U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann expects a good test from South Korea in Saturday's friendly. (Alex Silva/AP)
CARSON, Calif. -- U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann explained why a friendly vs. South Korea was the ideal way to conclude January camp, offered updates on the likes of Mike Magee and Landon Donovan and endorsed his ideal central midfield pairing during a Friday news conference at StubHub Center.
The U.S. will host the Koreans here on Saturday (5 PM ET, ESPN2, UniMas). It will be the first meeting between the countries since their memorable encounter at the 2002 World Cup, when Clint Mathis scored a brilliant goal and Brad Friedel saved a penalty kick during a 1-1 draw that helped send both teams to the knockout stage.
The U.S. is 1-3-2 all-time against South Korea. The only win came earlier in 2002, when the U.S. defeated the CONCACAF Gold Cup guests on its way to the title.
The current South Korea squad, coached by former L.A. Galaxy defender Hong Myung-Bo, is comprised almost entirely of domestic players and already has played two friendlies against CONCACAF opposition. The Reds beat Costa Rica, 1-0, in Los Angeles and fell to Mexico, 4-0, on Wednesday in San Antonio.
Here are a few choice quotes from Klinsmann's pre-match press conference:
On South Korea as a quality opponent
"The reasons why we asked South Korea to play this game, and we are extremely happy they accepted the invitation, is it is a team that will high pressure you, that will interrupt your rhythm, a team with a tremendous amount of energy and individual talent and in a similar position we are ... All of those players want to build a case too. They know their so-called top players in Europe aren't available and this gives Bo the chance to see them.
"Who knows, we might end up playing them this June [at the World Cup] after passing the group stage ... We'll get a real test here tomorrow."
[Note: The USA's Group G is paired with South Korea's Group H in the first knockout round. Should one finish first in its group and the other finish second, they'd meet in the round of 16.]
On Jermaine Jones' loan from Schalke 04 to Besiktas
"I told him, 'You've got to solve that issue. No matter how, but you've got to be back playing or otherwise you run out of time. He took his time a little bit until almost the last day [of the transfer window], but he solved it with the move to Besiktas. It's good club, an international team there, a lot of national team players around there and he gets his playing time right away.
"He’s the guy who’s always ready. [When he joined January camp late two years ago], within one day he took over basically and showed everyone he wants to be the boss on the field. We are pleased with his move because that was really, really crucial. He and Michael Bradley, that's the heart of our midfield, so it's good to know both are in good spots."
On forward Mike Magee, who's looking for his first senior cap at age 29
"Mike was an easy transition because he's been around the block for quite a while. He was not really nervous about it. He was happy. He was thrilled he was part of the group and he kind of fit right in, in the training scrimmages we had and in the group. He’s a guy that adjusts easily to his teammates and he's part of the group right away. We're happy that we kind of finally had a closer look at him and hopefully he has a chance tomorrow to show it on a bigger stage."
On Landon Donovan
"Landon had a good camp and obviously has a tremendous amount of experience. He knows how to time these camps, how to look at them. Within the group he's always highly respected and accepted. It was a good 3 1/2 weeks for him, and we hope on his home field tomorrow he shows some excitement, and basically shows off in a good way."
On the development of Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and the back four
"You see them kind of grow through a season and maybe a couple of years and I think with Matt and Omar you see two center backs that have matured. They become calmer. They’ve become more responsible. They grow into their feet and their roles and it’s nice to see. This is what we’re hoping with this January camp, that you have players coming in in the beginning that are a bit nervous and then they start to mature and they start to pick it up and they understand kind of what its demanded on the international level and we coaches are here to help them get to that level and I think both have done really well.
"For players like Omar, Matt, other ones coming through the ranks here, the biggest challenge here is he getting used to the speed of play at the international level, but also the mental speed. To read things ahead of time, to position yourself already in areas where the ball is probably going to come. To read your opponent ahead of time. Their biggest challenge is just to anticipate things and be alert and never allow mistakes, because mistakes, one or two on the international level, will get punished and you're going to go home.
"[We want them] to have the confidence to play out of the back. Not to kick the ball long, because nine out of 10 balls will be gone. This is something that challenges them ... We want to see that improving. We don't want to see any more balls that are played long because 'I don't know what to do anymore because I'm getting closed down.' We want them to stay calm and find the solution ... It's been a process but we still have a way to go."