The USA head coach spoke on Johannsson, Dempsey, and the lack of MLS-based players in his latest selection.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann revealed on Monday his squad for the two World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as a friendly against Bosnia.
The most immediately noticeable aspect of the squad was the massive lack of MLS-based talent – specifically, only two domestic players were selected (Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson).
Klinsmann explained his reasoning to MLSSoccer.com, and it turns out MLS players need not fear for their national team future: “For the most part we wanted to leave the MLS players behind because it’s a long way to go for a mid-week game in the heart of the season and many of them were with us a lot during the summer. This gives us a chance to look at some different players as well. At the same time, we still want a strong team so we have some guys from MLS and also from Liga MX.”
This certainly clarifies why the USA’s most in-form player, Landon Donovan, was omitted, but what about prodigal son Clint Dempsey?
“I told [Seattle Sounders head coach] Sigi Schmid that it’s no problem to leave Clint off this roster,” said Klinsmann, “It’s been a long week for Clint and he is still in preseason and getting a rhythm, so we leave him in Seattle and get him ready for the games in September.”
On the subject of Dempsey’s return, Klinsmann seemed just as excited as everyone else in MLS: “It’s been a huge week. Having Clint back in the United States and joining MLS is big and I think everyone in the U.S. is excited about the news.
“I am thrilled for MLS because you have an outstanding player now hopefully filling more stadiums and getting even more kids and people excited about the game. For Clint it’s a challenge, coming from one of the top leagues in the world, coming back to the U.S. and being back in MLS where we still have to work on a lot of things. Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that. I told him that over the last two years that he’s got to go for the next level.
Obviously we want the best Clint Dempsey ever and that’s what we’re going to push him toward as we begin to look toward Brazil. He has set a high standard for himself, and it’s up to us coaches to make sure he keeps that high standard.”
Klinsmann also discussed the other big news – the inclusion of newcomers Aron Johannsson and John Anthony Brooks, previously of Icelandic and German youth teams respectively: “We are very excited to have Aron with us. It’s a similar conversation that we have with all our dual-citizenship players. They have to make up their mind and they have to make their own decision. We can only hope they go toward the United States. Aron has made that big, big step which is huge for us because he’s one of the up and coming promising strikers in Europe.
“He played really, really well in Denmark before he moved to AK Alkmaar and is scoring goals there so we’re really thrilled he chose to join us and to have him in our group. We just want to integrate Aron and make him feel comfortable, make him feel at home with us.
“Having John Anthony Brooks is another exciting move that we can feel proud about in a certain way. Having followed him over the years now, we always are in touch with his club and coaches and it’s easy to see John is a very special talent growing through the Bundesliga ranks. He’s a centre-back with wonderful vision of the game, very decisive in one-on-one situations and very mature for his age.
“He was already with us one and half years ago in a Under-20 camp we had, so we followed him and he’s breaking through in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin. Similar to Aron, we want to have him get integrated into the group and get to know his new buddies and to feel comfortable with us. And of course we’re curious from a coaching perspective to see what he can add to our team, how he’s taking things in during training and possibly in the game against Bosnia.”
The USA’s warm-up match against Bosnia will take place on Wednesday, with the two World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico taking place on the 6th and 10th of September.