Klinsmann Gives Nashville Postmortem, Looks Ahead to World Cup Qualifying

There are many differences between U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his predecessor Bob Bradley, but none more pronounced than in Klinsmann’s approach to the media.

Whereas Bradley regarded media interactions as necessary, every so often—not unlike trips to the dentist—Klinsmann appears to do nothing but engage the press and the public, whether it’s through his very active Twitter feed, regularly scheduled teleconferences, or frequent “Studio 90” sit-downs like the one below, in which he discusses the U.S.’s failed Olympic qualifying campaign and assesses what’s next for both youth and senior U.S. players:

To us, the money quote from that was the following:

“The consequence [of not qulifying for London 2012] … is that it will become a lot tougher and harder now for this group of guys to reach the next level in their careers. Because usually an Olympic tournament—and I experienced that on my own—is like a jumping board, it’s like a trampoline towards another level. And now they don’t have that tournament, and they need to find different ways now to show their progress, to show us with the senior team that they one day want to become big players in the senior team. This is a big setback for them”

He was looking at you, Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore, when he made those comments this past Wednesday. The U.S. boss is clearly making an effort to shift the focus from U23 coach Caleb Porter, who absorbed a category 2 hurricane of criticism following the debacle, to the team’s top players.

In a teleconference later that day (in between multiple tweets and who knows, probably several local newspaper and TV interviews) Klinsmann did delve into the Porter situation:

“We believe that Caleb is a very, very talented coach. We chose him for a reason, because I think he has a huge future ahead of him. Sooner than later he will jump into the professional field and become a pro coach, and we hope that we find ways now going forward … [to] find roles for him to improve, to grow, to mature in his coaching career … We really think that he has a lot of upside. I think he’s learned a tremendous amount during the last four months dealing as a head coach for the Olympic team. Obviously he’s more disappointed than any one of us about what happened, that he didn’t get the job done, and that we’re not going to London because he was in charge of that process and he was leading that process. But there were many mistakes being done, and not all of the mistakes were done by Caleb Porter.”

And here’s Klinsmann’s account of U.S. Soccer’s takeaway from the fiasco, including the handling of goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s injury early in the El Salvador match:

“We went through [Porter’s] positions with his coaching staff, and the participation of the medical staff that led to the very late substitution of Bill Hamid in that game against El Salvador. We went through all the other people involved in the process. Did he really have the perfect support from everybody around him? At the end of the day, obviously you need to go through every individual player. Did the players live up to their expectations? Did they do everything they could have done in order to make this thing positive? Were they at their peak or were they maybe going through a low point in that moment? I think some players didn’t live up to their expectations, and you need to get that message across and some players surprised us and maybe were more positive. I look at a [Mix] Diskerud or I look at a JoeCorona who had positive impressions, too. So that’s part of that process, but that won’t change the results. The result was a disappointment.”

The coach’s conference call ranged from the Olympic collapse to player selection for the senior team, including the fate of Santos Laguna striker Herculez Gomez, a 2010 U.S. World Cup veteran who is in scorching form with 11 goals in his past eight games:

“I’ve seen quite a few games of him over the last six, seven months. I know Herculez and I know his qualities. So he’s constantly being watched. Hopefully he continues that goal scoring period, and the more he scores, the more he makes a positive notes out there, the bigger his chances to get the call. It’s as simple as that. That’s our message to all of the players all of the time—keep proving your point. Keep improving where you’re at with every game. So what we do every Monday, we get together either by phone, by conference calls, or by email—we get down to all of the players, we discuss what they did over the weekend, we’re out there and watch them personally or on TV as often as we can. So Herculez is on the radar screen. But he’s always been on the radar screen. So hopefully he can make his case stronger and stronger over the next couple of weeks.”

That seems a little harsh—“the more he scores … the bigger his chances to get the call?” Can he really score more than 1.375 goals-per-game he’s already scoring? That’s nice Herculez, but we’d really like to see you bump that up to an even 2.0 goals per game. Then maybe we’ll talk.

Kidding aside, Gomez has to get the call in May, right? The U.S. faces Scotland on May 26th in Jacksonville, Fla., then takes on Brazil in Maryland on May 30th before facing Canada in Toronto on June 3rd. We’ll be surprised if Gomez isn’t involved in those games.

World Cup qualifying starts on June 8 in Tampa, where the U.S. will open against Antigua and Barbuda.

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