Excerpts from U.S. soccer central in Kansas City today…..
Juergen Klinsmann said he didn’t name any roster replacements in the wake of three injuries, an illness and yellow card suspension because “this group being together for more than a week gives a lot of options to deal with those problems that came up. We feel like we are strong enough to take care of Guatemala with the players that are here.”
Klinsmann went into detail about first-choice left back Fabian Johnson cancelling his scheduled trip to Kansas City after missing the Antigua trip, saying, “Fabian has a really bad stomach flu. He was getting better. He trained Thursday with Hoffenheim but it got worse. They thought maybe it was a salmonella issue. So they sent him to the hospital. I was speaking with him, and he said, ‘I am just not there yet.’ So we said, ‘It just makes no sense traveling from Germany and having not trained for a week.’ “
Asked if fans should expect any changes to the backline for the Guatemala match Tuesday night, he said: “Possibly.”
“It could be a very defensive one, it could be maybe they come out with a little more offensive ways. No matter how the shape is, they will be very, very physical. They will run and fight for every ball. It’s the game of their lives, really. The first 20 minutes against Jamaica, they went after everything. We are prepared for them.”
Guatemala will advance with a draw, so the expectation is a measured, defensive approach from the Chapines.
“It’s a team that plays very direct,” Klinsmann said. “They try to draw fouls close to the box and they have [Marco] Pappa, who showed in the first game, he is an excellent free kick taker. So there are a couple of things to avoid: Don’t let Pappa the opportunity to shoot those free kicks and to keep Carlos Ruiz out of the game, if possible, which is a very difficult task. He is on a roll.”
The USA only needs a tie, but “we want to win this game. You can only win a game if you attack and go forward, and that is what we are going to do. We are not looking for a tie.”
USA supporters have high expectations and feel the USA shouldn’t be in this situation in the final game. What do you say to people who think American soccer has progressed to the point where you should’ve advanced by now?
“It’s exciting to see fans care more about their national team, they care more about soccer in general and they ask more questions and maybe rise their expectations, which is good. It’s good because it gives everyone a bigger sense of accountability. You are accountable for what you are doing, me as a coach, a player as a player. When you are down to the wire, it’s because things happened for a reason. We gave away too many free kicks in Jamaica, we conceded two and instead of taking a point and being through already, you have to look to tomorrow night. You have to work yourself through it. Sometimes it takes a little bit longer than you wish it would. … Expectations from the fans are getting bigger and rightfully so, and the discussion is getting more intense.”
Klinsmann spoke highly of Livestrong Sporting Park — even the locker room.
“There’s no locker room in Europe like that. Not even close. It’s just cool. It’s really fantastic.”
Michael Bradley spoke of the tense situation and the big expectations for the U.S. team to advance.
“We still look at the win the other night as a big win. We’re honest enough with ourselves to look at things and say, ‘This needed to be better’ or ‘Our response after going up 1-0 should have been more aggressive to try to put the game right away.’ I can assure you the mentality and the spirit of this group is really good. A quality of a big team is being able to come away with points, to come away with wins, on days when maybe you don’t play your best and the conditions aren’t the most perfect. We take great pride in that as a group.”
“We’re excited to step on the field in front of a big-time American crowd in a great stadium and give ourselves another chance to put a great performance together. And a great performance can mean a lot of things. It can mean, from the first whistle, being aggressive and maybe on that night the goals come quick and win a game that everyone says looked really nice. A great win can also mean being committed for 90 minutes, and even if the goals don’t come as early as we hoped, we have the personality and strength to keep playing and fighting and come away with a win toward the end of the game.”
“We all look forward to big nights. The reality of soccer in this country at the moment is that, at times, we do play qualifiers in stadiums where, even though we are playing at home, it doesn’t feel like it. And so [playing in Kansas City] you can feel the excitement. You can feel the passion for the game and the national team. The opportunity for us to step on the field in a beautiful stadium on a great field in front of a big-time American crowd, that is something we don’t get all the time. It’s another mark of good progress in our country. We want to make sure we use the support as a way to push us on.”