U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann: “I think overall the program is on another level now.”

Jurgen Klinsmann Quote Sheet
Bahia, Brazil
Dec. 4, 2013

On 2013 accomplishments on the field:
“I think throughout the year in 2013, it was great to see players improve on a more consistent basis. You know players understand now that in order to get to their highest level they need to put in more work. Consistency is a key word, and I think we were far more consistent. The players also understand that they have to perform when they come into camp. They have to perform every time they step on the field. They have to perform in a sense of what they are doing for the team.”

“It was great to see in a stretch of 23 games throughout 2013, we had many different formations and many different players. The Gold Cup had different characteristics than the World Cup Qualifying games or friendly games, but whoever got on the field understood more and more his role, understood the urgency that we preach and they understood that is more than just playing on the field. It requires a 24/7 mindset to be a National Team player. I think overall the program is on another level now. “

On changing the culture since his arrival in 2011:
“What we try to do is make it clear to everyone that it is down to your performance. It’s down to you delivering product at the end of the day. We observe you on the field, but also off the field. We evaluate and tell you what we think about you. I think in the stretch of the last two and a half years you can see they are more accountable for what they are doing. They are more responsible about what they are doing. Obviously they have the big dream of going to Brazil and that helps eventually, but I think they understand that being a professional soccer player is far more than just playing games.  Therefore we created a performance based culture, an accountability based culture, and not only with the players but also with the staff. The coaches, the physios … whoever is involved, whoever is close to the players. It’s the same philosophy. If they have an issue and don’t perform or take it sloppy, there are thousands people who want to be part of the program.  I think we stepped it up in terms of accountability.

On the plans of the coaching staff in the upcoming months:
“We want to observe our players week in and week out no matter where they’re playing. We have a close eye on them, and then decide by May who is going to be the 23 for Brazil.” 

On the moments that stood out in 2013:
“The highlight really for us coaches was to see that players really got serious about what they’re doing and still enjoying and still having fun, still having a smile on their faces and understanding no matter what problems we’re dealing with, there is always a solution.  At least we try to find a solution. We never had the same team on the field for the most part. We always had injuries, we always had players missing, but there was no complaining about it. There were no finding excuses, and I think the real big thing about 2013 was that hunger to say ‘what is next? What is our next challenge?’ If you play in snow like in Denver, just embrace it and do your best and just try to beat the opponent. If it’s Germany in a friendly, or the qualifiers in Seattle with 45,000 people making noise, or playing in Columbus and “dos a cero” against Mexico, it’s great to see the players going for it. It’s great to see them having that hunger to say we want to be a special team and challenge bigger nations. We want to win trophies, which we did with the Gold Cup team.  All the little highlights make a bigger picture; we are there to get challenged, we’re never satisfied and we never settle.  I think everyone slowly has started to understand whatever is done is done and the next challenge is the bigger one.  If you want to survive in the World Cup, you can’t get satisfied or content for one second. The moment you get content, they’re going to send you home.  This is something we have to learn. We have to say it was good game on the weekend but what’s next, whose next?  We need to challenge the next big opponent, so therefore I think the big highlight is the culture that we created to ask what is next.”

On the World Cup Draw:
“It’s really exciting because you can feel it, you know what to expect, and you have those three opponents for the group stage.  You can start making plans; you can start analyzing the teams and get familiar with the locations where you play them. You get to work. That’s what you love to do, and we want to do everything possible and be perfectly prepared for those three opponents and also already look ahead to what we can expect in the Round of 16 if we pass the group stage.  This real thing - this is what you work for two and a half years..  The process starts now. You need to lead them six months in advance in terms of what they’re going to expect and to make sure that they are ready because once you kick off the first game they’re going be emotionally going 200 miles per hour. “

On the value of having experienced players for the World Cup:
“I think experience is important in terms of knowing what to expect, from players to the coaching staff that have already been there.  From a players’ perspective, it helps if a player has played in World Cup or two, but it also helps to have surprising elements in your team that other nations maybe don’t know yet.   You get a sense of who is really hungry, determined and ready to go beyond his capabilities in the World Cup. Experience helps, but it’s not necessary in a player’s perspective. “

On the importance of the upcoming January Camp:
“It’s important to see how they pick it up right away in the beginning of their MLS season, and obviously it’s a special season because it’s a World Cup year. Once this camps starts, the clock is ticking towards the camp in the middle of May. We will monitor them on a daily basis, and we want to see how prepared they are already for the January camp. Are they up to speed? Are they prepared for it?  It’s not vacation; it’s serious stuff.  For us it will be really important to see how serious they take it, where they are at, and then help them through the process towards the World Cup. Therefore we are grateful for that January camp because we’re going to use it as a preparation camp for Brazil.”

On the 2013 MLS Cup:
“I think we all can expect an exciting game. Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake both had tremendous years. They played very consistent, very tremendous football. It’s fun to watch them, and they have a philosophy that is in sync with the way we look at the game.  They want to have possession, they want to dictate the game, they want to play high tempo and they want to play high pressure. Both teams are really creative to watch and to see them come through going to the final is deserved. For us, it’s exciting because we have four national team players, two on each side, that are constantly with us and in a certain way role models.  You take Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, two players that came through the January camp, and with Kyle Beckerman you have someone with a lot of experience and who is what I like to say a giver to the game. Nick Rimando is also such a positive character, and it’s great to see those four compete in that final and great to see two teams that really deserve to be in there. Hopefully it’s not going to be too cold in Kansas that day and they can play a good game. “

On four National Team players playing in MLS Cup:
“I think all four players are good examples on how you can make it to the next level if you’re serious about your job. All four are always looking to improve and they want to do the extra work. They want to go the extra mile.  These players are good examples to mention to the next generation of players on how to get to the next level. “

On the recognition he has received for his performance as head coach:
“I think for a coach the highest recognition is when a player gives you feedback like thanking you for getting them to another level. You want to have a positive feedback from the group of players you work with, but you’re also always measured by success so you have to get results. You have to qualify for the World Cup. You have to win a Gold Cup.  Overall, you want to see an improvement when it really matters, which is in a World Cup. You want to see players go into a World Cup who have the confidence to challenge the so called big nations around the world, and not only getting the result but doing it in a way that connects people to that program. We want to get people excited and inspire fans and the next generation of players. If you step it up, yourself you can get to wherever you want to get to.  It’s an ongoing process that you never stop.”

On Jozy Altidore being named the 2013 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year:
“I’m excited for Jozy getting that award. First of all he deserves it, and secondly he is still a young player. We always think of Jozy being around forever, but he’s 24 years old. He learned his lessons, he still in the process of it and now he is getting a lesson at Sunderland to be patient. He has frustrating moments, but he takes that challenge positively.  He deserves that award and I can’t wait to start working with him and leading him towards the World Cup. He’s going to be huge.”