By IVES GALARCEP
Jurgen Klinsmann wasn’t ducking questions when grilled about his U.S. Men’s National Team roster decisions on Friday. He laid down his decision-making process for everything from Stuart Holden’s inclusion to the absence of former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra.
Yes, Klinsmann also touched on his decision to leave out Landon Donovan, though he had already explained that in detail when the roster was released on Thursday.
One thing Klinsmann wouldn’t do is commit to Donovan having a place on the U.S. Gold Cup team. Donovan said on Thursday that he was open to, and hopeful for, a place on the July U.S. Gold Cup squad, but Klinsmann would only say Donovan would be considered.
“We watched Landon, and if we think he’s good to go for the Gold Cup then this is definitely an option we can consider,” Klinsmann said.
When asked about the team’s wing options, and whether he had confidence in the team’s options, Klinsmann acknowledged the team needs better production.
“We definitely want to see much better (service for) our forwards,” Klinsmann said. “We want to create more chances than we have done in the recent games so this position is absolutely crucial there. I think we are getting there.”
“We have on the right side Graham Zusi, going through a very strong period and making himself a very strong case in the team. I think Joe Corona can play that role as well on the right side.
“We have Beasley now back in the picture,” Klinsmann said. “He can play either fullback or he can play on the wing in midfield. We have Brad Davis, who is playing a very strong season too. We’ll see where Brek Shea is at the moment. We’re obviously going to check that out. Eddie Johnson can play from the left as well.
“I think we’re getting there. Hopefully, that’s our hope, that we provide more chances for our strikers up front, so they can score more goals.”
As for his decision to bring in Holden, Klinsmann reiterated what he said a week ago when he first revealed Holden would be with the U.S. team this summer. That Holden’s inclusion is an effort to help his recovery process and speed up his return to the national team mix.
“On Stuart, I talked back and forth with his coach at Bolton, but also the coach he had for month at Sheffield Wednesday, and both are very, very optimistic about him,” Klinsmann said. “If they weren’t in those difficult end-of-season positions, both teams, he would have had far, far more playing time.
“We’ll bring him in, we’ll evaluate him, and we just want to get him back on track,” Klinsmann said. “We want to see if he can catch up quickly. He went through a lot of difficult moments the last one and a half years.”
Holden’s inclusion turned some heads because of the limited amount of games he has played after returning from a year and a half injury layoff. Klinsmann defended Holden’s inclusion, and insisted it is a win-win situation for Holden and the national team.
“I think he definitely deserves to join our group, and there’s no pressure on Stuart at all,” Klinsmann said. “There’s no pressure. He can only win coming back in. He’s highly accepted within the entire group. He’s one of the guys that really built special chemistry. He’s a pure giver. He’s always looking for other people. That’s his situation. Bolton is obviously on board with it. The communication with the club coaches is very crucial. There’s no pressure on him. He can only gain throughout these couple of weeks.”
As for why Holden has become such an important part of Klinsmann’s long-term plans? Klinsmann rates him highly as a player and is a fan of his ability to read the game
“He’s very simple in his approach,” Klinsmann said. “He’s a very fast thinker. He’s ahead. He knows how to position himself ahead of time. He doesn’t react too much to the game. He’s always trying to be a thought ahead of others. His simplicity in the game technically. He’s a one, two-touch player. he doesn’t lose time with dribblings where you don’t need to dribble. He doesn’t want to show off.”
Klinsmann also addressed Bocanegra’s continued absence despite the fact he is playing regularly for Racing Santander (Bocanegra’s lack of playing time was blamed for his exclusion from the team for March’s qualifiers).
“In Carlos’ situation I’m totally pleased that he’s back playing and getting games, and we’re constantly in contact with each other,” Klinsmann said. “He’s done on the eight of June with the relegation battle with Racing Santander. That’s one part. The other part is I have the centerbacks coming out of extremely good performances against Costa Rica and Mexico. Those four guys that we have in there, with Omar (Gonzalez), Geoff Cameron, Clarence (Goodson) and Matt (Besler) ahead of him.”
As for why a player like Michael Parkhurst has been called in despite not playing for Augsburg? Klinsmann pointed to the extenuating circumstances at the right back position.
“It all comes down to the positions we have to fill,” Klinsmann said. “Knowing that Michael Parkhurst is fit and is ready to go, but he’s not breaking in (at Augsburg), but he’s playing in a position where we have a need after Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler both are not available. You get then caught into a situation where you have to make that compromise. You don’t have to make that compromise at the centerback position, and I only see Carlos as a centerback now. I don’t see him as a left back, and (centerback) we’re fully loaded.”
As stated when the roster was announced, Klinsmann pointed to injury issues as to why Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler were left out, though the fact Cherundolo played on Saturday makes that one a bit of a head-scratcher.
Klinsmann also talked about Hoffenheim teammates Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson. He pointed to Williams return to health and versatility as to why he was called in despite his lack of playing time.
“He’s back in shape now. He’s training at full speed for two weeks,” Klinsmann said of Williams. “I spoke to his coach at length and it’s difficult to break in right away and help out there.
“He’s back in shape, and we’ll see that. He’s in a similar spot to Brek Shea in that moment I want to see where he’s at and go from there. He also gives us a little bit of flexibility because if I need to, and I have some problems at the right back position. Danny, having him back now in the mix, can play that position as well, which is good for us to think about.”
When asked about the possibility of playing Fabian Johnson on the left wing, Klinsmann admitted it is something that we could see in the coming matches.
“With Fabian, the situation that he can play left midfield easily is also something we can consider,” Klinsmann said. “Now, with (Beasley) playing his two exceptional games against Costa Rica and Mexico, it might be something we want to see. We might try it out against Belgium. It’s definitely something we always have in mind because he played that role in the friendly game in Slovenia very successfully.
He can play that. He’s one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga once he picks up speed. He’s technically very gifted so it should give us a couple of alternatives.”
What do you make of Klinsmann’s comments? Feel better about some decisions, or still scratching your head at some of the roster exclusions/inclusions?
Share your thoughts below.