U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with ussoccer.com about the USA’s comeback win against the Netherlands and the upcoming friendly with World Cup champion Germany
ussoccer.com: We saw you watching the Netherlands game on the train ride to Dusseldorf. What are the takeaways?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “I think the takeaways were definitely that it’s very encouraging to see all of our group coming back in a game that when you are two goals down and it’s not looking so positive for a bit of time, and then having the courage and the energy to take it back to Holland and obviously turn the thing around. It’s wonderful to see young players coming through with confidence and also taking risks and trying to surprise their opponents. They definitely made some mistakes, otherwise you don’t concede three goals, but I think that when we look at the entire game that we actually deserved to win.”
ussoccer.com: You talked at the start of camp about how these games represented a big opportunity for the young strikers. Three of them were involved in goals against Holland. How do you rate their performance?
JK: “I think they all took advantage of this opportunity because they all realized the moment. They realized that even a top team like Holland is vulnerable, you just need to have the courage and you need to believe in your own strength and you need to have a certain discipline going into a game like that. I think Gyasi Zardes is really making a lot of progress and goes through a tremendous learning curve, which is for us really exciting to see. The other young strikers as well are growing. Some might not be ready yet to start out games. It might be easier for them still to come on as a sub for a half an hour or a half so that they don’t overthink the situation, but in the game itself then it’s important that they settle their nerves and that they go eye-to-eye with their opponents. This is very encouraging for us to see.”
ussoccer.com: What was the strategy you had for substitutions? Did you have a mindset of introducing players earlier in the game?
JK: “I think the advantage of friendly games is really that you can make six substitutions. When you go all the way to Europe and you can play games like this now, you want to take advantage of that sub rule. You want to give the players hopefully enough minutes to where they say ‘okay, I can make an impression’. On the other hand, it helps you also to keep the energy up throughout the entire team because if you get five or six players in there earlier, they keep the tempo going at a high rate and that might, in this case with Holland, surprise the opponent a little bit. Usually when you’re up 3-1 you try and dial things down a little bit. You don’t want to invest too much energy any more in the game because they have a big European qualifier coming up next week. If they see it in the opponent that they keep up that energy, they keep up the tempo, then you have the chance to turn things around and this is what happened. We turned it around and we kept the energy high for the whole 90 minutes.”
ussoccer.com: Three players scored their first goals with the National Team. Several played against a top10 team for the first time. What does a win like this - against a team like this - do for a team?
JK: “I think it’s huge in terms of confidence. It’s a confidence builder because obviously when you play the top 10 teams in the world there is always a risk that you might not look so good and lose the game, but then when you actually surprise a lot of people and beat them and end up winning, even if it’s only a friendly, it tells you that you are actually able to do it. For an individual, when you score a goal this is something you carry with you for a long time. Bobby Wood, he will never forget that moment. Gyasi Zardes will never forget that moment, and Danny Williams will never forget that moment when they scored their first goals for the U.S. So we hope that gives them a boost in terms of confidence, but also gives them more consistency so they kind of expect from themselves to keep that level. They should expect from themselves to really keep up to those standards that they just experienced. This is our hope that they take all the positive momentum with them.”
ussoccer.com: How do you take the result of Holland game into the match against Germany?
JK: “I hope that what we are capable of is becoming consistent. We surprised quite a lot of people with that result in Holland, but now it’s actually on us to take the same energy, the same approach, the same discipline and tempo against the world champions. This is what we will talk to the players about. They showed real courage and a lot of good elements. We still have to correct a couple of mistakes we did against Holland, but now keep the same approach. You’ve got to do it again. We’re hoping that over time it becomes a lifestyle that we always expect the best from ourselves in training and in the game, and there’s nothing bigger than a game against the world champions. It’s going to be the highest benchmark that we’ve experienced so far.”
ussoccer.com: Personally, would you rather beat Germany or beat Holland?
JK: “As a German, beating Holland is always a special thing to do! Looking from our American perspective now, this game against Germany is a fascinating opportunity. If you were a player and you get a chance to play against Germany, against the world champions, against all of those names that had the World Cup trophy a year ago in their hands, it’s just wonderful. We will tell the players to just rise to the occasion. Enjoy that moment, but give it your all. Really go at them and give them a fight. Show the character that you already showed with the Holland game, and after the game with Germany we’ll have a lot more answers to many of our questions about every individual player and about the entire team. It’s also important in terms of team dynamic. We want to build a chemistry. We want to build a spirit. Obviously the expectation is that we go into the Gold Cup to win. We want to qualify directly for the Confederations Cup in Russian in 2017. We want the players to get used to dealing with constant high expectations, and that’s what we get heading into the game against Germany.”