Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
We may currently be in the midst of the MLS playoffs, but not even that will stop U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann from calling in his best players later this month.
Klinsmann reiterated his desire to select the best possible group for upcoming friendlies in Europe against Scotland and Austria in an interview with ussoccer.com on Wednesday, saying that he would summon his top players from all around the world and even those who will still be in the thick of things in the MLS postseason.
This season’s MLS playoff format is such that there is a near two-week window in which games will not be played so as to not conflict with the final FIFA date of the year, and that is likely to result in Klinsmann calling in several MLS-based players.
“Because MLS scheduled their playoffs with respect to our FIFA fixture dates, it’s basically working hand-in-hand,” said Klinsmann. “We’re going to bring the best players into Scotland and Austria no matter where they play. No matter if they play like Michael Bradley in Italy or the guys in the [English] Premier League, the Bundesliga or the guys in Liga MX in Mexico and MLS. Because of MLS creating that window between their playoff games, that helps make our two games really exciting.”
The final two friendlies, in Scotland on Nov. 15 and Austria four days later, will also give Klinsmann an opportunity to see his European-based players one last time before the year comes to a close. Klinsmann hinted at the possibility of bringing in Michael Bradley, who recently returned from an ankle injury, as well as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, and Terrence Boyd.
“You mentioned Michael Bradley, and he is very key for us,” said Klinsmann. “We are thrilled he’s back in the starting lineup now after his injury. We watch all the other players getting their rhythm. We see Fabian Johnson and John Brooks now coming back from their injuries. I’ve talked to their coaches, and they are ready to go again. Alejandro Bedoya is doing extremely well with FC Nantes in France. Aron Johannsson is in his rhythm in Holland. With Terrence Boyd at Rapid Vienna, he’s totally motivated for this camp to play in the second match against Austria. It’s great to see how Jozy (Altidore) is fighting his way through in the Premier League. I will go to see Sunderland play Manchester City on the weekend. Maybe that helps him get his first goal in the Premier League there!”
Klinsmann stressed the importance of having all his healthy players, whether based domestically or abroad, in camp as it is one of the last times the U.S. will come together prior to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. In fact, there are only a handful of FIFA fixtures left between now and next June.
“It always helps when they come in every game and train together,” said Klinsmann. “We see so many things in training and in games. So for us, in the few opportunities we have to see them directly together, we can send out specific messages, and we can discuss with a lot of players—especially players from MLS and Liga MX—what their offseason should look like after the playoffs are done.
“Having everybody on board, getting everybody together and having those meetings are very crucial to us because we build chemistry for the World Cup. We want to see who’s really 1,000 percent dedicated to everything we do. Therefore, every day we have together in our group means a lot to us.”
As for the upcoming opponents, Klinsmann expects two teams that will be motivated to win in front of their respective home fans after just missing out on qualifying for the World Cup last month.
Scotland suffered a 5-1 defeat to the U.S. in a friendly last May, and the time of the match played a part in that loss. That is why Klinsmann is expecting a much tougher test this time around, not only from Scotland but from Austria as well.
“It’s a team very different from last year,” said Klinsmann of Scotland. “They came to Jacksonville to finish their season and they simply wanted to have a good time and go on vacation. The coach, even after the match, kind of apologized and said, ‘Shoot, it was hard to push them up again.’ I said, ‘It’s totally understandable.’ It helped us get our confidence for our World Cup Qualifier last summer.
“This team now just barely missed the World Cup. This team twice beat Croatia, which still has a chance to go to the World Cup. It’s a team full of competitiveness that every time they play in Hampden Park in Glasgow is full of energy and full of enthusiasm and great attitude because they want to show their crowd that they’re good. For us, it’s a great benchmark to face them on their home turf and fully motivated. It’s great because it puts us on our toes a half year before the World Cup.
“It’s a similar case is Austria. Austria is full of talent and came very close to making the World Cup. They had a tough group with Germany and Sweden and still almost made it. They have a point to prove, to show their fans that they should be in Brazil. They want to show off, so we have to be very alert, be very sharp and play our game. To play those two stadiums in Glasgow and in Vienna is a highlight. Those are places you want to play, and for our players it’s the right benchmark to show how good they are.”
What do you think of Klinsmann’s approach to these final two friendlies of 2013? Which players would you like to see called in?
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