Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team and their fans have spent a good portion of the week discussing the Sporting News story from Monday that cited several unnamed players and sources being critical of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his unconventional methods.
On Thursday, Klinsmann finally responded to that story in detail.
Speaking in his final press conference before the U.S. takes on Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Friday night, Klinsmann said he was not concerned by the criticisms in that aforementioned story. In fact, Klinsmann called it a ‘great sign’ for soccer in the United States.
“It shows that people care. It shows that people really question things, that people here maybe get worried about,” said Klinsmann. “You take that as a positive sign. Now, I always said that we’re a team in transition and I always said between two cycles, there’s a lot, a lot of work for the coaches and the team as well.
“That being said, it’s normal that we have to move players out of comfort zone, we have to introduce them to different methods because we want to make them better at the end of the day. If we do it exactly the same way everything was done before, we’re not improving. It’s our jobs to get these guys to another level and that’s only done by introducing different methods.
“I don’t have any problems with that. I prefer if people have any type of problems with me, come to me and talk to me about it. … It doesn’t distract us at all from what we’re here for. Our focus is purely Costa Rica and then hopefully after the three points we want to go to Mexico and give them a real game.”
Klinsmann also touched on the pressure he is feeling heading into this pair of qualifiers, saying that he is unfazed with having to meet the growing expectations placed on him and the U.S. side while also admitting that he is not here to please all critics and fans.
“I think it’s fascinating and the opportunity is there tomorrow night to correct the result in Honduras from a couple of weeks ago, get ourselves on the right track and get points to hopefully in order to make everybody happy,” said Klinsmann. “But on the other side, I’m not here to make everybody happy. I’m here to kind of challenge people, here to kind of improve people. By doing that, I might move out some people, maybe (media) as well, out of your comfort zones.
“That’s what I’m doing, that’s what I keep doing, because I want to make it better. Taking some risks on the road, taking some negative results on the road, that happens, but by doing that you can only get to another level. It’s all good with me.”
Another criticism that Klinsmann discussed was one that LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena made recently in an interview with ESPN. Arena said he did not think the U.S. should rely so much on foreign-born American players, as has been the case during Klinsmann’s tenure.
Naturally, Klinsmann disagreed with Aren’s stance.
“I don’t look at it as a criticism. It’s just his opinion. That’s totally cool with me,” said Klinsmann. “I think the world is changing and it’s a global game. I believe that Americans are Americans, no matter if they grow up in Japan, South Africa or Buenos Aires.
“Our job is to identify the best talents with American passports and see if they are good enough to come into that elite group. By finding those answers, the only way to do that is inviting them in and see how they do in our environment and give them the opportunity. … I think it’s our responsibility to make sure that we don’t lose the next Giuseppe Rossi, who grew up in New Jersey but plays now for Italy.”
Klinsmann touched on his decision to name Dempsey captain, as well. The 48-year-old said that Dempsey will now have to be more involved in how to help manage things than he was in the past, and not just on the field but off it as well.
“The captaincy for Clint is big,” said Klinsmann. “It gives him a sense of coming closer connected to the head coach, discussing things, talking about certain strategies, certain things you want to do, understanding how important it is to build an entire group, an entire environment towards a huge World Cup.
“It is something that fills you with pride. … It makes you a bit more understand many things off the field than if you just only focus yourself on the field, so it’s a big role.”
Klinsmann also talked about left-sided players Brek Shea and DaMarcus Beasley. The German-born head coach had a lot of kind words about Beasley – who is three caps away from reaching the coveted 100-mark – but was not too forthcoming when talking about Shea, who revealed earlier in the week that he is still recovering from the foot injury that plagued him in 2012.
“DaMarcus Beasley, he’s an outstanding character,” said Klinsmann. “He’s always there when you need him, he’s always there for the team, he’s a pure giver to the program and he’s versatile. He can play midfield, he can play left back if you want him to play left back, he can play all over the place. He’s always been part of our picture and bigger group.”
“Brek is trying really hard to get into a rhythm and we evaluate that with every session and then here and there see that he’s not playing always full games, so we keep that in mind,” said Klinsmann. “But it’s already great that he’s here and he’s back in being part of the team after his switch from [FC Dallas] to Stoke. It’s great to have him here.”
What do you think of Klinsmann’s comments regarding the criticisms against him? Agree with him that the U.S. should look for American players no matter where they are born? Think Dempsey will fill the role as captain well?
Share your thoughts below.