Q&A: Jurgen Klinsmann discusses his desire to stay, a possible England friendly and more
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t just want to coach the U.S. through World Cup 2014, but he’s also interested in continuing in his job beyond 2014, he told SI.com in an interview Wednesday night ahead of the U.S.’s World Cup qualifier against Jamaica (Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Unimas).
“Yeah, absolutely,” said Klinsmann, who’s in his third year as the U.S. coach, when asked about his interest in extending his contract. “A lot of the stuff we’ve done now is foundation work. It’s really just starting to connect the dots that you always talk about in the soccer landscape in the United States: Getting connected to the youth level, to coaches’ education, getting connected really well with MLS.”
“So yeah, that is my interest to continue that work,” continued Klinsmann, whose U.S. team clinched a berth in World Cup 2014 last month. “I’d love to be measured on success. I like that. But also you want to see that people in your environment are happy with how things are going, meaning now Sunil [Gulati, the U.S. Soccer president] and Dan Flynn [the USSF general secretary]. I think they are impressed with what we’ve built now in two years, how we connected the [U.S.] youth teams to us ... A lot of the stuff that we laid out and continue now to deepen is happening. Therefore, yeah, there is a big interest to continue that network.”
It makes sense that Klinsmann would want to coach the U.S. beyond 2014, not least because his previously stated goals of developing the U.S. program would require him staying longer than three years in the job. Ultimately it will be U.S. Soccer’s decision on whether to offer Klinsmann a contract extension, and it’s almost certain the federation will wait to do that until after it sees how Klinsmann’s U.S. team performs in Brazil.
Klinsmann touched on a number of topics in his SI.com interview, including why he has chosen São Paulo as the U.S. base in Brazil, who are his top candidates at the fullback positions, Seattle’s handling of Clint Dempsey’s injury, how the U.S.’s pre-World Cup camp will work and the possibility of a pre-World Cup friendly against England. Here’s what he had to say:
SI.com: As much as soccer has grown in recent years, there’s still a segment of Americans who only want to pay attention if the U.S. has a chance of winning the World Cup. When you get asked if it’s realistic to think the U.S. could win the World Cup, what do you say?
Klinsmann: I would tell them it’s a huge dream, and it’s fair enough to dream. I mean, everyone has to have a dream. Now is it realistic? In the world of soccer anything can happen, which Greece showed in 2004 at the European Championship. But the reality is that we are still behind the top soccer nations in this world. Therefore I would tell the people keep dreaming because it’s good to dream, but if it comes true that’s another huge question. Realistically there’s no chance, but anything can happen.
SI.com: You chose São Paulo as the U.S. base for World Cup 2014. Why São Paulo and not Rio de Janeiro or some other city?
Klinsmann: By coincidence I was there two years ago for a coaching seminar for my friend Carlos Alberto Parreira. I’ve been there several times, and before the whole process started with hotels and training sites, I already found some. We put options down even if it wasn’t cemented yet. I said if I put the options down you can’t say I haven’t sent that e-mail because it’s on the record (laughs)! It turned out to be one of the best locations. We have hopefully an infrastructure now that is giving you every opportunity to do well.
I think São Paulo is a great spot. It’s very cosmopolitan, very European and there are a lot of things to do, but it’s also a crazy football city with the teams that are there. If you look at the training ground that we put our option down on, FC São Paulo, it’s second to none in Brazil. With hotels, we found a very good hotel, which we will test out now in January [during the U.S. camp]. We also test the training ground.
I’ve been back another two times. Other countries want to buy off our options, but we’re not selling them! I think it’s a very good spot. Obviously we need a base camp hotel. You don’t know until Dec. 6 [the World Cup draw] who you have in your group or where you’re going to play. We can’t wait until that time.
SI.com: There have been occasions in previous World Cups for the U.S. and other teams where players who played little to no role in World Cup qualifying emerged and play important roles in the World Cup itself. Do you see that as a real possibility with this U.S. team?
Klinsmann: Absolutely. That’s why the race is going on until May 2014. Because God forbid injuries happen. Lack of form, whatever personal situations come up, there’s so much movement in a squad. Almost every month things come along and happen, and you want to see players grow. Some grow faster than others, and some don’t maybe. So that’s why you keep your door open until the very last moment. It can happen that there are some faces in there you might not think about now or you think they are very unlikely because it’s about the moment, the timing.
They need to be aware of that. That’s why we always stress so much talking about Brazil now since we’ve qualified. Guys, the race is on already. Everything you do, every training session. I just pointed out now [at practice], 'Guys, I’m not happy with that shooting exercise. I want more quality.' Because you have to demand that from yourself. A few months down the road, it’s different. You get maybe one shot in a [World Cup] game, don’t miss that one!
SI.com: Do you see any young players as potential candidates to emerge?
Klinsmann: No, nothing that hasn’t been here yet that I would talk about. Because we monitor the Under-20 kids that went with Tab Ramos to Turkey. We monitor some youngsters that come through the European scene. But as of today I wouldn’t say they’re ready for our team right now.
SI.com: For a few reasons you haven’t had the chance to cap-tie John Brooks to the U.S. yet. Are you fully confident he has chosen the U.S. over Germany?
Klinsmann: Yeah. Fully confident.
SI.com: There has been a lot of interest in who your starting fullbacks might be in Brazil. You’ve done a lot to create competition at every position on the field. Who do you see as the main competitors for the right back position in Brazil?
Klinsmann: Well, the front man is Brad Evans right now. He established himself as the number one in that spot. Then there are other players behind. We haven’t counted out Michael Parkhurst, who’s trying to find a solution [to club playing time] in the winter break. Steve Cherundolo is back training with his team this week. Timothy Chandler is still there. Geoff Cameron, we look more at him as an emergency helper. He’s playing [right back] at Stoke and does very well, and we watch him there, but it’s not his natural position. His natural position is a center back role. So this is an open race, but right now we feel very comfortable with Brad Evans in that position. We might try something out the next couple days, but he looks strong right now.
Left back is similar. I think DaMarcus Beasley deserves that front man role, absolutely. We can always bring Fabian Johnson back [from left midfield] if we want to. I think Fabian in a left winger role is a weapon with his speed, with how he reads the game, with how he puts people into position. And also other ones like maybe Edgar Castillo gets a chance in the upcoming two games. He has improved his game, has stepped it up with Tijuana, becoming a starter there. He’s getting games week in and week out. You see that, and his confidence is getting bigger and bigger. We try to build the competition that is there, but Beasley still looks 21 today!
SI.com: Clint Dempsey is set to play for Seattle [on Wednesday night]. He’s not here due to injury. Are you O.K. with the way Seattle handled this with him not coming here?
Klinsmann: Yeah. I was in touch with Sigi [Schmid, Seattle coach] and Clint. We had long talks. This is the best thing we wanted to have. He couldn’t make it for the last weekend. I said I can’t bring you in here right now and build you toward a game. I don’t know if you have an hour or 45 minutes [in you]. You haven’t played since our last game, really. It makes more sense that you build your base now with Seattle, get as many games as you can and also training sessions, and we’ll see you back in November. So I’m happy he’s playing tonight. We didn’t know last week how fast he could make it back. All we knew last week is he hasn’t really played a game since the Mexico game. That’s not enough for our level.
SI.com: How do you plan to organize the pre-World Cup camp and the last friendlies before the World Cup?
Klinsmann: We plan it that obviously once the European season is done we want to get into camp as quickly as possible, which means pretty much immediately after May 12. And then find a base here in the U.S. where we can train very focused and climate-wise in a fresh climate where we don’t have to compromise any workload we want to do. That excludes Florida, for example! We want to get them through a very demanding training regime over two to three weeks and then play the friendly games the way they lead us up to Brazil eight to 10 days prior to our first game in Brazil, which we’ll know only on Dec. 6. That maybe gives us also the chance to play a friendly there like Bob [Bradley] did in South Africa. That worked out very well. So we’re trying something similar like that. Hopefully having three sendoff games here in the U.S. and then another one in Brazil and then build that foundation you badly need to succeed down there.
SI.com: You mentioned Florida. England is considering staying in Miami for a bit before the World Cup. Their coach, Roy Hodgson, visited Miami a while back. Have you talked to England about a potential U.S.-England friendly before the World Cup?
Klinsmann: Yep. We’re in talks with them (laughs).
SI.com: Have any other teams come up as potential friendly opponents pre-World Cup?
Klinsmann: No. We’ll have a lot of conversations down at the draw. I’m in touch already with several coaches, and they all say we need to know who we’ll face, what opponent we’d like. If we get a South American team, we badly want a South American team. If we get an African team, we badly want to play an African team. That’s what they look at, and we take it from there. So it’ll be a very busy couple days in Bahia. WAHL: American Pharaoh: Ex-U.S. coach Bradley has Egypt on brink of World Cup