Recently appointed U-23 MNT head coach Andi Herzog sat down with ussoccer.com to speak about the team's upcoming training camp in Europe that will feature matches against Boznia and Denmark.
ussoccer.com: As you get this group together for the first time as head coach, the scheduling comes at an interesting moment with both the Senior Team and the U-20 team also playing. How did you work through putting together the roster?
Andi Herzog: “This was a bit of a puzzle. There are players from our pool that also fit in with the Senior Team, and also with the U-20 team. Overall I’m really happy that most of the players were released from the clubs in MLS, Europe and Mexico, so I think that we have a great group together and we can look forward to having two great games in Europe.
ussoccer.com: You have two very different and challenging opponents with Bosnia and Denmark. What do you like about these games?
AH: “It’s two different mentalities because Denmark is one of the best seven teams in Europe right now. They qualified for the European U-21 Championship that is coming up in May and June in the Czech Republic, so I think it will be a real tough game for us and I think a great, great challenge for our players. Bosnia is more like most of the teams from the Balkans, a more a technical team.”
ussoccer.com: This is your first camp as head coach with this group. What are some of the messages that you want to give to this team?
AH: “We are about six months away from the Olympic qualifying tournament, but I think it’s for every single player, a great chance, and for every one of us on the staff, a great opportunity, and it starts right now with the first game in Bosnia. Every player has to show me that he wants to be part of this group, and that they understand how special it is to represent your country. We have an opportunity to build something special, and I hope everyone is as excited as I am.”
ussoccer.com: You previously coached the Austrian U-21 National Team. How will that experience help you in this role?
AH: “I think it’s great for me. It’s an advantage because I already know the strengths and weaknesses of this age group. It’s really fun for me and makes me really proud to get the opportunity to lead our team to the qualification and then to the Olympics. I think we are all convinced that we will get to Brazil, and like I said, it starts already in Bosnia. Hopefully we can improve from game to game as the team gets used to my philosophy.”
ussoccer.com: Your philosophy is obviously similar to that of Jurgen Klinsmann and Tab Ramos. How would you describe the approach to style of play?
AH: “In terms of style of play, it’s the same approach that Jurgen has and what Tab Ramos has done with the U-20s. We all work together with the Senior Team. I want to have a team where there are a lot of variations. We want to be attack-minded, keep possession, and have the whole team proactively working to win the ball back as soon as possible. It’s a big goal, and I think it will be really important to start from the first session to get the players into this philosophy.”
ussoccer.com: As you examine the pool, can you already identify potential leaders?
AH: “We’ll see. For this camp, there are two or three players who were already playing for the first team like Luis Gil and Wil Trapp. Obviously there are players who played in the World Cup in Brazil that will have an important role. There will be times when they are with Jurgen, and other guys, who will be with Tab in the U-20 World Cup. When you add in the Gold Cup, which is important for the senior team, it’s a lot of activity. The good thing is that those are all great experiences. I think that we have a great group together and the main goal is to play the qualification at home in a really, really good way.”
ussoccer.com: Your assistant coaches include John Hackworth, who knows the U.S. players and system incredibly well, and Matthias Hamann who scouts Europe. It seems like you have a lot of good support in scouting and identifying players.
AH: “We have a great coaching staff together. John knows everyone in MLS and the college ranks and the other leagues around North America. Matthias knows a lot of the young players in Europe from Germany and from England. It’s a big support for me, and I look forward to working with these guys and having success.”
ussoccer.com: What have been your priorities since you took over this role?
AH: “I’ve been traveling a lot through Europe and watching all of the players from my team and also from the first team, so it’s a lot of scouting and a lot of good games. Our staff has been looking at the player pool closely and trying to map the different opportunities we will have to get guys together. As I said before, with all the games for Jurgen and the U-20 World Cup this summer, it’s going to be a puzzle. On the positive side, we will get the chance to look at a variety of players. We’ve been working on getting quality games, and we have some fantastic opportunities coming up this spring and summer. We’re definitely on the right track.”