ussoccer: This match comes at an interesting time in the calendar, with European-based players just starting their season and only a few weeks away
from the next World Cup Qualifiers. What opportunities does the game against Bosnia-Herzegovina present?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “We are very excited about starting the World Cup year with a friendly here in Bosnia against one of the top nations in Europe. They are ranked No.13 in the world and have outstanding individual players like Djeko, Ibisevic and Misimovic and others. These are top-class players and that’s what we like to go against. We want to have the highest benchmark to always measure ourselves up against. We also want to see the new faces in our group and take that opportunity of getting a couple interesting answers on specific players.”
ussoccer.com: There are four guys getting their first opportunity with the National Team, and one is Aron Johannsson, who is a dual citizen of the
United States and Iceland. How do you feel about Aron’s decision to represent the United States?
JK: “We are very excited to have Aron with us. It’s a similar conversation that we have with all our dual-citizenship players. They have to make up their mind and they have to make their own decision. We can only hope they go toward the United States. Aron has made that big, big step which is huge for us because he’s one of the up and coming promising strikers in Europe. He played really, really well in Denmark before he moved to AK Alkmaar, Jozy Altidore’s old club, and is scoring goals there so we’re really thrilled he chose to join us and to have him in our group. We just want to integrate Aron and make him feel comfortable, make him feel at home with us. Once he’s comfortable and eligible and all the FIFA stuff is done, then we want to see him in real games and see if he can connect with something special to our game.”
ussoccer.com: It’s never an easy decision for a player, and the U.S. team has had experience in the past with players choosing to represent other
countries instead. How did this process develop with Aron?
JK: “Aron and myself have been in touch for well over a year at least, going back and forth. We followed him in Denmark where he broke through, and then his move over the winter to AZ Alkmaar. If not for an injury, Aron would have been with us during the past January camp. We are excited that he has finally joined us and we wait for the final approval from FIFA and then we will get him on the field. Aron is one of the very promising strikers in European football. It’s a difficult decision for a player: Which country do I want to play for? Whom do I represent when I have both passports? I always tell the player that no matter the background he has that they have to go with their heart. And for Aron, he chose the United States and it’s huge for us, but it’s been a process for over the last year and we are thrilled to finally have him.”
ussoccer.com: Another player with a similar choice is John Anthony Brooks, who has represented the U.S. with the U-20s and has also attracted interest
from Germany. He made his Bundesliga debut this past weekend with Hertha Berlin. How happy are you to have him in for the first time?
JK: “Having John Anthony Brooks is another exciting move that we can feel proud about in a certain way. Having followed him over the years now, we always are in touch with his club and coaches and it’s easy to see John is a very special talent growing through the Bundesliga ranks. He’s a center back with wonderful vision of the game, very decisive in one-on-one situations and very mature for his age. He was already with us one and half years ago in a U-20 camp we had, so we followed him and he’s breaking through in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin. Similar to Aron, we want to have him get integrated into the group and get to know his new buddies and to feel comfortable with us. I think our group is a wonderful bunch of guys that make you feel comfortable from the first second you join them. And of course we’re curious from a coaching perspective to see what he can add to our team, how he’s taking things in during training and possibly in the game against Bosnia. It’s another element we can add and we’re very happy about that.”
ussoccer.com: What are your expectations for the new players in this camp?
JK: “We just really want to give them the opportunity to adjust to the way we do things and understand this is how we work in the United States team, this is our routine, this is our daily schedule, our intensity in training, how we look at things, and our tactical principles. We also want them to make friends with their teammates, to feel comfortable and to be part of a special group that is shooting toward the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”
What are your thoughts on Clint Dempsey’s move to MLS?
JK: “It’s been a huge week. Having Clint back in the United States and joining MLS is big and I think everyone in the U.S. is excited about the news. I am thrilled for MLS because you have an outstanding player now hopefully filling more stadiums and getting even more kids and people excited about the game. For Clint it’s a challenge, coming from one of the top leagues in the world, coming back to the U.S. and being back in MLS where we still have to work on a lot of things. Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that. I told him that over the last two years that he’s got to go for the next level. Obviously we want the best Clint Dempsey ever and that’s what we’re going to push him toward as we begin to look toward Brazil. He has set a high standard for himself, and it’s up to us coaches to make sure he keeps that high standard.”
You left Clint and several MLS-based players off the roster. What went into that decision?
JK: “For the most part we wanted to leave the MLS players behind because it’s a long way to go for a mid-week game in the heart of the season and many of them were with us a lot during the summer. This gives us a chance to look at some different players as well. At the same time, we still want a strong team so we have some guys from MLS and also from Liga MX. I told (Sounders head coach) Sigi Schmid that it’s no problem to leave Clint off this roster. It’s been a long week for Clint and he is still in preseason and getting a rhythm, so we leave him in Seattle and get him ready for the games in September.”