NEW YORK -- Celebrating the United States Soccer Federation's 100th year anniversary, Jurgen Klinsmann and Sunil Gulati were two very active men in New York City, visiting several landmarks to mark the occasion.
The pair started early in the morning by making a visit to Mayor's office at City Hall to receive an official proclaimation of U.S. Soccer's 100 years of existence - the governing body got its start in New York City on April 5, 1913. An hour later, they went to the Empire State Building to participate in the building's prestigious lighting ceremony.
Sandwiched in between both events was Klinsmann and Gulati's visit to Major League Soccer's headquarters where the two men answered questions for approximately 40 minutes about the U.S. men's team. Based on statements made, both men appeared adamant to manage expectations and point to areas where the U.S. has progressed over Klinsmann's two years as head coach.
Here are some highlights from the roundtable discussion:
U.S. men very committed to adopting attacking style
Klinsmann has been criticized for getting results in a similar manner to his precessor, Bob Bradley. The attacking style that the former Germany boss promised in his first press conference hasn't come to fruition yet but Klinsmann insists that it is still the goal for U.S. soccer.
"That's the style that we all agree is what we want to play," Klinsmann said. "Obviously, it depends on the opponent. If you are playing against an attack minded Mexican team then you get less possession than you want to."
He added, "I want us to be more proactive on the field to play high-pressure football and keep the ball. Some games it goes better and some games it doesn't."
Klinsmann pointed to the Costa Rica match as an example. He stated that if there weren't blizzard-like conditions in Denver, the U.S.'s strong play in the first half would have resulted in the team scoring two or three goals. One reporter pointed out that Klinsmann has used 25 lineups in his 25 games in charge and the U.S. coach admitted that the team hasn't had a full chance to develop a chemistry due to availability issues from injuries and clubs holding out players. He expects that the team's scoring will go up in the team's home qualifiers in June against Panama and Honduras.
Klinsmann and Gulati also pointed to Tab Ramos's work with the U-20 squad. Despite losing in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament final, Ramos was praised for having a team that focused on attacking and possesion. Klinsmann described Ramos' progress as a sign of the U.S. beginning to develop a more aggressive style of play. Which leads to the next point...
U.S. wants more diversity and focuses on Hispanic players
Over the past two years, the U.S. has become increasingly aggressive in attracting Hispanic players in the hope of finding guys who can implement Klinsmann's preferred possession style.
While the team hasn't outwardly stated that goal usually subtly hinting at that objective, on Friday Klinsmann and Gulati both admitted that the team wants to attract the best possible players to the team and are actively seeking Hispanic and African-American players for the roster.
"To the extent that we can reach out to the Hispanic community, to the African-American community and be more inclusive, that's a plus," Gulati stated at the roundtable discussion.
Klinsmann discussed how the team is very active in recruiting interested Latino players and making sure that they don't slip out of the U.S.'s grasp. He revealed how he is constantly in touch with potential future U.S. nationals and their current club coaches to check on their statuses and impart why they would be a good fit for the Stars and Stripes.
"We try to find all of the talents out there no matter what their backgrounds are," Klinsmann explained. "The more Latino players that we have, that can add a special quality to our program. No matter what age group, we will go after them"
"We are sending signals to a lot of people that we are open, we are following them no matter what background they are," he added.
Klinsmann doesn't have reservations about Donovan return
The U.S. boss pointed out that Donovan has been available for less than a third of Klinsmann's matches but he is eager to see how the American star progresses on his match fitness. When healthy and motivated, Donovan is arguably the U.S.'s best playmaker even at age 31.
"I'm just observing where he's at and how he gets into his rhythm in games and judging his performance," Klinsmann said. "He does improve us on the field."
There will be lingering questions about team chemistry after Donovan's self-imposed sabbatical saw him miss key Hexagonal matches against Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico, but Klinsmann insisted that he doesn't expect there to be any negative feedback to the forward's return.
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Bocanegra still in the mix
U.S. captain Bocanega's exclusion from the senior side was a bold decision from Klinsmann and the move paid off by the emergence of Matt Besler in the backline. Both newcomers Besler and Omar Gonzalez had breakout performances for the U.S. and paired with Geoff Cameron's strong play in the back, many have speculated if Bocanegra no longer has a place with the national team.
Klinsmann was quick to dismiss that view and was adamant that he appreciates Bocanegra's veteran presence on the team. Still, he admitted that spots at the center back position are on the line as the U.S. continues to fight for qualification to next year's World Cup.
Klinsmann stated: "You know what you have in Carlos and (Clarence) Goodson as those are guys who have been with the program for a long time. So you want to show them the respect that they deserve. You want to tell them honestly that you want to see competition. You want to see at the end of the day who is ready for a huge World Cup.
"As I've always said, we aren't closing the door on anyone," he continued. "There are players who always deserve to be in the picture, they've done tremendously well for this program and are well-respected but we also have the responsibility to judge on a daily basis who's best to get the job done."
Tim Howard guaranteed U.S. No. 1 keeper job
Brad Guzan was outstanding filling in for Howard against Costa Rica and Mexico, but Klinsmann reiterated that he values Howard's experience and presence between the goal posts.
"Tim is No. 1 undoubtedly," Klinsmann said curtly.
Still, Klinsmann has been very impressed with Guzan's development this year, pointing to his impressive performances after winning the starting position at Premiership side Aston Villa. However, Klinsmann made it clear that there is no competition for the starting goalkeeper job.
"It is just great to see Brad kind of breaking through and having the starter's job now at Aston Villa," Klinsmann added. "The level he played those two games just makes you feel a lot better now having such a strong No. 2."
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