U.S. national team coach Juergen Klinsmann touched on a range of subjects with reporters during a stop in Washington on Wednesday. The highlights:
On Landon Donovan’s recent return to MLS and the prospects of recalling him for the May-June schedule…..
“I am glad to see him back on the field. He is catching up and trying his best. I’m watching. I was at that game [last weekend when Donovan played well with the Galaxy]. I am observing and, down the road, I will make my decisions in terms of who I see in front of him [on the depth chart] and where we see him right now within the roster.”
Klinsmann, however, did not commit to selecting Donovan for the friendlies and qualifiers…..
“There are questions. Looking back at the last two years we’ve been in charge, we have seen a lot of players coming through and making a big impact, showing they are 1,000 percent committed to the cause and to the team and [putting] themselves in a strong position. I am not tossing out names, but there are players clearly ahead of Landon Donovan right now. Things will develop over time and we will see how he will do over the next couple of weeks, months.”
Klinsmann cited intangibles, such as commitment and chemistry, in the evaluation process…..
“We observe what the players are doing in camp, how we go through that difficult stretch of qualifying games. We see the chemistry of the team developing and we try to have a clear picture of every individual player and what he brings to the table in moving this team forward. Most of the time, [Donovan] was not part of the process. It was his choice and I understand that. It’s no problem, but at the same time, we are moving forward. Therefore, it’s not down to one [MLS] game when you score one goal to say, ‘I am back in the team.’ It’s not working that way.
“I have always said we will observe him like we observe all of the other players over a stretch of a longer period and then decide whether he is in that picture or not. … There is a chemistry being developed of a group and you always have to feel where this is moving towards. He hasn’t been part of the development of this team most of the time. Chemistry is very important.”
With several players sitting on yellow cards, Klinsmann said he might invite two or three additional players, beyond the typical 23, to the May camp. He emphasized the importance of keeping extra players in form at the conclusion of their European seasons in case they are needed on short notice during the stretch of three qualifiers in 12 days in June.
On Carlos Bocanegra playing regularly again for Racing Santander and whether that improves his chances of a recall…..
“Thankfully now he is back playing. At the same time, we have promising players breaking through like Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron. We have options. And Carlos is aware of that. Carlos knows it’s competition. It’s a continuous competition going on there and he is in the middle of that.”
On Michael Bradley…..
“He is a face we want to have as an example to a young group of players coming through the ranks because he is a sponge. He just wants to continuously learn and improve. He is always curious, he is always asking questions. He learned Italian in a couple of months. He wants to understand the culture, he wants to understand the lifestyle.”
On Stuart Holden’s recovery and possible return to the national program this summer…..
“Stuart excites us. He is really coming back. What he really needs is games, games, games — minutes, minutes, minutes. It’s looking very positive.
“He doesn’t want a [summer] break! He said, ‘I had a break for 1 1/2 years.’ ”
On the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster in July…..
“We save most of [the top-flight European-based players] clearly for the World Cup qualifiers and then give them a well-deserved break. And then we have to build a very competitive roster for the Gold Cup.
“It’s tricky. Who is in a rhythm? The Scandinavians are in a rhythm. The MLS players are. Mexico is in a similar break like Europe, so it makes it difficult. Whoever from Mexico you leave out of the May-June camp, most likely we will leave them out of the Gold Cup as well because they would come from vacation and they can’t catch up. It’s a challenge for us.”
On the danger of bringing young players into the senior national team too soon…..
“It would do all of them the best if you keep their feet on the ground. You don’t bring them up too fast to a level where they are maybe overwhelmed. I am not saying soccer-wise. They might be able to catch up pretty fast, but are they able to deal, suddenly, with the type of recognition and exposure? We clearly saw with our Olympic team, they weren’t ready to get that exposure. They weren’t ready to see themselves on ESPN. They thought they were already there and it was too late to bring them back to the ground. Caleb [Porter] wasn’t able to do that in that moment and — boom — there goes your team chemistry. That was probably the best Olympic team over the last 20 years. There was so much quality in that team but they didn’t get their act together. So you want to be careful with the next generation coming through and don’t make them, at the age of 19 or 20, something they can’t be yet. Give them time, give them the up and downs. Keep them on the ground.”
Klinsmann suggested young MLS players are put on a pedestal too early…..
“It was easier to digest the Olympic disaster for the guys who were abroad because they were back in their environment. They were back in line [at their club]. … Maybe MLS [shouldn't] make them poster boys for things they can’t be. They can’t deal with it yet. It’s just normal. … We hope there is a new wave coming through and challenging whoever is in front of them but we also know it’s not happening overnight. We have to protect them as well. They need to develop that inner-hunger and become consistent over a long period of time.”
On playing on temporary grass at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field for the World Cup qualifier June 11 against Panama…..
“We just hope the grass settles and the conditions are very, very good. They have promised us they are doing everything possible to have a great surface. Hopefully we have ideal conditions to play that game.”
On the decision to accept temporary grass in order to play in Seattle…..
“We have tried to get to the Northwest. The challenge is, when do we get the team to the Northwest with the European-based players? That region is hungry for those types of games.”
Temporary grass has not always worked well. Did you consider playing on the artificial turf?
“No. We talked to the players. Even if the grass isn’t perfect, they prefer it.”
May 21-22: Training camp opens at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
May 27: Travel to Cleveland.
May 29: Friendly vs. Belgium in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
May 30: Travel to Washington.
June 2: Friendly vs. Germany in Washington (2:30 ET, ESPN2).
June 4: Travel to Jamaica.
June 7: World Cup qualifier at Jamaica (9:30 ET, beIN Sport).
June 8: Travel to Seattle.
June 11: World Cup qualifier vs. Panama in Seattle (9:30 ET, ESPN channel tbd).
June 13: Travel to Salt Lake City.
June 18: World Cup qualifier vs. Honduras in Sandy, Utah (9 ET, ESPN).