CHICAGO -- CONCACAF made headlines late Friday night when it decided to suspend United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for Sunday's Gold Cup final. While some have called the move controversial, Klinsmann decided to keep his reaction brief.
"It is what it is," Klinsmann said curtly in Soldier Field's media conference room.
Klinsmann has a bigger aim to focus on.
If the U.S. lives up to expectations by beating Panama in the Gold Cup final, it would cap what has been the best period of Klinsmann's U.S. tenure with his first ever trophy as a national team manager. Klinsmann is prohibited from having locker room assess or making radio contact with the U.S. during the game but would be allowed to celebrate with his team during the postmatch presentations if the team won. And that's what Klinsmann is targeting.
"We are ready to win this trophy... We've played the best soccer of this tournament up to this point," Klinsmann stated before later adding. "It's all up to these guys here to enjoy that moment. "
In Klinsmann's absence, his two assistant coaches, Martin Vasquez and Andreas Herzog, will handling responsibilities from the sideline. Both have previously served as head coaches. Vasquez was Chivas USA's manager for the 2010 season, and Herzog is a former Austria U20 coach. Klinsmann discussed his belief that both men are very ambitious to prove themselves and insisted that a lot of the match preparation would take place before the team arrives at Soldier Field on Sunday.
"We will do our pregame talk at the hotel," Klinsmann said. "All of work to make this team the best one possible will be done before they arrive at the stadium."
Although Klinsmann, Vasquez, Herzog and the U.S. players are focused on the task at hand, Landon Donovan hinted that CONCACAF's suspension was a bit harsh and believes that all parties involved will fight to secure what would be the coach's first major success.
"We're going to use it as a little bit of a rallying cry. We've built something really special here...we want to win a trophy for him," Donovan said.
Despite the odds being heavily against Panama, Klinsmann isn't taking the Central American side lightly. Though Mexico has had its struggles since the start of 2013, Klinsmann believes that Panama has sent a strong message in beating El Tri twice.
"Panama is here for a reason, they beat Mexico twice. That's enough said with those words," Klinsmann said.
For Donovan, this isn't the first time that he's faced Panama in a Gold Cup final. Donovan and acting U.S. captain DaMarcus Beasley played against the team in the 2005 penultimate game and the U.S. barely survived the scrappy team, securing its victory in a penalty shootout. The forward sees a lot of similarities between that team and the Panama side that the U.S. will face on Sunday.
"In my opinion, they've been the best team in the tournament along with us and they deserve to be there at the final. It could look similar [to the 2005 match]," Donovan said. "We're prepared to play 90 minutes, 120, penalties."
On a team that features players who are eager to prove themselves and young growing stars like Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud, success in the Gold Cup final could be a major building block heading into next year's World Cup in Brazil.
"We want to win this thing badly. We want to keep growing," Klinsmann said. "You also want to be realistic, CONCACAF [Gold Cup] is not a World Cup. We all know that there's different levels out there that we have to work to as we go back into qualifying. We want to go to Brazil, where the big music is playing."
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