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Post-Game Musings

Klinsmann: "We Need Depth and Consistency"

Coming off consecutive wins in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and sitting atop the Hexagonal, the United States men's soccer team seems to be rounding into the shape Jurgen Klinsmann has sought.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
June 12, 2013
5:56 PM
SEATTLE—Jurgen Klinsmann has preached about many things since his arrival, but a few themes have emerged. Two of those themes, the need for consistency and the need for depth, have been at the forefront of his mind during this summer stretch of World Cup qualifiers.

“What we’re trying to build is consistency,” he said at a news conference Monday before the match against Panama. “We want to keep working daily on things that we want to improve and get fine-tuned all over the place on the field between the players—their overall shape [and] tactical approaches. So it’s just a normal process we’re going through, but really, the big picture is becoming consistent as a team.”

After a 2-0 win against Panama that the United States controlled from the opening whistle, it looks like some of the consistency Klinsmann has hoped for could be near. His team is unbeaten in its last four World Cup qualifiers and the cohesiveness in the team is palpable.

This common sense of purpose comes despite a number of injuries and absences that have forced a bit of creativity in Klinsmann’s line-ups. He brought in Eddie Johnson for a suspended Graham Zusi on the right midfield and put in Geoff Cameron at defensive midfield with Jermaine Jones recovering from a concussion. The changes worked out well and made Klinsmann look really intelligent when the pair hooked up for the second goal.

It speaks to another strategy Klinsmann is fond of exhorting, that of having "No. 2" players ready to go when the regular starters are unavailable.

“That’s very simple,” he said Tuesday of his decision to start Johnson, “since we try to double our positions, and we try to have always somebody behind that is as good as almost the starter.” That also creates potential roster controversies. It’s tough to imagine the manager benching Cameron after such a strong performance, and Johnson could make a case to stay in the starting XI as well thanks to DaMarcus Beasley’s suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Taking the team to that elusive "next level" is something Klinsmann hopes to do, starting with qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil. What’s been lacking from the U.S. team, he believes, is not talent or desire but consistency. In Monday’s news conference he alluded to the 2009 Confederations Cup when the Stars and Stripes topped Spain and nearly beat Brazil in the tournament final.

“But if you really want to be in the top 10 one day, you need to be consistent in everything you’re doing, if it’s friendlies, if it’s Gold Cup, if it’s World Cup qualifiers,” he said. “It’s the signals that we send out to all the opponents around the globe. I think you kind of take it all apart as a coaching staff and say, ‘Where are we tactically? Where are we technically? Where are we individually with every one of them? Where are they limits — how far can they go?’

“That’s why we always have the discussion to shoot for the next step in the ladder, to just step it up, wherever you are—no matter what league or what club. So this process will be always ongoing. So then you try to kind of improve all those different elements down the road, before you go into the World Cup in Brazil.”

Consistency being something built over time, it’s too much to say the team’s recent run of good form will be the momentum needed to get to the next ladder rung and with many today prone to overreaction, everything can be undone with a poor showing Tuesday against Honduras. But the U.S. is playing its best soccer in recent memory, and if it continues they’ll be not only going into Brazil but doing it with some—yes—consistency.

Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.

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