ussoccer.com: What kind of opportunity lies ahead with this group going into USA-Mexico?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “It’s a huge opportunity playing Mexico in any kind of environment and in any kind of game. This is a roster of mostly MLS players, with some Liga MX players coming in and DeAndre Yedlin and Julian Green, two European-based players that were allowed to come over. It’s different compared to how we were put together in Switzerland and in Denmark, and I see this kind of a game as a huge opportunity for players to come in and play in front of a sold-out stadium and loud crowd, a lot maybe pro-Mexico, but these are the games where you mature and where you try to express yourself and show what you have, and therefore we are thankful that we can play this game.”
ussoccer.com: Where does this game fit into the preparations for the Gold Cup? Have you started to zone in on who you want to see this summer?
JK: “This game doesn’t really help you to kind of zoom in because you’re restricted to the players that you just have available now. But it’s a great opportunity for everyone individually to show where they are right now and where they are at this stage with their MLS teams and down in Mexico. Tthe closer we get to the Gold Cup, the more we kind of define things.”
ussoccer.com: Two Mexican-American players - Ventura Alvarado and William Yarbrough - made their debut in the March camp in Europe. What did they do to prove they belonged in this camp?
JK: “They definitely both were a very impressive surprise to us coaches. Ventura stepped in on the field like he has always been with us. Even when he got in late in the game against Denmark, because Michael Orozco had some knee problems, he filled in right away and he was sharp and did his job, and then he proved that again over 45 minutes in Switzerland; it was the same with William. William played in the second half in Switzerland and was calm, balanced and got his work done. This is huge for us. I think this is what we hoped to see, and so we were very impressed and very positive about them and obviously they’re back right away and we are curious how they will continue with us.”
- READ: Two Countries. One Team. - Alvarado and Yarbrough, the latest in long line of dual nationals to opt for the USMNT
ussoccer.com: There are two big players missing in Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. How does that impact the roster and what kind of opportunity does that hand other players?
JK: “Always when there’s somebody missing it’s an opportunity for other ones coming in, but if you look at the roster, there is no Brad Guzan nor Fabian Johnson, no Jozy Altidore, no Alejandro Bedoya, no Clint Dempsey. Mexico is in a similar situation being without guys like Chicharito, Guardado, Dos Santos and the players based in Europe. So it is a different kind of a mixture that you find in this game, but it’s still U.S. against Mexico. It’s still sold out. It’s still both teams wanting to win and the players wanting to impress. So when these players, like Dempsey and Altidore now are not there, that’s the moment for other players to use that space and show what you have. I think we’re going to see some individual performances that will hopefully give us a hint toward the Gold Cup.”
ussoccer.com: Like in the last camp, there are a couple of players back in the mix after long absences. You have Juan Agudelo, who’s been away for more than a year and a similar case with Joe Corona coming back from injury. What message does it send that these players are back with the team?
JK: “It’s very important that the players understand that even if they’re not with us for a long stretch of time that they’re always observed. We always watch them. We kind of suffer with them when things are not going so well, like a Julian Green, like a Juan Agudelo when he kind of had his journey through Europe, or Brek Shea, or Joe Corona who was injured. So every one of them have their own individual issues and have their down periods, their struggles, but that doesn’t mean that they’re out of sight. We watch them and we are communicating with them and we want to help them, and when they are coming back up and there’s an opportunity like now, other players as we said are not there, we can bring them in and say, ‘hey how are you doing, show us where you are right now.’ This is very important because often people say with a national team program that once you’re in you’re always in, and once you’re out you’re not getting back in anymore. That is not true. There’s always an open door no matter what phase of your career you are as long as you show that with your performances.”
ussoccer.com: Five players from Liga MX are on this roster. Is it helpful to have guys who are very familiar with the opposing players due [playing their club football against them for a match up like this one with Mexico?
JK: “It’s definitely helpful having players be a part of our roster that play in Mexico and have the experience with Mexican sides, not only on the field but also with their environments. They know their culture inside out, and they know not only the players but how they deal with things so that’s definitely helpful. For us the challenge is for every player, no matter what background he has, it is to make him understand what we are asking from him as a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team program. That’s when he has to switch it over and say ‘when I come here, this kind of music is what we’re going to play, this is the kind of tempo and intensity that we have in training,’ and then they have to break through with us because at the end of it they want to represent the United States of America and they want to go to a Gold Cup, to a Confederations Cup, and to a World Cup. That’s what really drives them.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve gone undefeated in your time as head coach against Mexico. Do you feel part of the rivalry?
JK: “I enjoy every time we face Mexico because they are a really good team and they love the game. They are so enthusiastic and they are so emotional, and it’s always exciting games. Both sides want to win it badly, so that means it’s attacking soccer, and there’s nothing more fun than both teams attacking and going for it. So hopefully we’ll see that on Wednesday night and hopefully we’ll keep the upper end of it. That’s always more fun.”