U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named the roster for the upcoming game against the Czech Republic on Sept. 3 in Prague. The match marks the first game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup cycle for the United States, and Klinsmann clearly has his eyes on the future. ussoccer.com caught up with Klinsmann to discuss the upcoming game and roster.
On the inclusion of so many younger players on the roster:
Jurgen Klinsmann: “When you start a new cycle, you want to see as many new players and young players breaking in as possible. Obviously you always respect your established players and you always want to give them the space to continue their good work, but you also want to use that opportunity going forward to introduce young blood into the program, give them time on the training field, and you also want to give them time in a real game and prove a point. Show us what you have. Show us your talent, be confident and go for your next level. This is what comes up in the next couple games. It’s about young players coming in and hopefully doing well, with the established ones being part of it as well. We try to mix things up, but we are curious about the next generation of players breaking in. It is also very vital towards Russia 2018 that we already communicate now, four years away, that there is a path for you laid out, but you as a player decide at the end of the day whether you make that path or not. We can explain as many things as we want, but the players have to have that drive, that hunger and that determination to go to the highest level possible. We started that process already. We’re talking to a lot of clubs about a lot of young players and we want to introduce them as quickly as possible in the different teams as well. It’s just exciting to take that kind of energy created in Brazil from the World Cup and translate it to the next cycle and tell young players, ‘Hey, anything is possible as long as you work hard.’”
“It’s an especially good opportunity for us to look at the younger players based in Europe, which we don’t get to do very often because of their schedules. We can’t bring them into the January camp where we get to work with a lot of the up and coming talent, so for players like Joe Gyau, Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood, it’s a great chance for them to experience our environment, and for us we get to know these guys better and see what they can do.”
On the decisions that went into putting together the roster:
JK: “The goal is always to get the strongest roster possible. There’s no doubt about it, because you want to win games. Winning games as a National Team program gives you credibility and gives you confidence. So you want to win in Czech Republic but at the same time, you want to experiment. You want to take some risks to introduce young players, players that haven’t proven yet what quality they have. So we always will juggle both things: we want to get results because we want to get the confidence and we want to build more credibility, and we want to get more respect towards all the other nations from around the world. At the same time we’re also responsible for developing players, and players only can develop and get to the next level if you give them a chance to play. So maybe if there’s a 50/50 situation between an established player and a younger player, and we maybe don’t know some of the answers yet about the younger player but we know a lot about that experienced player, I probably will take the younger player because it just makes more sense, and this is what we’re going to try to do and we will also communicate to everyone.”
On bringing in a player like U-23 MNT forward Jordan Morris:
JK: “We have watched Jordan through our Youth National Teams and in the Development Academy for the last couple of years, and he is a very promising player. We saw him during our two weeks at Stanford for the World Cup preparation camp, and also from his play with U-23 team in the Bahamas, and we felt like this was a good opportunity to introduce him to the Senior Team.”
On playing against the Czech Republic:
JK: “Czech Republic is a good benchmark. It’s a good team with players who are playing all over Europe, so it’s going to be a challenge. At the same time, we’re coming in from a strong World Cup and teams are looking at us differently now in Europe than maybe a couple of years ago. They say ‘You know what? They’re not so easy to beat anymore. They’re just growing, they’re getting better.’ It’s just a normal process the U.S. is going through.”
“Do we want to win this game? Absolutely, but we also know the great players that are on the other side; players like [Tomas] Rosicky that plays for a big club and other ones who deserve a lot of respect. But I think that we built more and more confidence, we build more belief that we also go to Europe and say, ‘We are here to give you a game and to beat you’. This is what we’re going to try to do in Prague.”
On what is next for the U.S. MNT at the start of the new cycle:
JK: “Well now being basically past the World Cup in Brazil and a couple months of a break, we’re really getting excited about what’s going to happen over the next four years with the National Team program, the senior level but also all the other levels. It’s huge. It’s a very exciting picture that we have in front of ourselves. We’re looking at the Under-17 World Cup next year, the Under-20 World Cup next year, we’re looking at the Olympic Team cycle that we started to build toward Rio de Janeiro in 2016, we’re looking at the Gold Cup that hopefully qualifies us for the Confederations Cup 2017 in Russia. Two years from now, and the time will go so fast, we have a Copa America in the United States, which is amazing. It’s almost like having a World Cup here in this country with Brazil, with Argentina, with Chile, Uruguay; all these great South American nations which is a huge benchmark for us.
On the European transfer window closing after the seasons begin:
JK: “It’s not good. I never understood why this transfer window ends Aug. 31 instead of July 31, because all the big clubs in Europe have made up their mind if they want a player or not. They should never drag this topic into the existing season. In Europe they’re playing already. The Premier League started, the Bundesliga starts now and Spain starts now. They should have transfers already done by July 31, but unfortunately they keep that window open until Aug. 31. Some of our players fall into that category where they haven’t figured out yet what their future will be club-wise, and that’s not good for us.”