HARRISON, N.J. – The pieces are falling into place for Jurgen Klinsmann.
Although the scoreboard Tuesday night showed a third shutout loss in five matches for the US national team under the German World Cup veteran, he made it clear in his postgame conference that he already has identified the players who will be forming the backbone of his regular starting XI.
Klinsmann singled out Oguchi Onyewu, Timothy Chandler, Brek Shea, Danny Williams and Kyle Beckerman as the best performers in the 1-0 loss to Ecuador with a clear indication that they will figure prominently in his team moving forward.
“He’s back, that’s the easiest way to say it and it’s awesome to see,” Klinsmann said of Onyewu, who played the full 90.
The US manager used definitive terms when addressing Shea – “he’s secured his spot in the starting lineup” – as well as Williams, who “broke into the team within two games and he’s in there.”
As far as Beckerman is concerned, Klinsmann was unequivocal: “We discovered a player in Kyle Beckerman that is just doing a fantastic job for this team. ... We don’t want to have him out of the team.”
He also spoke proudly of Chandler, who “at left back, he didn’t allow Antonio Valencia one thing. We’re talking about a player who plays at Manchester United and who is a very, very good player and you didn’t see him at all because Timmy Chandler closed him completely down.”
On two separate occasions, Klinsmann mentioned his anticipation for the return of three players in particular to the squad: Landon Donovan, José Francisco Torres and Fabian Johnson, who has yet to make an appearance.
“If you look at the overall roster, we really have a good team together that’s highly competitive going into the World Cup qualifiers,” Klinsmann said.
And if you think it’s too early for the manager to settle on a squad, he removed all doubts when he talked about establishing pairs of players working together on the field and confirmed his plans to give the “couples” continuity.
“We built tandems around the field that support each other,” Klinsmann said. “Right now Kyle and Maurice [Edu] start to read each other.”
The same goes for the left-sided tandem of Chandler and Shea: “They’ve started to develop an instinct for each other. [Chandler] starts to read Brek Shea’s runs and only Brek knows where he’s running the next moment and Tim is doing a good job of reading him.
“These types of partnerships ... those take time and if I switch constantly the players around just for the sake of it, because I want to give players the opportunity to play, I’m slowing down the process of having that instinct with each other. That’s why we’re doing that [building tandems].”
It wasn’t forced optimism by Klinsmann after the latest loss. Yes, his team did not create much offense in the second half, but he felt the US played well for the majority of the match and were only done in by a single lapse of concentration by New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream, which was more frustrating because Klinsmann had prepared his team with video of Ecuador’s propensity to strike on crosses.
“A brilliant first half, we created a lot of chances didn’t’ score but didn’t allow anything for Ecuador there,” Klinsmann said. “Ecuador in the second half got better into the game and created some chances but never really any threat for Tim Howard. He never really had anything to do besides the one beautiful goal they scored. It makes you feel you put all that effort and all that work and you feel you should get rewarded but it went the other way around.
“It’s just disappointing that we, on the other hand, didn’t score unto that point and it basically takes all the work you put in for eight to nine days and it takes it a bit away.”