[USA SPOTLIGHT] In his first media teleconference since the USA failed to qualified for the 2012 Olympic men's soccer competition, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann backed under-23 coach Caleb Porter, saying Porter's lack of pro experience was not factor in the USA's early exit from qualifying. Klinsmann expressed concern that not enough young Americans are getting playing time in MLS but said there was no easy solution. He said it was imperative upon young pros to work harder and make a case for playing time. "It's not something that is given to you," he said. For a look at the main points Klinsmann made ...
(Click here to listen to the conference call.)
On whether he has any positional concerns as World Cup Qualifying approaches:
"Concerned about specific positions within the roster, I don't really have those concerns. I think that we have a very good, balanced team. We have youngsters coming through the ranks that we are really curious to follow up on them and see their progress over the next two and a half years or three years and see how far they can make it.."
On how many players he anticipates bringing in for May and June:
"I'm planning on getting probably 23 players coming in, meaning three goalkeepers, 20 field players, and also having a standby player list."
On whether there is a concern that American players are getting less playing time in MLS:
"That is definitely a concern, and it's definitely a topic we want to bring up with Don Garber and MLS because we want to make sure that especially younger groups of players get as much exposure as possible coming through their developmental stage. I know that an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old is not at the same level as an experienced player and a proven player, but we've got to make sure that they get the chance to break through and get their minutes in. So it's definitely a concern. Off the top of my head, I can't give you all of the solutions for it, but it's definitely worth a discussion going forward."
On whether there is a role for Caleb Porter with U.S. Soccer going forward:
"We believe that Caleb is a very, very talented coach. We chose him for a reason, because I think he has a huge future ahead of him. Sooner than later he will jump into the professional field and become a pro coach, and we hope that we find ways now going forward, even if it's not with the Olympic team obviously because there is not an Olympic team anymore for a few years now, that we find roles for him to improve, to grow, to mature in his coaching career ... We really think that he has a lot of upside. I think he's learned a tremendous amount during the last four months dealing as a head coach for the Olympic team. Obviously he's more disappointed than any one of us about what happened, that he didn't get the job done, and that we're not going to London because he was in charge of that process and he was leading that process. But there were many mistakes being done, and not all of the mistakes were done by Caleb Porter."
On what he learned following Olympic qualifying:
"We went through [Porter's] positions with his coaching staff, and the participation of the medical staff that led to the very late substitution of Bill Hamidin that game against El Salvador. We went through all the other people involved in the process. Did he really have the perfect support from everybody around him? At the end of the day, obviously you need to go through every individual player. Did the players live up to their expectations? Did they do everything they could have done in order to make this thing positive? Were they at their peak or were they maybe going through a low point in that moment? I think some players didn't live up to their expectations, and you need to get that message across and some players surprised us and maybe were more positive. I look at a[Mix] Diskerud or I look at a Joe Coronawho had positive impressions, too. So that's part of that process, but that won't change the results. The result was a disappointment."
On whether Herculez Gomez is on the radar for a National Team camp:
"I've seen quite a few games of him over the last six, seven months. I know Herculez and I know his qualities. So he's constantly being watched. Hopefully he continues that goal scoring period, and the more he scores, the more he makes a positive notes out there, the bigger his chances to get the call. It's as simple as that. That's our message to all of the players all of the time – keep proving your point. Keep improving where you're at with every game. So what we do every Monday, we get together either by phone, by conference calls, or by email – we get down to all of the players, we discuss what they did over the weekend, we're out there and watch them personally or on TV as often as we can. So Herculez is on the radar screen. But he's always been on the radar screen. So hopefully he can make his case stronger and stronger over the next couple of weeks."
On whether there are reasons to second-guess the direction of the men's program after Olympic qualifying, and if there are lessons learned from Olympic qualifying going into World Cup qualifying:
"The lesson really for us is how far along are those players that were involved in the Olympic qualifying campaign? How mature are they really for the senior team level? You talk about the two goalies, you talk about Brek Shea, you talk about Juan Agudelo and I mentioned [Mix] Diskerud or Joe Corona. You look at these players and say OK, they couldn't get the job done, so where are they now in the bigger picture going into our May-June camp? I mentioned that right after the big disappointment against El Salvador. The process for these players is getting even tougher. It's getting even more difficult because they do not have the jumping board, or I called it a trampoline, of the Olympics. If you play in an Olympic tournament, this is a huge showcase. This is where the whole world is watching and evaluating you. So they're missing out on that now. They don't have that opportunity to really gain valuable experience in such a big competition, so they have to prove it somewhere else. Where can they prove it? Now they can only prove it in their club teams. The expectations now that they really perform on the highest level in their club teams are even higher. That means an Agudelo for example has to play week in and week out with the Red Bulls. Brek Shea has to prove with FC Dallas week in and week out that he's one of their best players in order to get a chance to become part of the senior national team."
On the concern of players not getting enough minutes with their clubs:
"It is a big concern. We need to find ways to get our 18- to 22-year-olds, 23-year-olds more playing time and maybe here and there more help. On the other side, they also need to realize that they have to fight their way through the system. They have to find a way to break into the team. I'll give you an example: Juan Agudelo, who often last year was saying, 'I want to play more. I need to play more.' My response to Agudelo was, 'Well, you've got to train harder and you've got to force the coach of that team until he makes you play.' It's not something that is given to you. It's something that you have to work for and you have to fight your way through. We had a discussion years and years ago after the Bosman ruling in Europe happened, everything opened up. The borders opened up. Suddenly, instead of a limited amount of foreigners, there were foreigners all over in every league. Every kind of national team program complained and said, 'Hey, suddenly we don't have enough of our domestic kids playing anymore and it makes it tough for the national team programs to develop.' I came in and I said, 'You know what? If I'm the player and I want to break into a team, it doesn't really matter to me if now I have to kick out a foreign kid or if I have to kick out a domestic kid. I have to kick out somebody to play.' That's really the message to the youngsters."
On Porter's lack of professional experience and whether it affected his job performance:
"I think just from a working perspective, from a challenge perspective, Caleb was very well-prepared for that qualifying process. He was extremely organized, he understood the value of all the other teams, the opponents, he did his scouting homework, the sessions that he ran … We summarized it all yesterday in Chicago. I think he did a very good job. I think it was absolutely the right decision to make him the Olympic team coach. Now based on the results and the outcome of it, now you can argue that maybe a professional coach here or this and this there should have worked out better. I think we know the reasons now why it didn't work out and it's not because he's a college coach and not a professional coach. That's definitely not the case.