Playing in Saturday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Third Place match isn’t what U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann or any of his 23-man roster envisioned they’d be preparing for at this point.
U.S. captain Michael Bradley admitted that coming to terms with Wednesday’s 2-1 semifinal defeat to Jamaica will take some time.
“That part is never easy,” he told ussoccer.com. “When you have a goal and everything goes into that for a few weeks and when that ends, there’s disappointment, frustration -- there’s sadness. There’s a need for everybody to take some time and digest it and sift through it all. In some ways that’s something that’s not going to end in the next few hours or even before the game starts tomorrow.”
The U.S. now looks to October 9 and the playoff to determine CONCACAF’s representative in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, facing the winner of Sunday’s final. The game against Panama now becomes the first in preparation for that huge match, along with big international friendlies against Peru and Brazil scheduled for early September.
“Any time you’re with the national team, it’s a chance to continue to build on the work you’ve previously done,” Guzan told ussoccer.com. “You want to continue to push forward and there aren’t many opportunities to get together as a National Team before that playoff. Everyday we’re together, including tomorrow, it’s a chance for us to get better as a team and push forward, make sure we’re on the same page and show our appreciation for the fans. We do that by putting together a good performance and a good result.”
Winning the playoff not only crowns the de facto giant of the region, a place in the Confederations Cup provides the participants a massive opportunity to get a dry run in Russia a year before the World Cup.
“The Confederations Cup is something that means a lot to us and regardless of who that game is against, we’ll be ready to give everything we can to take care of business and find a way to get ourselves there. After that, November will come quick and World Cup qualifying begins.”
Though one of the team’s main goals wasn’t accomplished, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann still feels his team has made strides in 2015, defeating world champions Germany and World Cup semifinalists Holland, as well as bringing along a young group of players that will no doubt play a part in the team’s bid to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“I think this year after the 2014 World Cup has been very, very useful,” said the U.S. boss. “We played highly competitive friendlies overseas. We did well in some -- others we lost. We brought younger players into the program that are already locked into the inner group of the National Team, like Ventura Alvarado, like John Brooks who seem to be growing, like Gyasi Zardes who is really impressing and getting stronger and stronger.”
Specific to 22-year-old center backs Alvarado and Brooks, the pair gained valuable experience playing together in seven matches over the course of this year already. Overall, the MNT went 4-1-2 with the pair on the field together, the lone loss coming in Wednesday’s semifinal.
Klinsmann indicated that the criticism the young defenders have faced after the defeat isn’t surprising, but the growth and adversity the two have gone through so far in 2015 will only help going forward.
“I’m absolutely not negative about certain players that maybe now have some of the heat on. If you look at our young center backs, there’s enormous talent that is growing through. We’re going to help them. If I look just at Ventura and John Brooks, I think they played together in seven games and we only lost this one just a few days ago. They were on the field against Germany and Holland. They have to go through this pain, we’re going to go through pain here and there -- do a step back here and there. It’s part of their growth and if there’s a moment to criticize, that’s fine.”
Before players go back to their clubs for regular season games or preseason preparation, they hold the additional goal of finishing on a high note for the fans that have provided tremendous support throughout the tournament.
“We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our fans, to step on the field tomorrow and give everything we have to play well, be sharp and to win and give everybody that walks into that stadium a good show,” Klinsmann said. “We’ll have a group of guys that will be ready to do that.”