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Klinsmann reveals reason for lineup changes and more following USMNT’s Gold Cup-opening rout of Belize

Jurgen Klinsmann

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Chris Wondolowski and Michael Orozco may have found the back of the net against Belize, but they might not have been given the chance to had the match not been played on turf.

Minutes after seeing his U.S. Men’s National Team post a 6-1 rout of Belize in their Gold Cup opener in Portland, Ore. on Tuesday night, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann revealed that he opted to sit some of his more experienced veterans due to the playing surface at JELD-WEN Field. It was a precautionary measure taken by Klinsmann and his coaching staff to avoid having veteran centerback Oguchi Onyewu and seasoned forward Herculez Gomez play on the turf given their history of knee injuries.

“The decision not to start Gooch and Herc were based on the fact that they had knee issues in the past and we didn’t want to risk anything on the turf fields,” said Klinsmann in his postgame press conference. “The same with Stuart Holden, we said, ‘If we need you, you’ll come off the bench when things maybe open up a little bit,’ so that was our concern.”

Holden was the lone player of the three Klinsmann was worried about giving minutes to on the turf field who saw time on Tuesday night. As was the case in last Friday’s 6-0 victory over Guatemala in a friendly, Holden came off the bench at halftime and provided an instant spark for the Americans, delivering a range of passes in a central midfield position.

Holden also scored his first international goal in nearly four years – Thursday would have marked the exact day since he netted the equalizer in a 2-2 Gold Cup draw with Haiti in 2009 – in the 58th minute, burying a Landon Donovan header from close range for what was the U.S.’s 10th of 12 goals over their last two matches.

“It’s a constant work,” said Klinsmann of the team’s transition to being more proactive. “We want to push the game higher up in the opponents’ half whenever possible, even if we play the big nations, and so every time we get together we’re working on those principles. We want to find the strikers, the attacking midfielders fast, early enough, playing out of the back.

“You have to always follow those principles and work on them. I think the players understand more and more how we want to build up through movement off the ball in midfield and the strikers up front have to do the same type of work. It’s a consistent work and it will continue and we’re just trying to improve every time we’re together.”

Klinsmann also suggested that he was not worried by the Americans’ inability to puncture Belize’s defense with real consistency during the opening half-hour despite dominating the possession battle. He stressed that patience is key in beating a team that hides in a defensive shell and aims to hit back on the counter, which Belize did to good effect even after Wondolowski scored the first of his three first-half goals in the 12th minute.

“It’s just a normal development of a game,” said Klinsmann. “When you play a team that is with 10 players behind the ball, it will take time to open up space there. In the beginning, they are fresh, they are energetic, they are enthusiastic to play this tournament, and so they close every little space they see, so it takes patience. It always takes patience.

“There will be many other games the same way, so we’ve got to just keep the ball moving around, we’ve got to move off the ball fast and efficient and I think once you get a bit of a rhythm and then you score the first goal then things open up a little bit and eventually you will break them down. It’s always a game of patience and so it was not surprising that it took kind of the first half an hour to grind it a bit.”


  • During his press conference, Klinsmann also acknowledged the more than 18,000 supporters at JELD-WEN Field on Tuesday evening that demonstrated an impressive tifo and were rowdy throughout much of the lopsided match: “A big thank you to a fantastic crowd here in Portland. That was wonderful to experience and the players were all curious how it would be it and they lived up to the expectations, so thanks to the crowd here.”
  • The other topic Klinsmann responded to was about the status of Philadelphia Union forward Jack McInerney, who seems unlikely to be given any serious minutes in this Gold Cup due to this being the first time he is with the full U.S. team.

“I think for a player like Jack, right now it’s a tremendous learning curve,” said Klinsmann. “You train every day with these guys and you see, ‘Okay this is my club level and this is the national team’. He’s coming along, we’re happy with him, we see him, we see his talent and he’s getting more confident every time he’s getting on the practice field.

“In the Gold Cup, it’s a bit tricky because we can only sub three guys. It would have been easier maybe (with) two or three preparations games, then you throw him in there to get a couple of minutes in, it’s no problem. But now with the rules, only having three, you want to make sure that you make the right ones based on what you see really in training as well, but he’s on a good path.”


  1. Come on Klinsmann you know well that the US National Team is not ready for the World Cup. Beating a substitute National Team has giving no clue of improvement. Then beating Belize and Cuba, a couple very low ranking Nationals teams again proved nothing. To top it off who are you really playing to qualify for the World Cup, basically, with a couple exceptions, the same team your are playing in the Gold Cup. Unless a change the system is made, the US National Team will not be ready to complete with the elite of the world, and will not be for a very, very long time.
    Besides the play by play announcers are the most boring announcers in the world,

  2. Not everyone is Northwest tough. Henry for example. Great player, just not tough enough.

    People just have to realize that and get over it.
    Once you realize it, please refrain from the hatred towards Seattle and Portland for being tough.

  3. Jeld Wen field’s playing surface is called FieldTurf. Here is the link on what it is all about –

    The issue is completely overblown based on the outdated experiences with astro turf back in the day. The biggest issue is speed and bounce, not injuries. Is there any peer reviewed articles on FieldTurf and knee injuries. It is a great surface. How many pitches in the world are like Nou Camp or Emirates? Not many at all. And the maintenance budgets for a grass pitch in the Northwest is absurd. Also, consider that many of these newer stadiums/fields have to be multi – use (Jeld Wen = soccer specific, but the local university has an agreement to play college football on it. Part of the public funding stipulation in order to make the renovation happen).

    • Bruce Arena just commented on Jeld Wen’s field:

      “This is the best one available. The other ones in the league are really atrocious and they shouldn’t be allowed. This is a good field. The fields in Seattle, Vancouver, and New England are not good fields, this is a good field…It is the best. It’s a good field. Technically, I don’t know where that field comes from, but it has been the best one. It’s a good field. They’ve made it a little bit bigger as well, so no excuses there.”

      Interesting that he says it is a good field, the best even….

  4. The US looks so much better when Holden is on the pitch. Despite what Klinsmann said about the first 30 minutes, I think the US was too casual at times and lacked intensity. I think Holden can be crucial to long term success for the US over the next 5 years or so as long as he keeps healthy.

    • I think it’s more that players like Mixx, Holden, Gatt, and Shea — FJ and Bradley as well if we talked A team — play with a sense of urgency and can take people on by dribble or speed. Torres to me looks heavier than before and both he, Bedoya, and Corona just look content to string passes sideways and not take on defenders or make an incisive forward ball. Or at least they don’t have the same level of urgency or quality. So typically the first 30 minutes we’re plodding along — against Belize! or Guatemala!

      Sometimes you want to just possess the ball and try to break a team down tactically, or play keepaway, but to me it just seems like some players are better at breaking down a defense going forward than others, and if we’re going to play our style those are the useful ones. The whole progression on this team during the Klinsi years has been getting more chances and less possession for possession’s sake.

  5. We are going to have to play a large number of games in a short period. This was likely the easiest opponent we will face. It was highly likely JK was going to do some squad rotation. The recently injured players (Holden, Shea, Onyewu, and Gomez) were the most likely candidates for either reduced playing time or skipping this game. The artificial turf was one explanation (and, having spoken to players and agents for players, there is no question that players prefer grass fields, even if they don’t say so publicly and even as compared to the best and most advanced turf fields), but this was really the most logical game to play a few of the subs anyway.

  6. While I am generally in agreement that playing on grass is preferred to turf, JELD-WEN has one of the best field turf fields in the WORLD. It exceeds the highest standards set by FIFA with the best field turf money can buy and extra layers of padding below. Top professionals who have played on the field have nothing but compliments for it.

    That said, against a semi-pro opponent, why take any risk with certain players, however marginal? i.e., I agree with JKs decision and reasoning, however slight and marginal the increased injury risk might be. Heck,I might have rested them regardless – it’s a long tournament.

  7. Glad to have a coach that is so upfront and honest. Also glad to have a squad so deep that the backups on the B team can win with ease. Also glad to have quality fans like that too

  8. Um…not sure if anyone on the planet realizes this (commenters, broadcasters…pretty much everyone apparently) but the word “turf” means GRASS. Playing on a turf field means playing on grass. Playing on an astro turf, field turf, etc field means it is artificial.

  9. Just curious – what is the reason why there’s turf in Portland and Seattle? Is it just because of the amount of rain?

  10. Portland and Seattle must get rid of that turf…playing football on artificial surface must be made illegal (unless you play near the arctic circle).

    No excuse for either Portland or Seattle. Get rid of the damn turf!!!

    • Seattle shares the stadium with a football team with implications for field maintenance and quality if it was grass in the rainy NW. Portland has similar weather issues but I don’t think they share their stadium with anyone, AAA baseball left.

      • Portland shares the stadium with the Portland State University football team, and there is also an underground river that flows right under the stadium. Grass is not an option.

      • It rains a lot in Portland. Rain tends to make things wetter than they were before. Wetness (rain) on top of existing wetness (an underground river) increases wetness to a point where, due to oversaturation of the soil, the following problems occur: grass gets overwatered and dies; soggy turf falls apart easily, leads to dangerous and/or subpar playing conditions; and flooding.

      • When it rains, where does it drain too when the ground is presumably already saturated with water? There is the answer.

    • Please explain to me your master plan to have drainage systems installed at both fields that have the capability to maintain a playable surface and not create a natural grass swamp in all the Pacific Northwest precipitation.

      No excuse? You clearly do not understand the issues at hand.

      • I agree with you, but in fairness…..if they can have grass and nice fields in England and Scotland or in places in Central and South America, obviously a few in Central America have shown to have horrible grass when they play in CCL or WCQ but I think that’s more about poor teams not having resources But the more stable leagues and teams have good grass in very rainy regions….

        But I agree it is very hard…..people need to get over the turf phobia, the new FIELDTurf is great….way better than the stuff we saw in the 1st 30 years of artificial grass

      • Never seen a British team share a stadium with an American Football team. If they can succeed in that with rainy conditions we would have something to copy.

    • Ya i wonder if they are planning on pitting grass down at cowboy and baltimore stadium…

      I know fifa (switzerland hq) is pushing for the acceptance of turf ie, 2015 Womens’ WC

      • I doubt it for Cowboys and M&T Stadiums…..Mexico played El Salvador and Costa Rica played Cuba at Cowboys stadium back in the 2011 Gold Cup and it was on their turf….Mexico even played Brazil there last year as a preparation for the Olympics no?

  11. Lovin’ watchin’ this team. There is some danm good chemistry at work on this team, like crisp passing and the will to attack. True, they are not always succeeding. But, hey, these guys are not yet as experienced internationally as most of the A-Team members, but man they are playing with a lotta heart. And finally, after two years under Klinsmann with absolutely no counter-attacking at all, it appears Klinsmann is encouraging the boys do some counter-attacking. And if don’t do any counter-attacking at WC 2014 then we won’t get very far past the group stage.

  12. Why would any confederation play on a pitch where the coach has to keep players on the bench specifically due to the conditions when there are literally hundreds of other/better fields to play on? I know it was a walkover so it didnt really matter but why put your players at risk like that? I’ve heard the city of Portland “deserves” a match, but to deserve a match shouldnt you commit to a surface that is in the best interest of the players?

    • Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but US Soccer did not choose the sites of the games…concacaf did since it is their tournament.

      • Don’t fully know, but my impression was that the federations propose sites to the confederation, who has certain standards. If the federations sign on to the standards and whatever inspection shows they’re met, then the site is viable.

    • I have seen the US play on some “gr@ss” fields that cannot hold a candlestick to the turf at Portland and Seattle. I know this is the internet and short memories are the life source for tried arguments, but we play in CONCACAF and we have all seen some of the “fields” that WCQs have been played on (my drive way is in better shape than some). The game was played on turf and the only person who was at risk of severe injury (Mix) was not because of the field but due to that other more dangerous thing known as the CONCACAF ref.

      I am no fan of turf either but the product is getting better, Just to be clear the stuff at Jeld-Wen and that thing that was at Rice Eccles are not even in the same league. The Timbers – a serious, major league professional side with big time players – plays on that field all the time. You don’t see it tearing up legs left and right. So let’s be fair in our broad generalizations of “dangerous” turf fields. I am not a super fan but I understand why teams in that area need that turf (is it even called that anymore?). The league does not have the kind of money that Europeans leagues do tom have sophisticated drainage systems so we use what we’ve got – and it ain’t as bad as most make it out to be.

      I agree with JK though to hold guys with injury histories off the field. But the game was played by the other guys on the team and the result was had. I don’t see the harm in throwing a bone – that is against a gimme of a team – to a great set of supporters who did an awesome job supporting the team yesterday. Thank you Portland.

      • I don’t think its the ‘tearing up of legs’ that you mentioned that is the worry. The turf surface is a bit harder than natural grass and is harder on a player’s joints (ankles and knees especially) There is a noticeable difference in soreness the next day after playing on turf.

      • Agreed. I’m glad Klinsmann realized this. And no matter what defense anyone ever makes of those fields the real truth was just brought to the surface here. I think the point is in a quick tournament you don’t have the “luxury” of giving the players an extra recovery day to heal the turf soreness

        If the Timber army ever had any real pull I hope they apply the pressure to remove the turf.

      • “The turf surface is a bit harder than natural grass…”

        Umm, no. It is not harder than natural grass. With the type of turf surface used in Portland there is also no “soreness the next day after playing on turf”.

        Tired arguments, man. It’s not 1976.

      • Thank you. I’ve played on field turf. It feels like you’re playing in a bounce house. The ground is soft, almost spongy. This isn’t carpeting laid over concrete. It’s layers of sand, rubber, and sythetic fibers. It’s actually quite nice to play on.

      • I’ve played on several of the newer-style turf fields and yes, you definitely ARE more sore the next day.

        Furthermore, I’d rather fall and land on real grass ANY DAY than fall on a turf field. They’re only soft for an inch or two at most.

        So these are valid points, no matter how much you may want them NOT to be.

      • Herculez Gomez’s home stadium Estadio Caliente in Tijuana has the exact same turf. Is he only playing away games for the Xolos this season?

      • “The Timbers – a serious, major league professional side with big time players – plays on that field all the time. You don’t see it tearing up legs left and right.”

        Sal Zizzo – 2 knee injuries
        Mikael Silvestre
        David Horst
        Brent Richards
        Kevin Goldthwaite
        Futty Danso
        Eric Brunner

        In two and a half seasons. All required surgeries for injuries sustained on the plastic field. Seems a little high.IMO

    • My exact thoughts as well after reading Klinsmann’s comments. The Cascadia fans are amazing, but the turf has to go for national team games. It is amateur.

      • Like FIFA approved amateur? FIFA has no qualms seeing World Cup matches on THIS turf. It doesn’t mean all field surfaces are alike. Brush up on the new installations. They work and can be more consistent than other fields you see the USMNT play on when they travel.

      • People that have never played on it seem to have issues with it. Players typically have no qualms with criticizing a bad surface and yet in 2 1/2 years I’ve yet to read a quote complaining about the surface at Jeld-Wen. The biggest “grass only” primadonna in MLS has no problem with it either: “It’s different from any other turf you play in the league. That’s an amazing one.” –TH14
        Klinsmann’s perception and the reality are not always the same.

      • I’ve played on multiple artificial “field turf” surfaces and I have issues with it. It plays much differently than natural grass does and it is much less forgiving on your joints. The pitch heats up in the summer and increases the temp at field level. Not to mention the turf burns that you get from sliding/falling. In my experience, most players who have experienced field turf will tell you they prefer the real stuff.

      • When I wrote “people that have never played on it”, I wasn’t talking about turf in general, but rather Jeld-Wen in particular.

      • I’ve played on multiple artificial “field turf” surfaces and I have issues with it. It plays much differently than natural gra$s does and it is much less forgiving on your joints. The pitch heats up in the summer and increases the temp at field level. Not to mention the turf burns that you get from sliding/falling. In my experience, most players who have experienced field turf will tell you they prefer the real stuff.


      • Totally agree, Hunt Daddy. Anyone who has played on even the newer turf fields can see that it’s not as safe nor as soft nor as nice as real grass. All the reasons you’ve listed are, of course, blatantly valid.

        I enjoy playing on turf despite those facts but I agree that they probably shouldn’t be utilized for games at this level.

      • We all agree that plastic is better than uneven dirt in a third world country. But can you agree that grass is best?

      • Jeld Wen is better than the Stub Hub in timbers last game. The grass that a lot of MLS teams have is sub par. Even though it looks nice the ball bounces like crazy in RSL and Kansas City. I have played on turf at Jen Weld it is super soft.

      • “FIFA has no qualms seeing World Cup matches on THIS turf.”

        …then again, FIFA has no qualms scheduling a WC in Qatar.

      • FIFA is strict when it concerns the quality of the game and having standards that can be met across the world, which is a reason given to not install goal cameras. Only a select few would be able to afford it and WCQ matches in Turkmenistan will not have it. With artificial turfs you need to set a standard. This is completely different from awarding their cash cow event.

    • You might want to ask FIFA seeing as how they allow even World Cup Qualifiers to be played surfaces….this has more to do with the recent injury status and history of players spending long stints on rehab…. The artificial turf surfaces now are MUCH better than the Astroturf of the 70s, 80s and 90s…..places in Europe play in turf….

      Klinsmann is simply more of a traditional when it comes to this but it happens all the time in places where it gets cold as hell….or way too hot. Hell Chivas Guadalajara had laid down turf, granted it was a stupid decision because of what they were used to in Estadio Jalisco but the surfaces aren’t as bad as people make them out to be

    • Answer: $$$

      Plus, Portland’s pitch meets all FIFA standards. Unless FIFA decides that artificial surface in general is not acceptable, don’t expect teams to stop complaining about turf any time soon.

  13. I was really wondering why in the world Holden didn’t start this game. Nice to have an answer to that question that seems very reasonable. Credit to Klinsmann for taking that into account.

    • But then why play him at all with the team up 3-1 and cruising?! In the end it worked out and he scored, but the game opening up doesn’t make a big difference for knee injuries I don’t think.

      • Every game Holden can see minutes in is important to help he regain his stamina and get closer to his pre-injury form.

      • It’s still a risk benefit that Klinsy obviously considered: Playing time and fitness vs risk of injury. He needs minutes

    • I agree. No reason to risk Holden at all. But I’m so happy to see that once he came on and started “mixing” (see what I did there) with Mix, the field opened up again. Those two have a natural chemistry. They know when to get out of the way of each other, how to support one another, how to close down players, and how to spread the game. I hope to see them starting now that we move to a proper field.

      A lot of critics have pointed out McInerney’s limitations and questioned whether he can take his game up another level, or if he’d be the next Wondo. Sounds like Klinsi is hinting at the same concern.

      • Physical ability is one thing, players and coaches know that it also takes time to get up to the mental speed of a high level game…which is why Holden, Shea and Bedoya are being kept “fresh”

      • Wondo didn’t break out until he was 27 or so. Jack Mac can’t even legally buy a beer yet. Give him some slack.

        Plus, I don’t think anyone seriously expected him to be logging serious minutes (aside from some of the writers and Philly faithful) in this tournament. He was the 5th option at striker and made the roster after Bobby Wood’s club requested to keep him.

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