photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Gold Cup campaign will essentially be one giant tryout for the players involved.
That was the easy message to take away from Jurgen Klinsmann’s conference call on Thursday, one in which the U.S. head coach discussed his player selection for the upcoming Gold Cup at length. Klinsmann revealed many of the reasons why players were summoned or left behind and he touched on the status of former captain Carlos Bocanegra, whose international future seems to be in jeopardy after being left off this Gold Cup team.
“With Carlos, I had a long talk,” said Klinsmann. “He’s basically in the middle of another move, in the middle of another change. He’s going to leave, it looks like today, Racing Santander and he’s in the middle of making up his mind of where he wants to go, where he wants to kind of continue his career. We simply agreed to leave him out of the roster in order for him to have all options open to join a new team right away from the start in preseason and not coming in kind of late into this new opportunity.”
Klinsmann also spoke about the status of Mix Diskerud, a Norwegian-American midfielder who could represent either country but has in recent years represented only the United States. Diskerud will be cap-tied to the U.S. should he play in one of the Gold Cup matches, and Klinsmann hopes to accomplish that as well as help the youngster with his development.
“With Mix, we have a very special talent that he showed in the (U-23) team and showed that in some moments with us. We want to continue to develop the way he reads the game, how he has opportunities to go in the box, he scored a goal in Russia in the last second there. We want to continue to build him. We’re happy to have him back. He made his decision to go with us, the U.S., and that’s exciting. If he plays a game now in the Gold Cup, he’ll be tied to us and that’s great as well.”
Here are some of the other topics Klinsmann touched on during the conference call:
On Landon Donovan’s return to the squad after his self-imposed sabbatical:
“Landon coming back to our group is exciting and this (is) a wonderful opportunity for him now to prove where he’s at now after his break and after a couple months now back with the Galaxy. We’re curious to see how he picks up the rhythm, the speed and tempo and all the elements, and therefore we’re excited to have him back. … We’re simply happy to have him back and to see him now over a stretch of seven games performing.”
On the inclusion of Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney:
“We are obviously following him, we’re excited about the progress that he’s making. I had a long talk with his coach and we see a lot of talent coming through. He’s a hungry kid, he’s hungry for goals, he can score goals in many different ways, he’s providing assists, he’s chasing people down, he’s highly energetic, so we just kind of want to open him the door as part of our group and kind of see him on a daily basis in training and possibly in games as well. It’s a huge step for him in our senior program.”
On the status of midfielder Stuart Holden:
“He’s very close, he’s very close. The plan was to kind of give him a rhythm, give him high-intensity training, give him opportunities there and continue that throughout the summer. I think that plan is going well so far and not only that he’s kind of improved with us day-by-day in training. He also was very crucial in these couple of weeks there with the World Cup qualifiers in terms of chemistry because he’s a pure giver, he’s a guy that puts everybody in a good mood, he’s looking after younger players, he’s looking around where are issues, where are things maybe (he) can help with. The plan so far is coming along and now obviously he’s getting closer to start games himself.”
On the omission of New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo:
“We wish in terms of Juan that he’s just getting more consistent, more consistent game-in, game-out, not only in terms of scoring goals, which obviously for a striker is very, very important and it gives you a lot of confidence, but performance-wise as well. It’s a process he still has to learn and he has to go through, too many still up-and-downs, so he’s working on that and hopefully he can get that balance and get that consistency and then he’s right back in our picture as well.”
On the absence of Chicago Fire attacker Mike Magee:
“Mike is a player we follow, absolutely, but he didn’t make then the 35 but we follow all the MLS games, we follow what goes on everywhere, we talk to the coaches. Mike is in our picture as well but not now for the Gold Cup.”
On why winger Brek Shea was not included in the final roster:
“With Brek, I had long talks and also with his new coach Mark Hughes and after those long talks we decided that it’s really best to Brek to join their preseason at Stoke (City) starting on July 8. But I also agreed with Mark Hughes and with Brek that he could come into San Diego and join that week with us because I want to spend a couple of days with Brek and have a couple of conversations and be in that group. Brek will join us for that week in San Diego plus the game against Guatemala and after that game he will basically leaves us on July 6 going to Stoke and getting on the right foot with Stoke. It’s really, really important that he starts out well with Stoke and gets a starting spot there and breaks in in order for him to get a breakthrough in Europe.”
On why centerback Oguchi Onyewu was called in despite having little playing time with Malaga this past season:
“We kept in touch. We talked always openly about it. In certain moments, he was actually promised to play games by his coach who moved on to Manchester City and for whatever reason he didn’t have that opportunity. But obviously knowing him over the last few years, we know the quality of Gooch. We know what his level can be and we talked two, three months ago about that opportunity at the Gold Cup.
“I told him, ‘I’m thinking of bringing you in but you’ve got to come in, you’ve got to be sharp, you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to be strong,’ because if he is in very, very good shape and he’s very focused and he he picks up the rhythm he can be the centerback that you all know.
“There are always moments as a coach where you have to make a compromise in how you approach things. Yes, you want all the players playing at their club teams regularly, always as a starter and hopefully always playing consistently at a high level. But then there are moments where you also look at players (who aren’t playing) and there’s a reason, circumstances, whatever they are, you try to analyze them, you try to talk to them and then you come up with your decision.
“Having him in that camp as one of the leaders then because automatically with his experience, with Clarence Goodson there, we have two very, very experienced and strong centerbacks that can lead a whole back line and it’s big. He understands that moment for him is the opportunity for him to get back in our (picture).”
On where forward Herculez Gomez stands in his return to full fitness following a knee injury:
“He’s good to go but obviously we’re going to see right away in the camp how much he caught up. I think it was the right decision just to send him to Athlete’s Performance from the May-June camp and get all the work and all the treatment that he needed. If he’s cleared to go, he’s ready but what we’re going to do on July 2 is the entire team will go through fitness testing at Athlete’s Performance. We’re going to see clearly then what his conditions are and if he’s running behind by a couple of days, it’s no problem then he will catch up over the next few days, so we’re very positive on Herculez.”
On the style of play he hopes to implement at the Gold Cup:
“We definitely kind of want to be consistent with the way we play and tactically our games, but as a coach you always adjust to the players that you have. We will see in training with the players that join in now, but the good thing about going to the Gold Cup is definitely that we have a whole bunch of players that were already with us in the May-June camp that understand exactly how we kind of pick up the rhythm and how we want to play, to continue that path now also in the upcoming games. But when you have different personnel, you adjust to that different personnel. Hopefully, it’s going to be exciting the way we play in the upcoming games.”
On whether he will use the four permitted replacements following the group stage of the Gold Cup:
“It’s very likely the case, looking at it today, but maybe things go extremely well with all 23 now. We have no injuries, no issues. It’s really down to those 23 players to make their mark, to make their case and then we’ll see how we want to switch things around after the group stage is done.”