We had hundreds or even thousands of fans in Holland when we played Holland in Amsterdam. We had a whole block of fans in Cologne against Germany when we beat the number one team in the world. We want to take that energy into the Gold Cup. We need their support a lot, and the players feel really privileged to see them there and see them behind the goal, especially when things are not working the way you want them to wok and in a tournament like the Gold Cup that is always full of surprises. You might be a goal down, two goals down, but it’s all about belief, about keeping  on going, keeping on pushing and turning things around. We did it in Holland. We did it in Germany. We came from behind and we beat them.  It might happen to us in the Gold Cup, too, so hopefully we’ll have thousands and thousands of our fans in the stadium giving us that support.”