ussoccer.com: You made it a point to include younger players in these opening World Cup qualifiers. What did you see from them against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and how valuable is it for them to get this type of experience in Trinidad & Tobago?
JK:”I think those are the experiences that our younger players need. It’s also about getting a sense of the atmosphere of World Cup Qualifiers. It’s a very different environment then you have with friendly games, no matter if it’s Europe or South America or in the United States. The learning curve for our younger players or those that haven’t gone through that process yet is very important, no matter if they step on the field or even if they’re on the bench and experience the atmospheres in the stadiums and the circumstances they’re thrown into and obviously the quality of the opponent. This is big for us, and I’m glad it worked out great in the first game where we actually could get some youngsters on the field and feel it first hand on the field. Hopefully they have many more learning experiences like that over the next couple of years.”
ussoccer.com: What were some of the specific things you liked from them?
JK: “What was nice to see was that the younger players settled with the game and they felt more confident and positive. For a striker like Bobby Wood, you wish that he gets to score a goal and he scored one after 10 minutes and he had several chances to score even more, or a Gyasi Zardes who is sometimes on the wing and sometimes up front. You expect a little bit more from these guys because you want them to mature in their own game and you hope they get that opportunity to show it, and they did it. When you talk about players like Matt Miazga, who we’ve followed for quite a while or even Darlington Nagbe, who is a little bit older but is obviously fresh with our group, you hope for them that they find their foot in the game, they find their rhythm, they feel comfortable and become part of that group. I think that’s what we saw. You saw DeAndre Yedlin - it didn’t look good with the first goal we conceded - but then he worked himself into the game and obviously on the attacking side with his speed, he can always make a difference which he did right away. Five minutes after the St. Vincent goal, he came down and gave the assist. All these little things that you’re hoping for, they actually happen. The fact that we had Fabian Johnson play in his Borussia Monchengladbach role as a left midfielder instead of being a right or left back worked out really well. He scored a goal for us as well with a free kick, and he’s a tremendous free kick taker. This was a good start because they worked themselves into that position and now we have a far bigger challenge ahead with Trinidad & Tobago, but you feel good that you brought these younger players along.”
ussoccer.com: You said before the start of these two games that Brad Guzan would play the first game against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Tim Howard would play the second against Trinidad & Tobago. With two top quality goalkeepers, how important is it to make sure both are getting consistent games for the National Team?
JK: “Having goalkeepers like Tim Howard, who has been with Everton for a long time, and Brad Guzan with Aston Villa is huge for us. I think it’s a big advantage we have in the United States, but it’s also tricky because you want to have both of them on board. You want them both to be highly motivated and highly committed to their National Team, which they are. We’ve come up with a compromise in a certain way to give them each their games. To rotate them is definitely the best way to go. We have a long way to go to Russia 2018. We have tournaments in between like the Copa Centenario and the Gold Cup 2017, so it’s important that we keep them both on board, always with their typically positive attitude and their leadership that they bring to the table. The good thing about these two is that they both get along with each other. This is really the foundation for having made that decision is that they’re on board with it. They keep their fingers crossed for each other. If Brad plays, Tim sits on the bench and cheers him on and if Tim plays, Brad sits on the bench and cheers him on. Having these two goalkeepers here always with us is huge.”
ussoccer.com: Do you think the support that they give each other is also an example to the other guys on the roster as to how they can contribute even if they’re not playing?
JK:”I think when you have an example where one goalkeeper supports the other one and they both get their games over time, this is a signal to the entire team. The team needs to understand that yes there are starters. It’s only 11 players that you can put out there, but they always need to be ready coming off the bench and emotionally they need to be into the game. They need to be there waiting for that chance, being hungry and having that inner drive to say when my moment comes, I’m going to be there for the team. Having these two outstanding goalkeepers setting that example helps you with the other players as well. Obviously when you’re on the bench, you’re not happy because you want to be on the field, but over the stretch of the next three years, you need every one of them. Maybe we will find even more players that are part of the National Team program over three years. It’s great to have these two ‘keepers setting that example and those guys following it.”
ussoccer.com: Is their flexibility in where you can use Fabian Johnson moving forward?
JK: Flexibility is a good word for Fabian Johnson because of his special talent. He’s undoubtedly one of our best players and he’s playing in a Champions League team in Europe. Obviously we observe him there and talk about what the best way is to utilize him, but it’s also about who is available for us, how are we put together on the right defensive side and the left defensive side and depending on how everybody is in that specific moment, we can make a decision with him because he can literally plug in everywhere. This is wonderful to have because at the end of the day, the opponent never knows where Fabian Johnson will show up.”
ussoccer.com: What were your initial impressions of Darlington Nagbe?
JK: “I think with Darlington we have a player that obviously has tremendous technical talent. He’s very comfortable on the ball and he knows when to accelerate, when to go through midfield and when to find his teammates in different positions. We want to see now over the next couple of months and years how he finds his spot in the senior National Team. Obviously we saw many of Darlington’s games in MLS and speaking to Caleb Porter I got all the insights that I asked him for. Already in that half hour on the field, he showed his skill set.”
Read Part One of our Q&A where Jurgen Klinsmann discusses the team’s 6-1 win against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the preparations for Tuesday’s match against the Soca Warriors and the challenges of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF.Read more
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.Read more
Friday’s 6-1 win against St. Vincent & The Grenadines produced a number of milestones for members of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and set the table for others to be hit heading into Game 2 of Semifinal Round World Cup Qualifying on Tuesday against Trinidad & Tobago.
Jurgen Moves Up Wins Chart
The win to start the campaign on the #RoadtoRussia moved MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann into a tie with Bob Bradley for second most wins among U.S. head coaches (43). Bruce Arena leads the pack with 71 victories as coach from 1998-2006.
Interestingly, with 78 matches coached since taking the reins in 2011, Klinsmann arrived at 43 victories quicker than Arena (80 games) and Bradley (79 games).
10 Wins in a Calendar Year
The victory against St. Vincent also pushed the MNT’s record to 10-6-3 in 2015, marking the ninth time the U.S. has earned double digit victories in a calendar year. It’s the second time the MNT has done it under Klinsmann, following 2013’s record breaking year of 16 wins.
Jozy Moving On Up
Jozy Altidore’s brace in the match moved him up three different goal scoring charts for the U.S. Men’s National Team. The 26-year-old forward moved past U.S. legend Brian McBride into sole possession of fourth on the MNT’s all-time goal scoring list with 31. He now sits behind only Landon Donovan (57), Clint Dempsey (48) and Eric Wynalda (34).
Altidore’s two qualifying goals also moved him into a tie with Eddie Johnson for second-most goals in World Cup Qualifying with 12 total. Altidore now sits just one behind Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey for the all-time lead.
Finally, Altidore’s two-goal output pushed him into a tie for second with Dempsey and Joe-Max Moore with five career multi-goal games. The trio trail Donovan, who achieved that feat in nine matches.
Seven Players Make World Cup Qualifying Debuts
Matt Miazga, Jordan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Tim Ream, Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes all made their first appearances in World Cup Qualifying Friday against St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The last time the MNT had seven players make their debut in the same World Cup Qualifier came in the team’s 1-0 defeat of Barbados on June 22, 2008.
Zardes on the Cusp of Freshman Milestone
With 18 caps, Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin jointly lead the MNT in appearances in 2015. While Yedlin had played for the MNT in 2014, Zardes made his debut for the National Team in January’s friendly against Chile.
On the cusp of the last game of 2015, should Zardes appear against Trinidad & Tobago he would tie Claudio Reyna’s record of most appearances made by a debutant player in a calendar year. Reyna achieved the mark as a 21-year-old with the MNT in 1994.Read more