[ON THE RECORD] On Wednesday, the Concacaf will conduct the draw that will determine the schedule for next year's Hexagonal, which begins Feb. 6. Between now
and then, U.S. national team Jurgen Klinsmann hopes to confirm the availability (or unavailability) of several key players, including veteran Landon Donovan and young German-American Timmy Chandler, who has yet to commit his international future to the USA. Klinsmann
talked with the media about their situations, what he has seen in MLS this season and plans for the Nov. 14 friendly against Russia and the weeks leading up to the Hexagonal opener ...
LANDON DONOVAN. Donovan has been frank about his reticence about continuing his soccer career, and Klinsmann says he finds it "very courageous of him to talk openly about what is going through his mind."
"I can understand all those thoughts," Klinsmann added, "so I just try to pick him up every time a game comes a long and the way that I try to understand his personal situation, which I do with every player out there because every player is a special individual person, so I try to adjust and understand everybody’s individual needs and issues."
Klinsmann said what Donovan "wants to do and whatever he decides to do will be very respected by us," and he hopes that will make it easier for Donovan to give him an answer.
In the meantime, Klinsmann expects Donovan to be part of the national team for the Hexagonal in 2013. but he says the team will adjust if Donovan isn't available.
RUSSIA GAME. A win in the final U.S. match of the year against Russia in the southern city of Krasnodar will assure the USA of the best record in a single year (10-2-2), though Klinsmann prefers to look at the game as "another learning opportunity against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment."
The game means, according to Klinsmann,"all our European players don’t have to fly back again after recently being in the World Cup qualifiers. The distances will be shorter for those players. If we see that there is an opportunity to break in another player or invite somebody that wasn’t part of the roster yet, we might do that."
The game will come up between MLS conference finals, so few MLS players will be in the squad.
JANUARY CAMP. Traditionally, January has meant a long U.S. training camp for mostly MLS and Scandinavian-based players with one or two friendlies. With the first Hexagonal match on Feb. 6 and most of his key players based abroad, Klinsmann hasn't decided what to do.
“We are right now discussing the entire approach for January," he said. "It’s a bit tricky because we don’t have the schedule yet. We want to wait until next week when we finally have the schedule for the qualifiers, to see whether it starts with a home game on Feb. 6 or there’s an away game. I’m in touch with quite a lot of coaches from Major League Soccer about the topic of a January camp that was traditionally set up."
U.S. BACKLINE. The biggest question mark in the U.S. lineup may be the U.S. central defense, which will be severely tested in the Hexagonal, but Klinsmann is "comfortable" with his options.
"I think we saw a very impressive year by Geoff Cameron, not only with Houston Dynamo and now with Stoke, but also in our environment," said Klinsmann. "He kind of fought his way into that team and now he seems to be set in the center back role. We obviously still have Oguchi Onyewu, who played his first game for Malaga, 90 minutes, in the loop. Carlos [Bocanegra] as the captain is always giving you all the experience he has and Clarence Goodson is there as well. I mentioned it a few times that I see Maurice Edu as a possible center back going forward. He played a good game in Mexico, where we won. It’s going OK. There are still some other players in the loop as well coming through MLS, like an Omar Gonzalez or a Matt Besler, or if it’s a Tim Ream that plays with Bolton Wanderers."
TIMMY CHANDLER. Klinsmann said he remains in contact with Chandler even though the German-American has yet to commit to the USA.
"I always told him to take it at his pace," Klinsmann said. "It’s similar to Landon. They have to make their own decisions sooner or later and they will do that. Timmy knows that. He is going through learning years in the Bundesliga. I’m in touch with his coach as well. He is maturing. He is getting more experience and he’s getting more focused. We are in touch and we respect his decision so far that he was not part of the qualifiers, but the World Cup is coming along pretty soon. We’re already going into 2013, so it’s totally up to him how fast the decision on his end will be made.”
MLS. While only a half dozen MLS players are currently in the national team picture, Klinsmann had praise for MLS.
“I think MLS deserves a huge, huge compliment," he said. "I think it has been very competitive and also high quality season. I think you see teams that really try to play the game the right way, playing out of the back, keeping the ball on the ground, playing one-two touches, nice combinations and teams playing high-pressured games. There’s a lot of energy there. I think the crowds in the stadiums have been tremendous, so I think it’s been a successful MLS season."
The 2012 season has seen Cameron (since sold by Houston to Stoke City) and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi break into the national team, and Klinsmann said his staff is looking for other MLS players to break through.
"Our coaching staff is looking all over the place to find players that break through, players that take more leadership roles in their clubs, players that can get ready for the senior national team level," he said. "We have an eye on them. Giving you names would not be the right thing because we don’t even know if they would be available for the Russia game. They’re in their playoffs and they are very focused on their teams at the moment.”
Klinsmann added that the extended season -- MLS Cup will be played in December for the first time -- means there is less of a need for top MLS players to seek out offseason loan deals.