U.S. MNT head coach JURGEN KLINSMANN
On the January training camp so far :
“It was really helpful these two weeks for the team, but also for everybody involved with U.S. Soccer to experience our team base hotel in Sao Paulo, to train at the Sao Paulo FC facility, to meet the people, to get around the city and get a feel for it. I personally went up to Natal, to Recife. I went on the way back to Manaus to check the facilities there. We have a much better picture now of what to expect and what will challenge us. Therefore, it’s important to give the players some feedback, ‘Listen guys, not everything is going to be perfect. We have to be very tolerant and patient with things.’ If we know that in advance and we adjust to it right away mentally, then it’s no big deal. It’s no problem at all.”
On any concerns about playing in Manaus after seeing the facilities
“Before you say, ‘If I could avoid the flight there and playing under those conditions that would be nice.’ Once the draw was done, there was no complaint anymore from our end because both teams will play under the same circumstances. It’s going to be a little hotter than other places.
“The place itself is absolutely gorgeous. To be in Manaus is an experience. I want the players to take it all in. This is something unique. The people there are extremely excited. They are so excited to host World Cup games and they are a different face of Brazil. That’s what a World Cup is about, to see the different faces of a country, and Manaus is one of those different faces. I’m really looking forward to it now. The stadium is absolutely gorgeous. They have some challenges, and other places as well with training sites or hotels or whatever, but with the trip that’s what we have to adjust to.
“Overall, it’s been very helpful to meet the people, talk to them. I was invited by the Mayor for lunch – awesome guy, he’s an athlete and just came from knee surgery. It’s good to feel that energy and excitement in the people there. They all appreciate that we were already there, that we had the opportunity to come down and test things out. Everybody is ready there for the World Cup.”
On if there are more guys that could potentially make the World Cup roster after this camp than initially expected
“The good thing about this camp is we widened the pool. I told all the guys, ‘Listen, in soccer a lot of things happen in a short amount of time, so it’s all about timing, it’s about how you prepare yourself the couple of months before a big tournament and what you show on the field.’ God forbid other things happen with injuries or [players are] out of shape, whatever it is. Now, the door is always open until the middle of May when we cut it down to the 23 guys.
“What we see is a very competitive group in this January camp. Guys that badly want to give you an impression. The training sessions have all been intense; they all came physically prepared for this camp. We tested them right away the first week and we never had these results before, very good. We left it to the players, saying, ‘build your case’.”
On if he is running out of time to prepare with only five months left until the FIFA World Cup
“I never feel like I’m running out of time. You need timelines. Deadlines are a good thing. The first game is June 16. This is a great deadline. This is what you’re looking for. You adjust everything you do. If some things don’t work out or God forbid an injury happens to a key player or whatever, you make an adjustment and you make the best out of it. It’s no problem. The excitement just gets bigger because now you can see the end of it. You see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of, we know a bit better what Brazil is about, we feel pretty well prepared, now we’re going to follow all the players on all their different club teams to see how they’re doing over the next couple of months and then we’ll make the calls for the roster. I think it’s more excitement growing.
On Fabian Johnson’s injury
“I spoke with him this morning; surgery has already been done. He’s got a couple screws in there. [He’s] all good and wants to play on Saturday. I think he’s actually allowed to play on Saturday. [He will] put a cast or some kind of material on it so it’s not too hard and he’s allowed to play with it basically. The perfect thing is that it was really broken clean, so the surgery is done, and he’ll be back on the field in three days.”
On what he is looking to see in the game against South Korea after being in camp for three weeks
“It’s a game at the end of January camp where you want to see the players implement the things we worked on in these three-and-a-half weeks. You want to see the progress they made throughout the camp to get an idea of where they are individually. It helps to finish [the camp] off with a game or maybe two because it’s something they are looking forward to. Otherwise, they train, train, train but can’t prove it in a game.
“Now, in a World Cup year against an opponent who will also be a part of the World Cup, it’s something they can use to measure themselves a bit knowing that Korea’s players – many are based in the K-League in Korea, so similar to us in MLS. It’s a pretty good team and Costa Rica already experienced that. They had absolutely no chance against them on Saturday. We get a nice benchmark there for the group that we have together now and then we go from there.
“Tactically we were working on a couple of things this week, sharpening that up. We’ll let you know about that stuff right after the game whether we did it or not. The couple of months before the World Cup, everybody wants to set a tone, not only for themselves individually but as an entire group you want to get positive results wherever you can because that always helps the atmosphere around the National Team. At the same time, we know it’s only part of preparation towards the World Cup, but when a game like Saturday’s comes along and then Ukraine in March, it gives you something to focus on and give the players the opportunity to prove where they are right now as of today.”