In part Two of the Q&A with U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, he discusses the anticipation for the 2016 Copa America Centenario Official Draw and players' recent club activity abroad.
ussoccer.com: When you see the performances on the weekend like we did from Messi, Neymar, and Suarez – three guys who will be on three different teams this summer – how does that excite you for the tournament?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “Obviously it’s very exciting to look toward the big draw on Sunday for the Copa America and knowing then finally who we have in our group, who we have to prepare for and see which team is playing where. Having an exact calendar of the tournament will be of huge help, but also it’s really exciting to host a Copa America in the United States this summer with teams like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and so on, and having the opportunity for all of us to enjoy players like Messi, Neymar, Suárez, or all the other big, big names from South America will be just a huge pleasure. It will be an honor for us to have them in the United States, and I can’t wait to see who’s playing who on Sunday then at the draw.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve talked about how important Copa America will be for the United States, both in terms of the competition and the showcase for fans. Does it make it more real now that the Draw is finally here?
JK: “Once you have your own group and you know if you would go through who you would meet then in the next stage. It obviously gives you a lot more meat to the bone. It helps you prepare things, but it also raises a little bit the bar on excitement and obviously in expectations. I think people start after the draw to realize just how big this tournament actually is. Hosting Copa America, which I think is the second biggest tournament in the world after the World Cup in our region, is just tremendous. And to measure ourselves with the best nations from South America and in our region, that is big time. You want to do well. You want to see how you can play against these big teams with their big players and give it a go and challenge them and prove a point.”
ussoccer.com: What do you see in Alfredo Morales and Danny Williams after recent success with their club teams?
JK: “Well scanning Europe week in and week out for our players and see how they are doing, there’s also other good messages. Alfredo Morales is playing week in and week out as a starter. He’s been very, very impressive in the left midfield role that he takes there. We are also seeing Danny Williams back on track with Reading, playing almost all of the games, being consistent, and sometimes he’s the decisive player in scoring a goal or playing the assist, so that’s pretty cool. With Danny now being back in the frame and Alfredo doing well in the Bundesliga, it’s good to see these guys performing.”
ussoccer.com: Fabian Johnson is enjoying a stellar season in Germany playing as a left winger, but he also happens to be your best option at left back and right back. Where do you foresee him playing positionally in the March qualifiers and beyond?
JK: “Obviously having Fabian Johnson being able to play different positions on a very, very high level is a big plus for us. It’s a wonderful thing to have. Obviously you like to kind of continue having a player play in the same role in the National Team that he’s playing in his club team to just keep him consistent and keep him confident, but sometimes it’s not doable because of maybe problems in other positions you know he can fill out. He can play right back and left back, as well and on the wing of the midfield, and both sides as well. That gives us a good feeling that he can switch over to that role, but obviously for him right now being on a roll on the left midfield side is a very comfortable situation. Ideally you want to continue that, but it depends really on who we have then as a left back and a right back available in the World Cup qualifiers. We will make the adjustments, and if he needs to play a fullback role, he is good with that and always has been very, very open to any role when it gets down to the National Team.”
ussoccer.com: Alejandro Bedoya has four goals and two assists in his last seven games for Nantes. Where do you see his game right now, and what does having the options of Bedoya and Johnson on the wings do for the National Team?
JK:“Well not only Fabian Johnson is doing really well, especially also Alejandro Bedoya at Nantes in France is on a very, very good stretch right now scoring goals and delivering assists and just being involved constantly in very, very important moments of the game. This gives us different options going toward the World Cup qualifiers at the end of March. Now with Alejandro Bedoya being in top form and Fabian Johnson being in top form that’s for us big because they are difference makers, and you need players on the field that can make a difference.”
ussoccer.com: How concerned are you about the rhythm and form of your two top goalkeepers, who are not starting in the Premier League ahead of the qualifiers?
JK: “Every time a player is not getting his playing time with his club team, it’s a concern for the National Team program. That is just the way it is for the player. It always is kind of put into consideration now. Right now not having Tim Howard play from the beginning on, not having Brad Guzan play from the beginning on, is a bit of a bummer for us. It’s difficult to see but it’s the way it is. We are not able to change that because the club coaches make their own decisions, and we have to respect that and go from there. Obviously the good thing with both Brad and Tim is that they have a tremendous amount of experience. Do they want to play week in and week out and be sharp as much as possible? Yes, but if they come off the bench they know how to play the game as well. So helpful there is their experience, and so the level of concern that we have is then not that big because they know how to handle that situation.”