: What are you looking to take out of these last two friendlies against Scotland and Austria
Jurgen Klinsmann : “The key message for us for the Scotland and Austria games is those are World Cup preparation games, so they are serious. We are trying to bring in the strongest group possible, so we follow all the games happening right now, if it’s in Europe or especially if it’s here in MLS with the playoff games. Mexico is getting toward the end as well, so we are all over the place to monitor all the players. They key message is really we want to prove a point in Scotland and in Austria that we are on the right path.
“We want to play good football there and show them that we come to their countries and stadiums to compete. We are excited about these opportunities because we don’t have many left before training camp begins next May. Therefore, it’s going to be intense.”
: The matches come on international fixture dates, and MLS chose not to play playoff matches during the window. How will that impact roster decisions?
JK : “Because MLS scheduled their playoffs with respect to our FIFA fixture dates, it’s basically working hand-in-hand. We’re going to bring the best players into Scotland and Austria no matter where they play. No matter if they play like Michael Bradley in Italy or the guys in the [English] Premier League, the Bundesliga or the guys in Liga MX in Mexico and MLS. Because of MLS creating that window between their playoff games, that helps make our two games really exciting.”
: Why is it important for players to be a part of this camp?
JK : “It always helps when they come in every game and train together. We see so many things in training and in games. So for us, in the few opportunities we have to see them directly together, we can send out specific messages, and we can discuss with a lot of players - especially players from MLS and Liga MX - what their offseason should look like after the playoffs are done.
“Having everybody on board, getting everybody together and having those meetings are very crucial to us because we build chemistry for the World Cup. We want to see who’s really 1,000 percent dedicated to everything we do. Therefore, every day we have together in our group means a lot to us.”
: Michael Bradley has returned from injury to contribute for Roma. Who are some other players that have made positive contributions to their team at
this stage of the seasons in Europe
JK : “You mentioned Michael Bradley, and he is very key for us. We are thrilled he’s back in the starting lineup now after his injury. We watch all the other players getting their rhythm. We see Fabian Johnson and John Brooks now coming back from their injuries. I’ve talked to their coaches, and they are ready to go again. Alejandro Bedoya is doing extremely well with FC Nantes in France. Aron Johannsson is in his rhythm in Holland. With Terrence Boyd at Rapid Vienna, he’s totally motivated for this camp to play in the second match against Austria. It’s great to see how Jozy [Altidore] is fighting his way through in the Premier League. I will go to see Sunderland play Manchester City on the weekend. Maybe that helps him get his first goal in the Premier League there!
“The whole coaching staff is spread out on the weekend through the Premier League and the Bundesliga. We already went to the first couple MLS playoff games. So, it’s exciting times. Players have their ups and downs, others have injury issues and we put that all into consideration, but at the end of the day, we want them to go through it and present themselves in the strongest way possible. We are looking forward to having them in Glasgow next week.”
: When you’re at the Sunderland-Manchester City game watching Jozy, what do you get to see that film or television doesn’t offer in your evaluation
JK : “The big advantage of going there is you get to see the whole field. You get a sense of the chemistry, you see how they support each other, and you see some team components that you don’t get on television. When you can watch the LA Galaxy play Real Salt Lake live, you see the movement of the players, you see how the backline pushes up. TV cameras don’t cover everything.
“In a game like Sunderland [vs. Manchester City], I hope to see how they involve Jozy in the game. How much support does he really get there? How do they deliver the ball to him? You get to see that. You can see how the team spreads out over 40, 50, 60 yards and leave gaps open, or if they are very compact. What is the defensive shape of a team? Is he part of all that? Therefore, it’s always a benefit to go yourself to see matches, to have someone physically in the stadium to see the game. It’s easier if you focus on key players yourself for more than an entire game.”
: DaMarcus Beasley has had a tremendous year for the National Team, being captain of the Gold Cup winning squad among other successes
. What do you see that he brings to the table?
JK : “He’s a role model in terms of consistency, in terms of positive attitude and in terms of ‘I never give up.’ DaMarcus is a player that’s just tough, and has tremendous experience now. For all these years they say DaMarcus’s speed is so good, his technical ability, he’s two-footed. You take those positives and add that experience and someone who’s becoming a leader within the group. He helps the younger players. That’s why I made him captain for the Gold Cup, and he led that team to the title.
“He proved to people that it’s not about age. It’s not about certain things people say. It’s about what I do day-in, day-out. He took that message, carried it through the entire year of 2013 and became one of the real faces of the senior National Team that did so well throughout the entire year. He has had a special year.”
: Scotland is a team you saw last year. What kind of game are you expecting, and what do you think of the roster they put together this time around
JK : “It’s a team very different from last year. They came to Jacksonville to finish their season and they simply wanted to have a good time and go on vacation. The coach, even after the match, kind of apologized and said, ‘Shoot, it was hard to push them up again.’ I said, ‘It’s totally understandable.’ It helped us get our confidence for our World Cup Qualifier last summer.
“This team now just barely missed the World Cup. This team twice beat Croatia, which still has a chance to go to the World Cup. It’s a team full of competitiveness that every time they play in Hampden Park in Glasgow is full of energy and full of enthusiasm and great attitude because they want to show their crowd that they’re good. For us, it’s a great benchmark to face them on their home turf and fully motivated. It’s great because it puts us on our toes a half year before the World Cup.
“It’s a similar case is Austria. Austria is full of talent and came very close to making the World Cup. They had a tough group with Germany and Sweden and still almost made it. They have a point to prove, to show their fans that they should be in Brazil. They want to show off, so we have to be very alert, be very sharp and play our game. To play those two stadiums in Glasgow and in Vienna is a highlight. Those are places you want to play, and for our players it’s the right benchmark to show how good they are.”
: With the Major League Soccer Playoffs underway, what are your thoughts on the postseason so far
JK : “That it’s extremely competitive. It’s tough. It’s physical because now everything is at stake for those teams. When you want to raise the tempo, when you want to raise the bar, you see that you make more mistakes. The higher the tempo, the more you see technical deficiencies, tactical deficiencies, so you start to struggle. This is good! It’s good because at the end of the day what leads you toward the international game is the tempo, the speed of the game.
“It’s going to be interesting now in the second legs. There’s so much emotion involved. If you look just at the Portland-Seattle matchup, the Galaxy at Real Salt Lake and the games in the Eastern Conference, it’s the same thing. If you’re the U.S. National Team coach, it’s where you want to see your National Team players stepping it up. You want them to put their stamp on the game. If it’s Clint Dempsey or Eddie Johnson or Landon Donovan, you want them to score. You want the other ones in the back being leaders like Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Brad Evans, who is the captain right now at the Sounders. You want Brad Davis to put his stamp on the game like he did in Panama when he came on.
“This is big-time now. This is where we go through all these guys and see they want to make a difference. When Kansas City goes down, and then comes back, we want to see Graham Zusi and Matt Besler step up. This is how we look at our players now. We want to see if Juan Agudelo can score. It’s exciting.
: In what ways does having the players you mentioned help their teams through high-pressure moments translate to the National Team, and what do you
want from them at the next level
JK : “In these playoff moments, it’s about understanding momentum. If they make a mistake, they can’t correct it afterwards anymore. In the regular season, if the game went wrong, you can correct it over the next couple of games; now players can’t do that. Now, you have to prove you have the mentality to turn a game around when you’re down a goal.
“I think the experience the senior National Team players got over the course of the year with the National Team is that we turned a lot of the games around in the last minute. If you look at Panama or Jamaica and you carry that belief then into your club and say, OK, we are a goal down Seattle, Kansas City or Real Salt Lake, but we did come back a couple of times this year with the National Team, maybe we can come back here.
“This is where you want them now to show a difference, that they are who they are. That they know we have them in the picture for the World Cup in Brazil, the biggest stage in the world next summer. Now you want to see them stepping it up.”