Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Men’s National Team begins its road to Russia 2018 with its first friendly next week, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is wasting no time in trying to identify talent in the pipeline that could potentially help along the way.
Klinsmann unveiled a 22-man roster on Thursday for the Americans’ first friendly of the new cycle, and while veterans like Jozy Altidore and Fabian Johnson were on it, much of the talk was about how it included several young players with little to no caps to their names. Julian Green, Bobby Wood and Alfredo Morales were some of the youngsters on the team with limited international experience, but they could be seen as veterans when compared to some of the six uncapped players that were summoned for the Sept. 3 road match against the Czech Republic.
It’s all part of a calculated move by Klinsmann, and one that he thinks will help lay out a foundation for the next four years.
“When you start a new cycle, you want to see as many new players and young players breaking in as possible,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. “Obviously you always respect your established players and you always want to give them the space to continue their good work, but you also want to use that opportunity going forward to introduce young blood into the program, give them time on the training field, and you also want to give them time in a real game and prove a point. Show us what you have. Show us your talent, be confident and go for your next level.
“This is what comes up in the next couple games. It’s about young players coming in and hopefully doing well, with the established ones being part of it as well. We try to mix things up, but we are curious about the next generation of players breaking in. It is also very vital towards Russia 2018 that we already communicate now, four years away, that there is a path for you laid out, but you as a player decide at the end of the day whether you make that path or not.”
As part of this approach, Klinsmann and his staff have already begun talking to a lot of clubs throughout the world to discuss the young talent that the U.S. could introduce in the short term. Looking at inexperienced players is a priority right now, especially for the foreign-based bunch which cannot partake in the annual January camp and has seldom other chances throughout the international calendar to earn a close-up look from Klinsmann.
That is why Emerson Hyndman, Rubio Rubin and Greg Garza have been selected over veterans like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley for this upcoming friendly. The youngsters are relative unknowns and Klinsmann wants to see which of them can handle the rigors of the international game and which need a little more work.
“You want to take some risks to introduce young players, players that haven’t proven yet what quality they have,” said Klinsmann. “We always will juggle both things: we want to get results because we want to get the confidence and we want to build more credibility, and we want to get more respect towards all the other nations from around the world.
“At the same time we’re also responsible for developing players, and players only can develop and get to the next level if you give them a chance to play, so maybe if there’s a 50/50 situation between an established player and a younger player, and we maybe don’t know some of the answers yet about the younger player but we know a lot about that experienced player, I probably will take the younger player because it just makes more sense,. This is what we’re going to try to do and we will also communicate to everyone.”
While Klinsmann had plenty of surprises in the squad released Thursday, no one inclusion or omission was as big as the selection of Jordan Morris. Currently a forward at Stanford, Morris is the first player in recent memory to receive a call-up despite having no professional experience.
The U.S. coaching staff is high on him, however. They saw him play a bit with U.S. youth teams and are quite intrigued by his potential.
“We have watched Jordan through our Youth National Teams and in the Development Academy for the last couple of years, and he is a very promising player,” said Klinsmann. “We saw him during our two weeks at Stanford for the World Cup preparation camp, and also from his play with U-23 team in the Bahamas, and we felt like this was a good opportunity to introduce him to the senior team.”
All this youthful exuberance is not to say that Klinsmann is going into next Wednesday’s match in Prague with a loss in mind. Far from it, in fact.
With grizzled veterans like Altidore, Johnson, Brad Guzan and Alejandro Bedoya in camp to help groom and lead the youngsters, the U.S. intends to play for a win vs. the Czech Republic. It might no be that easy to do, but starting the new cycle with a victory on European soil is something Klinsmann wants to accomplish just as much as he wants to integrate young new talent.
“Do we want to win this game? Absolutely, but we also know the great players that are on the other side, players like (Tomas) Rosicky that plays for a big club and other ones who deserve a lot of respect,” said Klinsmann. “But I think that we built more and more confidence, we build more belief that we also go to Europe and say, ‘We are here to give you a game and to beat you’. This is what we’re going to try to do in Prague.”