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U.S. Men's National Team

Klinsmann discusses Lichaj, Altidore, qualifying and more in ESPN interview

JurgenKlinsmann830 (ISIPhotos.com)

Jurgen Klinsmann is little more than a week away from bringing together the U.S. men's national team for the World Cup qualifying matches that will determine whether the team advances to the Hexagonal Round, or crashes and burns. He helped provide some good insight into his thought process on player selections, preferred positions for certain players and the status of some national team prospects in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN.com.

Among the insightful nuggets Klinsmann shared was a very interesting take on Jozy Altidore, and the difference between his success in the Dutch League and his struggles with the U.S. national team.

"The Dutch league is very open — (Altidore) gets three or four chances a game," Klinsmann told ESPN. "In international games, there's less space. It's hard to get chances — you have to create them yourself. Yes, you always want people to feed your strikers who are good at finishing, but on the other hand, when teams are locked in, you have to work-work-work and force your luck, and sooner or later you'll get rewarded for that. I think Jozy can do a lot better, and he knows that."

Klinsmann also discusses everything from Eric Lichaj (on the radar but not getting a call just yet) to Michael Bradley (sees him as a No. 8 and not a No. 6) and much more.

Give the story a read and let us know what you think. Agree with his decision to keep Fabian Johnson at left back? What do you make of his comments on Altidore? Glad to know he's still in contact with Stuart Holden?

Share your thoughts below.

150 comments
  • atd

    The MB-JJ dual-holding lineup gives me flashbacks to the 2011 Gold Cup final. Make it go away!

    With Mo out of club action indefinitely, this really seems like a no-brainer. Three in midfield with Bradley and Jones in front of Danny Williams; Dempsey tucking in behind Herc or Jozy, Donovan on the right.

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  • atd

    Amen. Sloppy stuff, though that reporter is generally pretty good (and he asked good questions of Klinsmann).

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  • atd

    You should add the Slovenia game. Man, we were truly out of the World Cup until he served Handanovic with that facial. That was about the most baller-@$$ shit I saw in the whole tournament. Handanovic plays for Inter, and he’d probably still pee himself if he saw Donovan walking down the street.

    Or the Brazil game, 2009, where Donovan scored that brilliant counterattacking goal and ran back down the pitch pointing and shouting “Me! Me!” like he’d spent his whole career listening to people say stupid, ignorant stuff about him.

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  • biff

    I think you have a point there. I didn’t notice that on first read, was focusing on some of the other troubling comments. But it does seem sort of alike a Freudian slip.

    Quite frankly, I will say that it cannot be a comfortable situation for Klnsmann to have the son of the man he replaced, a man who was fired and probably doesn’t like him, on his team. I would think it makes it even worse that Klinsmann knows that there are a hard-core group of the former coach’s supporters who want to see him fail. I bet a majority of of coaches in the similar situation as Klinsmann now finds himself, probably the former coach himself, would never have put the son on the team, simply too uncomfortable and you would always be wondering whether what is being said in the locker room is staying in the locker room or being talked about over Christmas dinner with the family and most people would probably understand the coach’s dilemma and eventually accept the decision.

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  • atd

    You should add the Slovenia game. We were out of that World Cup until Donovan served Handanovic with that facial — that was about the most baller thing I saw the whole tournament. Dude plays for Inter and he’d still probably pee himself if he saw Donovan walking toward him on the street.

    Or the Brazil game, 2009, when Donovan scored that brilliant counterattacking goal and ran back down the pitch pointing and shouting “Me! Me!,” finally indulging himself after listening to people spout ignorant rubbish about him his entire career.

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  • Eric

    I don’t care about pushing Fabian Johnson up to left wing–I have faith that Brek Shea will turn out to be as advertised, and with Johnson, if it ain’t broke, etc.

    But I do care that Steve Cherundolo is 33, not getting any younger, and will in all likelihood retire from international football after the 2014 World Cup. Lichaj is the obvious heir, and needs to start being groomed for the role.

    I’m not saying (nor, I think, are most people), “Hey, let’s start him in the next WCQ match,” or, “Why doesn’t Lichaj play every USMNT match?” But it is inexplicable that arguably the best candidate to replace an aging incumbent hasn’t gotten a single cap in the year-plus that Klinsmann has been at the helm.

    Seriously. Who else do you see as more qualified to replace Dolo in two years, especially if Timmy Chandler continues his cat-and-mouse games with the MNT?

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  • GW

    You may be reading way too much into this interview.

    When JK took over Germany he had a fantastic bunch of players, new and old, from which to choose as he went about “re-building “Germany.

    That is not the case with the USMNT gig.

    This is still basically Bradley’s team. The important players are still mostly the same.

    Some matured (Bradley, Gomez), some are better (Williams,Fabian) and some are deteriorating (Dolo, Boca, and Donovan). There are enough new faces (mostly Fabian, Williams and possibly Gatt) so that he can try a few new wrinkles but this group is not going to be able to vary greatly from what Bradley’s guys did best.

    The CONCACAF opposition is better. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is not paying attention.

    All that attacking positive stuff he said when he first got the job was great and I’m sure he means it but he has always been pretty clear that he understands the need to win first. That other pretty stuff will come later, when he has the players who can actually do it.

    I realize many of you think he has those guys now but JK’s standards are pretty high.

    If any of you had actually seen JK as a player, specifically with those winning German teams, you might get a much better understanding of what he is doing right now. They were very tough, very hard-nosed, very “physical” or “nasty” if you like, willing to do anything legal or borderline or even illegal. They were not always pretty but they were, if you needed only one word, relentless.

    I doubt anyone ever enjoyed playing them. I would not put him in a class with Gretzky, but Germany protected JK just as well as the Oilers and Dave Semenko protected Gretzky.

    Watch those teams he played on, particularly in the World Cup and none of what is going on with the US should surprise you.

    As far as I’m concerned the two major differences from BB are Fabian at left back and the fact that JK is far more transparent than BB ever was. If BB had been this transparent he might have a far better image with the masses. Or maybe not.

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  • Eric

    My best guess is that it’s because Castillo is a left back by trade whereas Lichaj is a right back who happens to be able to play left back as well.

    And vis-a-vis Lichaj, I Castillo’s presence doesn’t irk me much. Really, left back is Fabian Johnson’s position for the foreseeable future, so Castillo is at best a long-term backup. I see Lichaj’s future with the MNT as the guy who takes over right back in the starting XI after Steve Cherundolo retires.

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  • GW

    Donovan has largely been injured for most of JK’s tenure.

    If he ever has a long run of health and good form then we will see.

    Remember, JK and Landon go back a long way. He brought Landon to Bayern when he was the manager and that certainly contributed to JK getting fired.

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  • Call Up Lichaj

    I think most people calling for Lichaj are not looking for him to be a regular starter or anything. We just want to see him in the camps as a depth option and a player getting experience with the NT atmosphere and JK’s system.

    I admittedly don’t watch guys like Castillo, Parkhurst and Orozco in their club matches, but I’ve watched them closely in their USMNT matches and have read about their club performances. I genuinely don’t believe they are better than Lichaj and certainly don’t believe they are a whole notch above him. Furthermore, those three I mentioned seem to offer little for WC 2014.

    Even if my assessments of the three guys I mentioned are inaccurate, JK has faced several situations when they and some of the more regular pieces of the back line have been unavailable. The Torres-at-left-back escapade has so far been the defining moment of the Lichaj exclusion saga. The coach would very clearly rather bring a thin lineup of fullbacks to camp than give Lichaj any kind of chance.

    JK seems to talk about Lichaj like an extremely young prospect, but the guy is 23 and has been playing in England for awhile. He isn’t a Gatt or a Gyau. If/when he does get the call, he will have to adjust to Klinsmann’s system and acquaint/re-acquaint himself with his teammates.

    I hope my tone doesn’t sound bitter. That’s not my purpose. I’m resigned to this situation, but it just feels a bit senseless–kind of the way I feel about the NFL replacement refs. I believe we have a very good starting 11, but the group of 23 is not strong enough to justify the continuous exclusion of a player like Lichaj.

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  • Sarasota

    In fact I do, “Twat”. Socialists
    have a term for people like you, “useful idiots”. But you woudn’t know that.

    And please keep references to “Obama” out of soccer posts!!! Like at least half of the population, I’m sick of watching him tank our country.

    Like

  • This Guy

    I got suckered into another SBI thread. I miss the good ol’ days before the politics showed up. Back to BigSoccer I go.

    Like

  • David

    Adrian already came in to act the part of the jerk off, I went back and read the interview more in depth, thank you though.

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  • beachbum

    as a supporter of the USMNT under Arena, Bradley, Bora, Sampson, I support Klinsmann too. Wanting the team to fail is weak, I want the TEAM to succeed and sure hope any other supporters do too

    disagree with your take about playing the son of the previous coach or not; better if merit-based right? with the coach’s ego removed from deciding what’s best for the team, which Klinsmann has done I think, to his credit.

    wish I could be there at Livestrong, tcould be epic. had plans on attending but alas, earwax

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  • beachbum

    Robbie is loving the combo with LD fortunately and they are kicking butt today. Nothing wrong with LD’s game as it gets better all the time, he just needs a little more rest as he gets older but is as much a part of what this team will accomplish as any other, still

    whatever commentary on the USMNT that is, there it is

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  • GW

    Nice story biff.

    If you successful in selling that story and turning it into a script for a reality show let us all know.

    Or if it becomes one of those crappy ESPN sports movies Ives can have a great article about who to cast. Someone mentioned Jake Gyllenhall as Clint which isn’t bad.

    Who plays Ives? JK? MB90? Chandler? and so on…..

    Like

  • euroman

    The backline was better in Kingston than in Columbus defensively. Jamacia got NOTHING in he run of play so the absence Boca had no influence. JK would have started Goodson & Cameron again if Goodson didn’t get the yellow card in Kingston. JK has moved on from Boca as a starter and you will see Goodson & Cameron again in the last two qaulifiers if they are healthy. The ‘not getting matches & out of rythem was a smoke screen. Tim Howard is the new USMNT Captain.

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  • GW

    “obvious heir”? Way too early for that.

    Yeah he looked good for a while when BB called him up but that was then and this is now.

    Look, he may be unemployed by January if he loses his battle with Bennett. So if he is to be the new Dolo it would be a good idea to be a regular starter for his club, something that could easily have been imperiled if he was missing time to sit on the bench for JK.

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  • Eric

    Missing time to sit on the bench for the MNT?

    Really?

    You do realize that the EPL usually doesn’t schedule matches during FIFA international dates, right?

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  • GW

    I don’t think the difficulty of WC qualifying is a shock to JK.

    The World Cup winning team he played on was nearly knocked out in qualifying by Wales. And in 1989 Wales were not a great team.

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  • GW

    Lichaj is not young but he is inexperienced.

    He has played 19 league games in 4 years or so with Villa. And the ten he got last year were as an emergency fill in. So it’s safe to say he may be a late bloomer. And his new manager is not much more convinced than JK. He is starting him but it seems the other left back, Bennett, will be getting his chances too.

    Lichaj’s performance does not justify such impatience. His major flaw is his rawness and JK is doing him a favor by letting him focus on winning a job that will give him exactly what he needs.

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  • GW

    Spank,

    Williams has never played as a winger or forward for the US. He has been stationed on the wing to prevent the midfield from being overrun or served as a sort of target/outlet midfielder for a swamped defense but that is a far cry from playing “winger or forward”.

    It’s like lining up an offensive tackle at fullback when on the goalline.

    Everyone occasionally gets forward and Williams is actually more skilled than most USMNT fans give him credit for.

    Like

  • Louis Z

    Against Jamaica the two strength a USA player had to bring was physical strength and speed. For sure Gatt is a hell of a fast player, not sure how physical he can handle within a game.

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  • SuperChivo

    Forget about the ceiling, he is by as very wide margin the best US forward currently playing the game and the people with actual skin in the game, putting money on it, say that pretty unequivocally. Whatever you want to say about the Dutch league it is a higher level the LMX or MLS.

    Like

  • Louis Z

    Donovan has played the LM before in big games and Zusi has been doing well as a RM for the NATS.

    I would rather have them like this than LD as a RM and Torres as the LM.

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  • Goalscorer24

    I think you are right Lichaj could be the future right back replacement for Dolo, but if Johnson got injured I think I would prefer to see Lichaj at left back rather than Castillo.

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  • Goalscorer24

    This really is the same situation we saw with Gomez, and he eventually got his chance, so if Lichaj keeps at it he will get his chance.

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  • GW

    Yes, really.

    You do realize there is thing called training, right? And that is where you can win or lose your job. Lichaj is far from a sure fire starter for Villa so any time away from the team gives the other guy more of a chance to take Eric’s job.

    Lambert, his new boss bought a new set of fullbacks, either to replace Eric, or to push him. Either way, it tells Eric he has to do more.

    Like

  • GW

    Very different. Gomez first came to the attention of Bradley as a red hot, streaky, goal scorer in Mexico. A lot of those goals came when he was a late sub. Gomez has always gone back and forth as a starter or a late sub but the big thing is his goal production.

    It’s different for Lichaj. You don’t often think of fullbacks being produtive as late subs.

    But yes, Lichaj will need to keep at it.

    Like

  • biff

    CLARENCE GOODSON DID NOT GET A YELLOW CARD ON SEPTEMBER 7, 2012, IN THE JAMAICA VS US MATCH IN KINGSTONG, ACCORDING TO THE CONCACAF MATCH REPORT. US SOCCER SAYS IN ITS REPORT THAT GOODSON RECEIVED A YELLOW CARD. MAYBE HE DID, BUT I DO NOT REMEMBER DURING THE GAME SEEING GOODSON RECEIVE THE CARD. IN ANY CASE, THIS IS A MAJOR CONTRADICTION THAT SPORTS REPORTERS UP TO THIS POINT HAVE NOT YET CLARIFIED. (Sorry to put this in caps, but I think the soccer press should finally report on this major discrepancy and maybe a sports reporter who sees it will call up US Soccer and Concacaf and ask for explanations.)

    Jamaica 2 – 1 USA
    http://tinyurl.com/9bb2ceu

    Regarding you comment on Tim Howard being the new captain and Klinsmann saying Boca out of rhythm being a smoke screen, that very well could be and if it is true I would urge Klinsmann to simply name Howard captain. Klinsmann is the coach and has the right to name who he wants when he wants and I am sure Boca would be professional enough to accept it.

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  • GW

    Re being “uncomfortable”.

    This isn’t high school.

    They pay JK a lot of money to handle this sort of thing, among other things. JK has been on the job less than a year and his biggest, most likely club house lawyer, Landon, has hardly been around.

    This USMNT locker room as best as any outsider can tell, seems far more together than most.

    Like

  • biff

    I honestly was not referring to you. But there is a group who want Klinsmann to fail. No doubt about that. As for the son, I realize this is highly sensitive and emotional topic, but I don’t see how anyone with one iota of sense could deny that it is obviously a major issue in the big picture of current USMNT dynamics, yet there has not been one peep of (public) discussion about how difficult it must be for Klinsmann for a variety of reasons.

    I agree with you that, on the one hand, Klinsmann deserves credit for handling the situation how he has, although it cannot be easy. But as I said previously, I think a lot of coaches would not have handled the uncomfortable situation the way Klinsmann has and sometimes I wonder whether it might be having an unfavorable impact on his roster decisions and that the total net effect on team dynamics might be negative. I don’t know.

    I will say that the previous coach always made sure to bring in the guys he wanted, “his guys” they were called, and he didn’t fret and wring his hands and worry about how certain segments of the soccer community might react: He just did it. And I gotta say, no matter how I felt about other aspects, I did respect his courage and I still do.

    I like Klinsmann, think he is a good guy and all that, but sometimes I think he is trying too hard to be everybody’s best buddy and I just wish he would spit out his true feelings without always splitting hairs and trying to be a nice guy. At some point Klinsmann has gotta realize that as coach of the USMNT he can’t please everybody and that he is going to anger certain segments of the soccer community no matter what he does and he better realize this and get the team performing better on a consistent basis before the USMNT fails to qualify for WC 2014 or he is going be looking for a new job and his tenure will go down in history as the worst failure in the history of US soccer.

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  • Leo

    Perhaps he hasn’t announced it because Tim Howard will not be the next captain of the USMNT. Perhaps the new captain has not played due to injury and it doesn’t make sense to announce him right now.

    It’s very easy to say what you would’ve done in hindsight. It’s important to remember that no matter how great your soccer acumen is, you don’t have the same information the manager does. State your opinion, people will agree or disagree, but there’s little need to litigate your opinion to death.

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  • Eric

    I understand that Lichaj isn’t a surefire starter at AV, but if that’s what we’re going to arbitrarily limit the pool to, we’re arbitrarily eliminating a lot of talent. Players like Terrence Boyd and Brad Guzan aren’t yet automatic starters at their clubs, but should still be a part of MNT plans because of their talent level. I would put Lichaj in the same camp.

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  • Eric

    Lichaj has gotten more match experience than just his AV games. He had a terrific loan spell with Leeds in the Championship League in 2011–so much so that Leeds wanted to keep him. He’s done loan spells elsewhere too, IIRC. It isn’t as though he has simply cooled his heels since crossing the pond in 2008.

    Like

  • robbo

    I was upset when Klinsman was named coach. He was a goof player but a good player does not always translate into a good coach. He sucked at Bayern Munich and acting like a blind nice with the US. He cannot assess talent, make adjustment during games. He has no confidence in his ability which translates to a poor product on the field. Mexico is miles of us because the coach is not afraid to give his younger players a chance. How can you call up players who are not match fit for the game in Jamaica when there are others just as capable and are fit? This clown is ruining the US team. Dolo, Boca, Donovan need to make way for the younger players. We will be lucky to qualify for the WC. What the hell does he see in Shea? He is going to be a big flop. That boy is over hyped. Is MLS better than the Danish, Austrian and some of those lower tier leagues? Why no Mixx or Gyau?

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  • GW

    Eric,

    Who said anything about Lichaj not being part of the USMNT’s plans? If you read the interview JK has him on his radar. If he continues to play well he may get a call up. But he will have to do it at Villa first.
    Eric is not a proven regular like Donovan, Dempsey, MB 90 and so on. They get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to not having much playing time for their clubs yet still being considered for the USMNT.

    Boyd and Guzan are solid starters for their clubs.

    The USMNT is not eliminating talent. JK has made it clear that if he believes you merit inclusion he’ll call you up. He called back Clark and Castillo both of whom most of you wanted dead. He just does not have a spot for him right now and he has never had him in to camp.

    Besides, JK obviously feels right back is not a need at the moment. He has Spector, Beitashour, Cameron, Edu, Williams, Fabian, Zach Lloyd, MOF, Parkhurst, etc. should anything happen to Dolo.
    Maybe you think Lichaj is better than all of them but they have all put in their time with JK. So there is a degree of familiarity and comfort there that may not be present with Lichaj.

    This may shock some of you but just because BB liked a player, it does not mean JK will like him as well. Managers often make different decisions from the previous manger, especially on players. This is a fairly common phenomenon.

    My own feeling about Lichaj is that he benefited greatly from being the guy who allowed BB to not have to start Jonny Bornstein. Most of you have elevated Lichaj to demi god status just on that basis alone. The reality is more that he is a promising but raw prospect who needs to win a regular job first and foremost, at Villa, or elsewhere before he can be the anointed heir to Dolo.

    Like

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