New USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke to members of the press for the first time on Monday 1 August, expressing cautious optimism about the future of the game in the country and his desire to expand its appeal.
“My job is to go step-by-step and help every single American player to get to a new level,” said Klinsmann, who replaced Bob Bradley in the USA’s top job at the weekend. “It will take me a couple of weeks and months to analyse the players and to see who is coming through the ranks, through the youth teams and in Major League Soccer.”
The former Intern Milan, Tottenham and Bayern Munich striker will face his first test in nine days’ time when the Stars and Stripes take on Mexico in a friendly in Philadelphia. “We will announce the team for the Mexico game hopefully on Wednesday. I have already been in touch with some of the players to get a sense of their situation,” said Klinsmann as he gets set to face a Mexican side that beat an uninspired, Bradley-led USA 4-2 in last month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
“I want to move things in the right direction,” added Klinsmann, former German national team and Bayern Munich coach who has lived in Southern California since 1998. “The development of soccer in the United States in the last ten years has been amazing. Now you have a lot of attention on the game and that is all the result of the recent building that has happened.”
“There is a good foundation laid down here in the US,” added Klinsmann, citing the development of a professional league (MLS) in 1996 and the USA reaching every instalment of the FIFA World Cup™ finals since 1990.
Klinsmann was considered for the US job in 2006 and following the team’s elimination from last year’s World Cup in South Africa, but his intention to re-design the youth system was rumoured to get in the way of the deal. This desire, according to the German, seems to have changed, “I don’t have any intention to change the youth system,” he said. “Good things have been happening in recent years. Of course, we will discuss things and see where we can strengthen the youth system to make the entire US program stronger.”
The German also addressed much-talked about pockets of potential talent, especially in ethnic and socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the States, and his intention to locate and exploit these historically neglected areas. “We need to dig into where to find more talent,” he said. “Maybe we can find somebody kicking the ball around the street and develop him, but this will come with time. I hope we find a way to find a Lionel Messi in the United States. That would be awesome.”
The coach also touched on his philosophy of football, promising to build a team that can connect with an American sporting audience that has not exactly flocked to follow the world’s game. “Soccer is about people identifying with a team and building a style and putting something together that the public can really like.”
The Americans will play a pair of friendlies in September after the rematch with Mexico on 10 August, hosting Costa Rica on 2 September and travelling to face Belgium three days later in Brussels. “The priority right now is to meet the players and to understand their issues, all with a focus on qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.”