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Klinsmann: 'The next round will be even tougher'
October 17th, 2012 1:53AM

TAGS:  men's national team


[USA-GUATEMALA: Reaction] U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke to the media after Tuesday's 3-1 win over Guatemala moved the USA into next year's Hexagonal. He praised his players for their reaction after giving up an early goal and Eddie Johnson, whom he described as "another card we can play with, a very important one." But he said the Hexagonal would be a battle with no easy game. The 2013 campaign also includes the Gold Cup, which prompted Klinsmann to say, "We have to build two rosters for that because we can’t have the players do both." For more on what Klinsmann had to say ...

On the match against Guatemala:
“We’d like to thank that amazing crowd here and the people involved in the game here in Kansas City. It was phenomenal. It was quite an experience for all of us, even for the European players who are used to big places. I think the performance overall was very good. We did not need [give up] that first goal – that was not necessary. The good thing was that they responded right away and turned things around immediately and that calmed things down. In a game like this you can never be sure, you never know what could happen. In the second half, you could give a goal away then suddenly the dynamics changes and the momentum changes. I wish there would’ve been a fourth goal to kill it off, but overall I’m very pleased. The players responded well. Their attitude overall the last couple days has been very positive, the team is growing and supporting each other.”

On the relationship between Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey:
“I heard that they know each other quite well and for a long time -- longer than they’ve known me. They have good chemistry and they get along. On the field, you want to see guys that are there for each other. When you have a mistake, the other guy comes and gives you a pat on the shoulder and says, ‘Come on, let’s keep going.’ Eddie was definitely a big plus for us to have. For us coaches, it was wonderful to see his qualities in our group. I think he matured a lot, I spoke a lot with Sigi (Schmid) over the last couple of months about his path. He went through ups and downs in his career, but he understands the moment. I told him when he came in, ‘If you give us everything you have and just kind of adjust to what we’re doing here, don’t worry, you’re going to be fine.’ He felt comfortable and confident and he responded with a wonderful performance tonight. It gives us another card we can play with, a very important one.”

On if there is a sense of relief after the match:
“We expected a very difficult qualifying campaign and that’s what it is. We discussed it a couple days ago. We didn’t necessarily get it down to the wire in the first stage, but that’s how soccer works. If you give away a game like we did in Jamaica then you have to pay the price for it a little while and you have to correct it. We go through now in first place and we made things clear that we were the No. 1 team in this group. The next round will be even tougher. You have very good teams in there, every game will be a battle, every game will be a fight and we are ready for that. It’s just a normal path that you go through and you take a lot of new experience with that. Players grow and coaches learn and it’s just normal.”

On what went well tonight that hadn’t gone well in the past:
“I think they understood the moment and that’s why they responded well after the first goal. They wanted to keep the tempo high, they wanted to come over the wings, they wanted to combine and keep the ball. Sometimes even a little bit longer than we want to see it, but it’s better if we have it than they have it and be patient and wait for these penetrating balls between the full backs and center backs. I think they developed a better chemistry. We are, step-by-step, breaking in new players into that team and I think you see players that grow into that team like a Graham Zusi. At the same time, we have to take care of qualifying and see some new players come in and make a stamp on the game and developing through it. Thankfully this is done now, and 2013 will be very busy for us. We are going to play friendlies, World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup. We have to build two rosters for that because we can’t have the players do both. That’s good to see that we have players now coming through MLS, they are knocking at the door and getting stronger in MLS. This gets into their system, they are getting used to it. They are getting used to playing every four or five games, which is very important. This is not coming over night. If you talk to the MLS coaches, it takes years to get that into your system and it’s growing. So, we take a lot from that.”

On if that means he’s not sending the best team to the Gold Cup:
“We don’t know how we’re going to manage that whole thing. It’s more down to how their own schedule looks like and what league they play in and how does the league work and we have to put that puzzle together. It’s not going to be an easy one.”

On the partnership of Herculez Gomez and Clint Dempsey and Danny Williams and Michael Bradley:
“I think that both partnerships are getting smoother and better. You add Eddie Johnson to it know because he also has a good understanding with Clint. Danny Williams is a player we follow closely that is a real No. 6, he’s a similar player like Kyle Beckerman. They play a similar role. Especially, when you play a team like Guatemala who hits long balls and live off the second balls and whatever drops down – you need to have a No. 6 cleaning it up. That partnership with Michael is developing, we told Michael to play in front of him so that not only they play next to each other defensively but when we go forward Michael plays the attacking role and that worked well. You have to do that because otherwise you get caught in counterattacks.”

On the biggest thing he learned about the team through this qualifying round:
“Obviously you learn with every game and every day you work with that group. You know the players better and better, and you make your decisions based on what you see and what you experience, like decisions now for the roster that we’ve already discussed a couple of times. You learn that the games in Central America or the Caribbean because that’s new for me, too, and I adjust to it and I learn everything about it. I know about World Cup qualifying. I’ve done that as a player. It obviously comes down to the wire. But most importantly as a coach and as a coaching staff, you want to see your players develop. You want to see your players getting a feeling that they’re actually improving, getting better and responding that way. For them, it’s not easy. Coming from different places flying in and stepping up like this, it’s not [easy]. To get it in the right perspective when you play 50 to 65 games a year, we try to work them through it.”

On capping off the Semifinal Round with a strong finish:
“It’s definitely a good way to end the first round and advance and to make it clear that we were the No. 1 team in that group. With every game you try to earn respect. That’s what you do – every friendly, every qualifying game, every competition, you try to earn respect. You know that in soccer everybody’s watching you. You want to always make statements that say we’re ready for whoever comes in. We want to go to Mexico with the confidence that say we want to beat you there, which happened fortunately. That’s something you have to repeat to the players all the time. Every game starts at nil-nil, and you have to have the right attitude and spirit for it and match the opponent right away with that fighting spirit.”

On the versatility and positioning of Eddie Johnson and the tactical changes against Guatemala:
“I think it’s a great option now to have with Eddie. He can play wide but he can also play up front. It’s exciting to see that. I think Graham Zusi brings an element to this group. He’s technically so gifted, he keeps the ball and his passing is accurate. I told him before the game – he was extremely excited playing in his home stadium – to keep things simple. When you have this special moment you try to overdo it. He didn’t – he kept it simple. That gives us weapons at certain moments. The danger from Guatemala comes through the middle. So that’s why shifted things around a little bit to be stronger, Mo [Maurice Edu] came in to be really strong, as well, in the middle but still keep pushing forward. Fresh legs gave us that element, as well. It’s a good thing to have.”

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