U.S. Men's National Team Teleconference Call
Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann
April 4, 2012
On whether he has any positional concerns as World Cup Qualifying approaches:
"First of all, I'm looking forward to the qualifying process. Being in that role now for six, seven, eight months, you get closer to the real challenges and obviously friendlies are nice to play and are nice to have, but it's not the real thing. The real thing is qualifying, then obviously hopefully going to Brazil in 2014. Concerned about specific positions within the roster, I don't really have those concerns. I think that we have a very good, balanced team. We have youngsters coming through the ranks that we are really curious to follow up on them and see their progress over the next two and a half years or three years and see how far they can make it. I think we have a good group of guys together, a good balance, and obviously I'm curious to see them all in camp in May and June and give them even more evaluation after those five games that we face."
On how many players he anticipates bringing in for May and June:
"I'm planning on getting probably 23 players coming in, meaning three goalkeepers, 20 field players, and also having a standby player list. The players know that if something happens within the camp that they're there within a day. So we will plan on that kind of a roster. I don't want to go with more numbers because it kind of reduces the quality of the training sessions. So that's the idea behind it right now."
On whether there is a concern that American players are getting less playing time in MLS:
"That is definitely a concern, and it's definitely a topic we want to bring up with Don Garber and MLS because we want to make sure that especially younger groups of players get as much exposure as possible coming through their developmental stage. I know that an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old is not at the same level as an experienced player and a proven player, but we've got to make sure that they get the chance to break through and get their minutes in. So it's definitely a concern. Off the top of my head, I can't give you all of the solutions for it, but it's definitely worth a discussion going forward. You see other examples in different leagues. The Mexican league, I think they have rule with younger players getting implemented in their first-team games. You see the systems in other leagues like in Germany, where all the first-division teams have the reserve teams playing in the third- or fourth-division leagues, which are also a professional league, to get their feet wet and to get playing time and to get competition week in and week out, which I think proves a really good point. They're maturing, they're developing, they're getting stronger, they're getting better, and when they're ready then for the first team, they can continue their progress. It's definitely a topic that we need to dig deeper into."
On whether there is a role for Caleb Porter with U.S. Soccer going forward:
"We had a long meeting yesterday with Caleb. I was actually in Chicago yesterday and discussed this whole experience. Obviously it's a huge disappointment for all of us, not having our Olympic team going to London this summer and the way things went there in the qualifying games. It raised a lot of questions, not only from your end from a media perspective, but also internally within U.S. Soccer. So we worked through the process, discussed the whole lead-up toward the qualifiers, we discussed the games in the qualifiers in the qualifying tournament, and I think I have a pretty good picture of what happened there and why it didn't work out. That being said, we believe that Caleb is a very, very talented coach. We chose him for a reason, because I think he has a huge future ahead of him. Sooner than later he will jump into the professional field and become a pro coach, and we hope that we find ways now going forward, even if it's not with the Olympic team obviously because there is not an Olympic team anymore for a few years now, that we find roles for him to improve, to grow, to mature in his coaching career. So that could be being a part of our camps with the senior team. It could be being part of our workshops that we have on a regular basis with all the coaches involved in all age group levels. It could be being part of different youth teams on their coaching staffs. It could be sending him to Europe to learn European clubs' models, watch training sessions there, and talk to coaches overseas, which I can open many, many doors. So the goal is to keep Caleb connected to us. We really think that he has a lot of upside. I think he's learned a tremendous amount during the last four months dealing as a head coach for the Olympic team. Obviously he's more disappointed than any one of us about what happened, that he didn't get the job done, and that we're not going to London because he was in charge of that process and he was leading that process. But there were many mistakes being done, and not all of the mistakes were done by Caleb Porter. The bottom line is we want to keep him connected with us, we want to keep him involved in what we're doing in the future because we think that he will have a very positive coaching career ahead of him."
On what he learned following Olympic Qualifying:
"When you don't reach a goal, and the goal was clearly to qualify, you analyze it from all angles. If it's the organization, the coaching staff, the medical staff, the player side - what didn't go well? Obviously if that third goal from El Salvador doesn't happen, and Sean Johnson makes his usual routine save and it's not going in, and if the mistakes leading to that goal don't happen, then you play your semifinal and hopefully you win that semifinal and nobody would talk about those things. That's how soccer is. But it went the other way. So the other way means now let's take this whole thing apart – what didn't work out? So that's what we went through with Caleb. We went through his positions with his coaching staff, and the participation of the medical staff that led to the very late substitution of Bill Hamid in that game against El Salvador. We went through all the other people involved in the process. Did he really have the perfect support from everybody around him? At the end of the day, obviously you need to go through every individual player. Did the players live up to their expectations? Did they do everything they could have done in order to make this thing positive? Were they at their peak or were they maybe going through a low point in that moment? I think some players didn't live up to their expectations, and you need to get that message across and some players surprised us and maybe were more positive. I look at a [Mix] Diskerud or I look at a Joe Corona who had positive impressions, too. So that's part of that process, but that won't change the results. The result was a disappointment."
On whether Herculez Gomez is on the radar for a National Team camp:
"I've seen quite a few games of him over the last six, seven months. I know Herculez and I know his qualities. So he's constantly being watched. Hopefully he continues that goal scoring period, and the more he scores, the more he makes a positive notes out there, the bigger his chances to get the call. It's as simple as that. That's our message to all of the players all of the time – keep proving your point. Keep improving where you're at with every game. So what we do every Monday, we get together either by phone, by conference calls, or by email – we get down to all of the players, we discuss what they did over the weekend, we're out there and watch them personally or on TV as often as we can. So Herculez is on the radar screen. But he's always been on the radar screen. So hopefully he can make his case stronger and stronger over the next couple of weeks."
On whether there is one concrete thing that he feels he has achieved during his tenure:
"At end of the day you get measured by the results, and that's why I'm really looking forward to this whole qualifier process, because you want to get down to the real stuff. That's when qualifiers start and that's when you really see where you're at with your group. It was important throughout these first months to really get to know your players, you get to know their personalities, you get to know your roster, and you see the options you have in your extended roster, and then you see where you're going to lead this whole environment to. Our main goal certainly is that you develop a culture of performance-driven people next to you. We want to measure everything we're doing. We want to see if we have the best people around us, that we are making clear to the players how they have to live their lives, what they have to do in addition to their regular routine that they have with their clubs. How can we kind of help them in what they're doing also when they're not with us in camp? And so we've started a lot of different processes throughout those eight months, and we get feedback from the players, and we'll reinforce that every time we get together again in a camp. Obviously having the opportunity in May and June to have that core crew for the first time for a longer stretch of days, is really important to us because you can really nail things down and you can communicate things much more consistent than if you just have them for three days like the Italy game. Literally, most of the players came in on Monday morning, and we played Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning they left at 5 a.m. How much can you really do in these two and a half days? So now we get them for three and a half weeks, almost four weeks. It's really important to us because we can bring across a lot of good stuff to the players and also we give them real serious challenges."
On whether things have gone they way he expected this position so far:
"I really didn't have any expectaions. I'll jump into a new adventure or project and then I'll see how things are going and I'll adjust to certain things. Definitely I have to adjust to the different soccer landscape in this country, adjust to the fact that 75 to 80 percent of the players are overseas, some in Mexico, so they're all over the place. They come in from all different backgrounds, so that's a bit of a different challenge. I just take things the way they are, and then I look for solutions and I look for ways to communicate with them in their own ways. Maybe I have to adjust and use Twitter and Facebook to get hooked to them and get a message out to them, which I hadn't done before. So as a coach, it's important that you kind of analyze your environment and say OK, based on what you've seen now, this is what you have to do and you have to change the way of doing things. It's important to get the messages out to the players and that they understand why we do certain things, why we want to encourage them to look at things a little bit different. Every one of them has lived their daily lives in a very different way, and so we have to figure out how we get things across to them and hopefully make them step-by-step a little bit better in everything that they're doing. I didn't have any types of surprises, but definitely I saw different environments and different way of doing it, and we try to pick up the players from where they are. But also now after seven, eight months in this process, we have a pretty clear picture of every player involved in the program. Maybe not Herculez Gomez because he hasn't been in camp yet with us, but the ones that we've had in camp so far, we have a good idea where they're at and we see also their upside moving forward."
On whether there are reasons to second-guess the direction of the men's program after Olympic Qualifying, and if there are lessons learned from Olympic Qualifying going into World Cup Qualifying:
"Coming in, my first concern was getting my hands around the senior team. So that's why we decided that we're going to have an independent coaching staff working with the Under-23s. So we found a head coach in Caleb and he surrounded himself with his coaches that he felt comfortable with. Still, I had a close relationship throughout those four months with Caleb so he could bug me with any questions he had. I gave him as much support as I could. As an example, with the game they played against Mexico, I gave him all of my youngsters, except Brek Shea that I needed to pull into the Italy game because I was running out of players. So in a certain way I was involved and in a certain way I wasn't. When people are assigned to get a job done, I usually give them all the independence they need to get it done the way they think it's right. The lesson really for us is how far along are those players that were involved in the Olympic Qualifying campaign? How mature are they really for the senior team level? You talk about the two goalies, you talk about Brek Shea, you talk about Juan Agudelo and I mentioned Diskerud or Joe Corona. You look at these players and say OK, they couldn't get the job done, so where are they now in the bigger picture going into our May-June camp? I mentioned that right after the big disappointment against El Salvador. The process for these players is getting even tougher. It's getting even more difficult because they do not have the jumping board, or I called it a trampoline, of the Olympics. If you play in an Olympic tournament, this is a huge showcase. This is where the whole world is watching and evaluating you. So they're missing out on that now. They don't have that opportunity to really gain valuable experience in such a big competition, so they have to prove it somewhere else. Where can they prove it? Now they can only prove it in their club teams. The expectations now that they really perform on the highest level in their club teams are even higher. That means an Agudelo for example has to play week in and week out with the Red Bulls. Brek Shea has to prove with FC Dallas week in and week out that he's one of their best players in order to get a chance to become part of the senior national team. So there are many lessons that you take from the process of the Olympic team. It is a bit tougher than if they would have qualified obviously."
On sticking with his philosophy:
"There is a little bit of confusion out there. Some people that discuss this say that the systems of play and the style of play always has to be a certain way. Maybe this is an opportunity for me to clarify a couple of things. A system of play, meaning a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2, a 4-3-2-1, whatever system you talk about, is not necessarily the style of play that you want to have. When we talk about a style of play that you want to introduce or we already did introduce is not depending on the system. That means if we want to play a more proactive style, we want a more forward-minded style, a more high-pressured style … all of these things .. we don't want to react to the opponents. We want to play our own game. We have more possession in the game. That doesn't lock you into a system. The system is only a way of how to adjust things on the field to get the job done. So if you think you get the job done with a 4-3-2-1, a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3, use whatever system you want to, because in all of those systems you can play proactively, you can play high-pressure, you can push the other team into their half and be highly aggressive and you can use whatever system you want to at the end of the day to express yourself and the players in a certain way. It is a process that we have to go through over maybe many years to get to a point where we're comfortable enough to dictate a game and comfortable enough to keep the ball calmly, to play out of the back and not to panic and not to play long balls to just get out of a situation and we started that process and we'll see how this process will go toward the World Cup 2014 in Brazil."
On the development of the youth players in this country over the next 10 years:
"That's a huge topic, which I am certainly not capable today of saying 'these are the solutions for it.' I definitely think we have to get people together for more direction if it's U.S. Soccer, if it's MLS, if it's the Academy Clubs, if it's the NSCAA. People need to address that all together and say, 'how can we help our youngsters and our kids to develop to the highest level possible? What structures can we give them?' The introduction of a 10-month season is just one of these pieces. It's crucial that we adjust to the global game. It's crucial that we understand that soccer is not a seasonal sport. Soccer is a sport that is played 12 months of the year. In most of the soccer nations, it's really played 11, 11 and a half months out of the year. How can we compete with those nations? Whatever it takes in the discussion and what is ideal for 10- to 14-year-olds and further up, what is ideal for all these kids, then you should adjust. We need to find a tier-driven environment because we need to give a lot of the younger players the opportunity to get enough games per year. If you look at the players between 18 and 22 years of age and you summarize all the amount of games they really have and see if they are part of an MLS system, then maybe simply it's not enough. It's really worth it to get everybody at the same table sooner or later and discuss all those topics. It's not me coming in and saying this is what we need, it's really everybody involved that needs to come together and say, 'This is how we need our players to grow more effectively, to grow more continuously and not drop off in a couple of months here and a couple of months there as often was the case.' But this is a huge topic."
On the retroactive punishment rule by MLS:
"The way they do it mostly overseas in Europe, they use videos for let's say an elbow check or really bad incidents. Players and even coaches get punished for that. I think it's the right thing to do. It's an educational process. I'm not saying that you're going to fix everything because people make mistakes and you're accountable for making mistakes. It's just a normal thing, it's a normal consequence. I think it's definitely the right thing to do, but it's always case-related. You have to analyze every case individually, which they do, and then come up with a punishment or not give a punishment."
On the concern of players not getting enough minutes with their clubs:
"It is a big concern. We need to find ways to get our 18- to 22-year-olds, 23-year-olds more playing time and maybe here and there more help. On the other side, they also need to realize that they have to fight their way through the system. They have to find a way to break into the team. I'll give you an example: Juan Agudelo, who often last year was saying, 'I want to play more. I need to play more.' My response to Agudelo was, 'Well, you've got to train harder and you've got to force the coach of that team until he makes you play.' It's not something that is given to you. It's something that you have to work for and you have to fight your way through. We had a discussion years and years ago after the Bosman ruling in Europe happened, everything opened up. The borders opened up. Suddenly, instead of a limited amount of foreigners, there were foreigners all over in every league. Every kind of National Team program complained and said, 'Hey, suddenly we don't have enough of our domestic kids playing anymore and it makes it tough for the National Team programs to develop.' I came in and I said, 'You know what? If I'm the player and I want to break into a team, it doesn't really matter to me if now I have to kick out a foreign kid or if I have to kick out a domestic kid. I have to kick out somebody to play.' That's really the message to the youngsters. Yeah, we understand you should play more, but you have to build your case. You have to fight your way through and you have to do more than whoever's in front of you. So if you want to pass whoever you want to pass there in the team, then you've got to make your case to the coach. Show the coach that you're better and that you work harder and that you're hungrier and you're more aggressive than the guys in front of you. Sooner or later that coach will play you because the coach will play the players that give him the best chance to win the game."
On Brek Shea's busy year and his struggles:
"Brek is going through a normal kind of period within his career. There are good moments and then there are less good moments. Now he's experienced an up and down through the Olympic Qualifiers. He experienced in the last couple months a tremendous amount of attention that is thrown toward him. He needs to get himself balanced, basically, on and off the field. It's a very normal process he's going through and thankfully he's going through that process because it shows that he has a lot of talent. His [FC Dallas] coach, Schellas [Hyndman], he's doing a tremendous job to keep him with his feet on the ground, to keep him focused, to keep him working really hard. What we expect from Brek is that he listens to Schellas and that he now, over the next couple of months, continues on a consistent basis to show good performances with Dallas. Obviously he's one of the guys that we have a special eye on because we thought if he plays in London, that gives him a great experience to mature even more and even faster. He's not having that experience now in London. He needs to mature differently through the MLS system. It's normal that he's having a couple of down moments but he needs to learn out of those moments, he needs to deal with that disappointment of not being qualified for the Olympics and work even harder."
On Caleb Porter's lack of professional experience and whether it affected his job performance:
"I think just from a working perspective, from a challenge perspective, Caleb was very well-prepared for that Qualifying process. He was extremely organized, he understood the value of all the other teams, the opponents, he did his scouting homework, the sessions that he ran … We summarized it all yesterday in Chicago. I think he did a very good job. I think it was absolutely the right decision to make him the Olympic team coach. Now based on the results and the outcome of it, now you can argue that maybe a professional coach here or this and this there should have worked out better. I think we know the reasons now why it didn't work out and it's not because he's a college coach and not a professional coach. That's definitely not the case."
On the role that the assistant coaches have with the senior National Team:
"When we are together, it's obviously easier to see in the follow-up for you guys. When we work in camp, we are focused on the challenges that are ahead of us. When we get into camp in May, obviously you have three friendlies to prepare for and then you have two [World Cup] qualifiers to prepare for so you have your people with you and you assign them different roles and different tasks on a daily basis. When we are not together, I think it's a big advantage for us to have people spread out to get their jobs done. So Andy Herzog, for example, alongside our scout Matthias Hamann, who is the brother of Didi Hamann, they go out there and they watch our players in Europe. They were out the last couple of weeks watching games all over the place, if it was the Everton versus Fulham play or if it was Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst playing in Copenhagen against each other, if it's down to Bundesliga games or if it's a game for Michael Bradley in Verona. They are all over the place week in and week out. Similar to Martin Vasquez and Carlos Juarez here in the U.S., they go and they watch MLS games. I personally watch MLS games and we're in touch with all the coaches and the players, as well. Different people cover different areas. I think with Martin, we have a guy that is very well connected down in Mexico. He knows exactly what our players are doing in Mexico. Every Monday we get together on a conference call or communicate by emails or send scouting reports so I know what's going on. That is basically how you handle things when you're not together."
On tough schedules exhausting players:
"I'm not concerned about that, no. I think they need that. Definitely we want to use those three and a half weeks to give them a first impression of how we want to approach it two years later. You need to adjust to a fast-paced rhythm and you need to work hard and recover as fast as possible. If you don't try out these types of rhythms, we would be surprised in two or three years down the road with the rhythm that we need to go. So the earlier we adjust to that, the better it is. That's why I wanted another game in there and to have three games to play before we face Antigua."
On whether there is a concern about fatigue with friendlies before World Cup Qualifying:
"Obviously there's never the same environment that you face, so you just need to adjust. How can you prepare yourself? You just need to be open-minded and take it the way it is. As hostile and difficult an environment as it can be, you just take it and make the best out of it and you adjust to it. That goes a little back to the discussion we had before about the system and the style of play. You need to adjust to the way you face them. You face a very difficult field and you can't pass the ball out of the back and they lock themselves in with 10 men in the box, then you need to adjust to it. Forget about your ideal style of play and just try to get the job done. Maybe you send [Oguchi] Onyewu up there as a center forward and you try to hit them with a set piece or whatever it is. I'm looking forward to all these different types of games, different types of environments but all with the same goal: get the job done. I think in every continent you face different situations. South America's different, Europe's obviously different. In Europe, we had a qualifier in Eastern European countries like Romania or Moldova, where it's also very, very difficult to play, or Albania. You barely won your game! But you've got to get through it. You've got to do whatever it takes. The same thing with CONCACAF. It will be a challenge. There will be some games where it's new to me and different environments. I think it's just important that the players and the coaching staff have to go in there and say, 'Whatever it takes, we'll get it done.' That's how I approach it."