In an interview with biographer Erik Kirschbaum
for Reuters, U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann
insisted the USA would qualify despite opening with two losses that left it
in last place in the Hexagonal.
"It’s important to put this in the right perspective," he said. "We lost the two opening games and played the two best teams right away. We have
eight more games to get the points needed to qualify. We’ve always reacted strongly when things were nerve-wracking. This team is always capable of reacting. We’ll correct this with the
two games in March [against Honduras at home and Panama in Panama City] and we’ll take one game at a time from there to get our points. I’m 1,000 percent sure we’ll qualify."
The interview was conducted as Klinsmann was in Berlin to attend a dinner for President Barack Obama
Klinsmann came in for intense criticism after the 2-1 loss to Mexico
and 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica. After the loss to the Ticos, the USA's worst in qualifying in 36 years, the consensus of American media
at the game was that Klinsmann needed to be replaced.
"When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off," he said. "In the long run, that’s going to make the development of the team difficult.
It’s important to stay calm and be patient. There are definitely issues to be addressed but there is no reason to exaggerate them or panic. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and there are
always many reasons why certain things happen, both positively and negatively. It’s important to have the end result in mind. And the big picture is the overall development of the team in the
four-year cycle between two World Cups. You have to be ready to take some setbacks during that phase."
Klinsmann pointed to success at the Copa Centenario -- where the USA finished fourth
-- and the emergence of young players as support for his argument that USA was headed in the right direction.
"We had a maturing process at the Copa America that was outstanding," he
said. "We wanted to have younger players becoming more powerful and confident and got that. There is a real dynamic going on with players like Bobby Wood
, John Brooks
and Christian Pulisic
Klinsmann said Obama was optimistic that the USA would advance to the finals in Russia.
"He said, 'Coach, it didn’t go well in
Costa Rica, but it’s only the start of the World Cup qualifying and you’ll get back on the right track,'" Klinsmann said. "He understands that it's a long qualifying process. He also
understands dynamics of soccer as a global sport and how it builds bridges."