ussoccer.com: What can you take away from the team’s 6-1 win against St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “What you take away from a game like St. Vincent where you’re obviously the big favorite and everybody expects you to score and get the three points is that you need to have a sense for the right spirit and the right atmosphere in a group. This is what makes us excited going forward towards the Trinidad challenge. It’s a very positive atmosphere. It’s very supportive, and they’re trying to fix their own little issues that they created. You go down a goal to a nation like St. Vincent and for a moment it makes you look really bad. You expect positive body language, you expect a reaction right away, you expect a higher tempo, and all they did all those things. They knew exactly how to react to a problem and they could face that against Trinidad and Tobago, especially away from home. Maybe things aren’t going your way and suddenly they might score or things aren’t working out the way you want, and you want them to have a positive spirit, a positive attitude – the attitude that no matter what happens, we’re going to get the job done. That’s what we take away from an exciting night in St. Louis in a beautiful stadium with an amazing crowd, but we all know now that the real test is Trinidad & Tobago in this first doubleheader that we really badly want a result.”
ussoccer.com: Trinidad & Tobago has been one of the more impressive teams in CONCACAF of late. They’ve always been athletic and always had good individual players, but how now added an element of organization and discipline. What have you seen from Trinidad & Tobago?
JK: “I think Trinidad & Tobago and probably Haiti have been the biggest winners or surprises in CONCACAF this year. They played a very good Gold Cup and also had some good results in friendlies and other test games. You have to give Trinidad & Tobago a lot of respect. They’re known for their physical game and known for being strong. A lot of their players play in the English Championship and obviously playing at home they have a lot of confidence, and they want to prove to the world that they’re a good team. Over the years they’ve improved themselves on the technical side and on the mental side as well. It comes down to a mental grind when you go through World Cup Qualifying, which at the end of the day is 16 games. You start with the first six games in that group and then you want to move on to the Hexagonal where you face 10 more games. This is a long path - it’s a marathon as we say - and I think teams like Trinidad & Tobago and Haiti have become more prepared for that.”
ussoccer.com: Does Trinidad & Tobago’s win Friday night in Guatemala give them more confidence heading into Tuesday’s game in Port of Spain?
JK: “It definitely will bring them confidence, there’s no doubt about it. You have to win some games away from home and they’re all very difficult, no matter if you’re playing in the Caribbean or in Central America. The fact they got a win in Guatemala City is huge for them. It gives them a good feeling going up against the United States. We have to be prepared for that – it’s one of the reasons we came to Trinidad & Tobago early. We flew right after our game all the way from St. Louis down to Port of Spain to be prepared. We’ll be prepared for the climate and we’ll be prepared for a very physical battle.”
ussoccer.com: How do you get the players to focus on Trinidad & Tobago as being a much different challenge from St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
JK: “The players are all very experienced and they know CONCACAF is a very difficult region to qualify from, especially if you play in places that are unfamiliar, you never know what to expect. With Trinidad & Tobago, the history shows you all the games that have happened in the past down here were very tight games. They were all decided by a maximum of one goal or they were ties. We’re prepared for that. We respect them. They’re a good team, but our team is good as well. We want to come here and show them that we’re able to get three points or at least a tie and move on out of our group.”
ussoccer.com: Given that Tuesday’s match is a much different opponent and environment, how much of a change should be expected in how the U.S. team looks against Trinidad & Tobago?
JK: “I don’t think that we’ll see big changes, because you only have a small window of 10 days to handle these two World Cup Qualifiers. You’re not really throwing a lot of things over board from the first game to the second game. I think we have a very good group together; a group that’s ready for the fight and has already done a good job against St. Vincent and now continues at least a little bit of this consistency into the second game. This is about results right now. It’s about standing up and making sure if you go down a goal that you react right away and go on and get the points that we need.”
ussoccer.com: How valuable is it to get points on the road in World Cup Qualifying?
JK: “Points on the road are very important. Obviously you want to win every game and we’ve come here with the attitude that we want to beat Trinidad & Tobago, so we want three points. It depends on how the game goes. There are unknown factors that come into a game like this that you have to handle and make the best out of it. If at the end of the day, if you come away with a point then because of however the game went, then you accept it because you made sure the home team didn’t get three points. Going through these types of group stages, it’s always important that you put away your home games and then collect the points you need away from home.”
ussoccer.com: At the beginning of your second World Cup Qualifying cycle, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned about qualifying in this region?
JK: “As a player, you’re constantly learning. It’s the same thing for a coach. It’s a huge advantage now that I’m familiar with CONCACAF. When I started my work more than four years ago, I went through a learning curve. We went through games where I wasn’t yet able to judge what the environment was giving to us. We’ve been through experiences like San Pedro Sula in Honduras with three days of preparation that we would have done differently afterwards, maybe with a different roster. You’re constantly learning and now going into the next qualifying campaign, you’re a bit more relaxed about things. You still know it’s a long road and you won’t win every game, but every experience that we had in the last couple of years has helped.
In Part Two of our Q&A, Jurgen Klinsmann discusses the contribution of the team’s younger players against St. Vincent, the MNT’s goalkeeping situation and performances of Fabian Johnson and Darlington Nagbe.