ussoccer.com: Seems like the World Cup was just around the corner. How are excited are you to kick off the qualifying process again?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “We’re all excited about starting World Cup qualifying toward Russia 2018. Every time you say the words ‘World Cup’ it means so much to everyone involved that it gets you pumped up and energetic. The players realize it’s going to be a long marathon toward Russia 2018, but we have to start it on the right foot. With St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, they’re two nations that are not taken lightly. They are good teams. T&T proved it in the previous Gold Cup. With St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have a team that is an unknown, but we watch their previous games and make ourselves familiar with their players. At the end of the day you still don’t really know what to expect, so it’s going to be very interesting.”
ussoccer.com: What were the factors you considered in putting together the roster for the first World Cup qualifiers?
JK: “It isn’t easy but we always find solutions for whatever comes across; if it’s injuries, if its players maybe not playing in their clubs or if its players already finished with their MLS season and they need to get going until we play our World Cup qualifiers. Everybody comes from a different angle in a certain way, but that’s what we are used to. We know how to deal with those kind of circumstances and we always make the best out of it. We are really looking forward to these qualifying games.”
ussoccer.com: How much did injuries have an impact?
JK: “Injuries always play a big role for rosters. Unfortunately we do not have Alejandro Bedoya on the roster because he’s still not back in place right now after he was sick around the Mexico game. Nick Rimando is not available and Brad Evans, who pulled his hamstring with the Seattle Sounders, is not available either. We have players in place who are ready to come in and make their marks. We’ll make the best out of it. We hope for them to get back on the field as quickly as possible.”
ussoccer.com: There’s a lot of experience of experience in World Cup qualifying on the roster, and also a number of players getting their first shot. Obviously Clint Dempsey isn’t in for these first games – what went in to that decision?
JK: “At this point in time, I want to give the younger strikers a chance to prove themselves and this is a good stage to do it. I communicated with Clint about it and it’s all fine.”
ussoccer.com: What can you say about St. Louis native Tim Ream?
JK: “Not only a native a St. Louis, he is a player that is playing very, very consistently in his environment in the English Championship. He moved on from Bolton to Fulham a couple months ago, and is playing there week in and week out. What I really like of him in England is consistency. He is also versatile - he can play on the left, he can play in the middle and he stands his man. He’s a doer. I’ll really be looking forward to have Tim back in our group again and build on his consistency.”
ussoccer.com: Why did you choose to start camp in Miami?
JK: “After the first game, we are going to go down to Trinidad and there it will be a tropical, hot climate. That’s why we will meet up in Miami and get used to the heat for a couple of days, then we will fly up to St. Louis to play the game against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and fly from there all the way down to T&T which is off the coast of Venezuela, so it’s much more South America than Central and North America.” This is why we chose Miami as the first stop for our players - to get them used to the heat.”
ussoccer.com: What is the challenge of preparing for St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
JK: “You’re not very familiar with that team. You watch their previous games, you analyze their individual players as much as you can, but you don’t have that detailed picture that you have for teams like T&T, who played in the Gold Cup, or the usual powerhouses in CONCACAF that you know pretty well. This is a bit tricky. We have a lot of respect for them like we always have with our opponents, and we expect a lot of work against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are looking forward to it because we are going to have a big crowd in St. Louis and we want to start on the right foot in World Cup qualifiers.”
ussoccer.com: You have introduced two new players in Matt Miazga and Darlington Nagbe. What have you seen from these guys that led you to bring them in at this point?
JK: “Those are two players that have been on our radar for a long time. Matt is a youngster coming through our system. He played for the Under-20’ and he played for the Olympic team. In Darlington Nagbe we have a player who we’ve been following for quite a while and he finally became eligible for the United States. We are looking forward to having them with us. They will get their first taste of the Senior National Team. I’m pretty sure they will be excited and want to do well. It’s good to see that we have players coming through and give us more of an option.”
ussoccer.com: This will be your first trip to Trinidad. What have you learned from the last qualifying campaign that will help you prepare?
JK: “T&T is a team that challenges you big time. They are always difficult to play. The circumstances down there are not ones you would find when we play at home. It’s a team full of players coming out of the English Championship - difficult players, and players that know how to play their game. They did tremendously well in the Gold Cup. It’s going to be a challenge and that’s what we are preparing for. It’s going to be a difficult game, but we are ready to jump that hurdle and get a good result against T&T.”
ussoccer.com: The team is playing a World Cup qualifier in St. Louis for the first time since 1989. St. Louis is a town with great soccer history – it had five players on the 1950 World Cup team that beat England – and this will be the largest home crowd for a qualifier since 2009. How excited is the team to go there and get that kind of support?
JK: “I think the entire team is excited to go to St. Louis and play a World Cup qualifier in this very, very historic city. Go back to the 1950 World Cup and beating England, I think there were five players that came out of St. Louis at that time and representing the United States. The crowd will be awesome. We want to do well and set the tone right from the beginning of that match. We want to spark the crowd and get goals and get the three points from the start. This is going to be really exciting for all of us to be in St. Louis and have a good first start in qualifying.”
ussoccer.com: What’s been your impression of the MLS playoffs so far?
JK: “It’s really exciting watching those games. Everything is on the line. You see players give everything they have. They are very, very close games and tough games for all the teams. Full stadiums, great crowds and drama like penalty shoot outs. It’s going to be really interesting to see who’s going to go all the way through to the final and who’s going to win the MLS Cup this year. It’s definitely fun to watch.”