Top Stories

Jurgen Klinsmann left satisfied after USMNT’s winter camp proves successful

Photo by Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports
Photo by Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports

Four weeks of training, two friendly wins, and no serious injuries.

For the U.S. Men’s National Team, this winter camp was nothing if not successful.

The U.S. wrapped up its first get-together of 2016 last Friday by picking up a narrow 1-0 victory over Canada courtesy of a late Jozy Altidore goal. The win combined with the come-from-behind, 3-2 triumph over Iceland just days prior gave the Americans a perfect start to the year, and plenty of confidence ahead of a looming pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

“I’m definitely most satisfied with the spirit of the group, the willingness to work hard, helping each other on the field in many, many training sessions, and off the field where they are looking after each other,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told “Obviously in January camp, traditionally we look for new faces so we find maybe the next special talent around the block, and I think we got great feedback from the players. None of the players really was at a disadvantage or put himself in a disadvantage. They all did well.”

Of all the newcomers, Klinsmann singled out Kellyn Acosta and Brandon Vincent as ones to really make an impression. Klinsmann was also pleased with what he saw from New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen, who had been in several camps before but not started for the U.S. until the Jan 31. match against Iceland.

The relatively inexperienced player who may have helped his stock the most, however, is Steve Birnbaum. Not only did he appear in both games during this winter camp to move to earn his second and third caps, but he sparked the rally as a substitute vs. Iceland before starting as a makeshift right back in the shutout win against Canada.

“He was a difference maker against Iceland with his assist to Michael Orozco’s goal, and then obviously scoring the winning goal, and I think he had an outstanding game against Canada,” said Klinsmann. “He had to play at right back suddenly because there was no real option at that moment, and the way he kind of intercepted so many balls, cleaned them up and connected them cleanly with midfielders or even strikers was important. We talked the last couple of days about wanting to keep the ball on the ground, get it into the feet of people so it’s not bouncing all over the place, and he was outstanding from that side.

“He also kept the backline really safe. No matter who hits a ball over the backline, Steve was there to clean it up, and that’s what he really did outstanding. He raised a level of aggressiveness in one-against-one battles. That was one thing we wanted to see more against Canada because we missed that a little bit in some one-on-one situations against Iceland. I said, ‘Guys, you know we’ve got to be physical. It’s part of the game.’ He took that on 100 percent, and I think he won every one-against-one situation throughout the game.”

The veteran group also did enough to satisfy Klinsmann this past month, especially Altidore. The 26-year-old striker scored a well-taken goal against Iceland and headed home the late winner vs. Canada, but it was more than just his finishes that stood out.

Altidore, who revealed during camp that he dropped weight in the offseason, also made a number of well-timed runs behind the opposing defenses. He was as mobile as he has been in recent memory, and looked very aggressive and confident when dribbling with the ball as well.

“Having a Jozy Altidore – first of all healthy, then really motivated, driven and willing to go the extra mile in order to put himself in a really good fitness shape – is, no doubt about it, very, very big for us,” said Klinsmann. “With his qualities, with his personality, with his approach of the game, he’s a difference maker. Every national team coach when he looks at players, you always ask yourself, ‘Who’s going to make a difference? In a specific moment in a game, who’s there that makes something out of the blue, surprising? Who can make that play that kills the opponent?’ Jozy is one of those players.

“Jozy has the capabilities to make the difference on the field, but in order to make the difference on the field, he knows he has to be fit, he has to be sharp, he has to be really in a good condition to have that confidence to finish things off. That’s why we are really happy to see a Jozy Altidore starting 2016 in a very, very positive way.”

The U.S. as a whole is also off to a good start, but it will only get tougher from here. The Americans are six weeks away from playing Guatemala in their next two World Cup qualifiers – one home and one away – and those crucial encounters will be followed by the much-anticipated Copa America Centenario in June.

There is no denying that the players that impressed in camp during the past month helped their causes to play in those upcoming matches, but they will have to continue to grab Klinsmann’s attention over the next few weeks if they are to build on this early 2016 success and earn a spot in the squad when the games get more intense and tougher.

“We are basically looking all over the place,” said Klinsmann. “We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America? Probably not.’ The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. We’ll be monitoring everyone.”


  1. What everyone dreams of — an opportunity to write the review of your own work! I am certainly happy that Jurgen is pleased with himself and his efforts.

  2. The article left out what I thought was the most interesting quote from Klinsmann: “Jermaine Jones once again demonstrated that he has the ability to play anywhere on the pitch. I think that in our upcoming qualifier I’m going to surprise everyone-including Jermaine-by playing him in a new position that he’s never played before”.

    Just joking……………. 🙂

  3. I still wish that Lletget would have been brought into camp. However, development of the national team is a marathon, not a sprint, something people sometimes forget. As I have mentioned before, going from MLS to international play is about one and a half to two steps up, depending on whether you are playing in CONCACAF or in the World Cup. So, it takes time for international rookies from MLS to adjust to the difference. Some posters were all ready to plug Ngyuen or Nagbe right into the starting lineup. It takes time to integrate new players and we have enough depth now that there is no reason to rush a player’s international development. Guatemala will not be that difficult and we have so many options, it will be interesting to see who JK brings in for the March qualifiers.

    • I too wish that Lleget would have been included in the January camp. But since he wasn’t it may be a while (after summer) before he’ll have an opportunity with the team. It will be interesting to see how he’d do with US and what position he’d be deployed at (wing or central). Lleget doesn’t have great speed, but he’s got that quick first couple steps that gets him the separation that he needs to pass/cross.
      The attacking options are beginning to come into view… Jozy, ArJo, Wood, Kiesewetter, Morris, & Zardes, providing the speed & strength. Fabian, Nguyen, Nabge, Pulisic, Lleget (hopefully) representing the more creativity side.

      Hopefully Lleget locks up a starting role with the Galaxy and plays well this season.

  4. Due to the way in which the various leagues operate I would expect to see a squad in March that has a heavy dose of players from Europe & Mexico. I really hope to see Gonzalez & Villifana get called up. Alvarado is an option as well if he gets back into the line-up for his club.
    The current injury concerns to Cameron & Chandler along with Jones’s lack of a club may help open the door for spots/starts as well.
    Guatemala isn’t all that strong of a team, so I’m hoping for something along the following:

    Bench: Howard, Gonzalez, Chandler, Shea, Williams, Nagbe, Zardes, Dempsey, TBD, TBD
    If Cameron isn’t 100% recovered start Gonzo.
    Sub Nagbe in around the 60 min mark for either Nguyen or Bedoya. Other subs dependent upon player performances.

    With the U-23s having the playoff games I don’t expect Morris, Kiesewetter, Acosta, Miazga, Payne, or others who would have been in contention to be available for these matches.

    • Guatemala will not be an easy opponent, especially at the game down there. The climate and travel alone will be a huge hurdle. Then, in case anyone here has forgotten, there will be the inevitable falling down, crying, time-wasting, horrible calls, etc. that ALWAYS occurs in these concacaf away matches.

      Going with anything other than seasoned USMNT veterans in the away game is a recipe for disaster. Especially on defense. Everyone should be crossing fingers that Cameron is back healthy so he can pair with Besler at CB. Fullback is more difficult and I can’t think of any real options I trust. At least Yedlin has been playing there against high level competition. Chandler would be a good option except he melted away in the heat last time. None of the others I can think of have any experience of that kind of hostile away match. Honestly, if was JK, I would probably play Brad Evans. The rest of the above lineup looks pretty good. Hopefully Fabian doesn’t melt in the heat. That would be a huge test for Nguyen, but maybe it’s time to give a him a big-time shot.

      • i wouldn’t call almost any away game at another concacaf nation “easy”, but guatemala is in terrible shape right now (hence their decision to allow ruiz to play). as you say, i would play some seasoned players at the back who can deal with guate’s shenanigans, and if our attackers don’t muck it up, we should end up with at least 4 points from the 2 matches.

      • I’m not overlooking Guatemala or any of their diving/fouling tactics. Away games in CONCACAF are never particularly easy. That being said I think the players I suggested are the best suited to get a result, except for maybe Villafana (I’d forgotten Ream, who I would be OK getting the start at LB). Jozy, Bradley, Fabian, Bedoya, & Cameron are all vets and should be able to stabilize the team. I chose Brooks over Besler since he’ll be more match fit & in form since Besler will just be starting his season. I went with Wood over Dempsey for the same basic reason (but also think its time for Dempsey to move into more of a super sub role). Guatemala is likely to bunker so I went with Nguyen to try and help break down the bus. The relationship/chemistry between Nguyen, Jozy, & Bradley developed during the January camp should help create scoring opportunities.

      • T&T won in Guatemala in the last round of qualifiers. We don’t need to win the group to make the Hex, so even 4 points will be enough.

  5. With Birnbaum emerging as a viable national team option, at least at the concacaf level, can we please allow Brooks to captain the U23s vs Colombia?

      • sure, play your best players, but for which competition? i would argue that the u-23s need brooks more for colombia than the seniors need him for guate.

    • This isn’t even a close call. The senior team has world cup qualifiers and those games trump any age group games. The best players should be with the senior team for the Guatemala games and the U23s can make do with whoever is left over.

      • The WC games are very important because if we were to get 2 or 3 points out of them, it’s possible we would be eliminated from the World Cup. Considering the impact that would have on soccer in this country, and the fact that the World Cup is about 8 trillion times more important than Olympic soccer, it’s like I said – not a close call.

      • Let’s just put in perspective. If you told me the US would win the Olympic tournament this summer but get knocked out of the world cup in this current round, I would take it. Not in a million years. Obviously no one would take that right?

        The Olympics are a youth tournament. It is the pinnacle for many sports but soccer is not one of them.

      • Sorry, I meant I wouldn’t take it. How about the next revamp of this website includes an edit button instead of bunch of new ways to show ads? Thanks.

  6. Remember last year? We sent a non A-team to Europe and beat a Holland and Germany. What happened after that…next time out… back to the same old, same old. A few of his non standard players may get the call next time out but you can bet it will be 90% the same ones that looked like crap in 2015. Klinsmann simply will not make any kind of big change even though it is his job to field the best team possible

    • See, I almost think Morris’ start vs. Canada actually reminded us that he still needs time to grow.
      Showed he is not ready to start just yet.

      I think we are all in agreement that he will once he gets going as a pro.


Leave a Comment