MEXICO CITY — How does the US national team replace Jermaine Jones?
Despite all the criticism that Jones has received from American media in his brief USMNT career, that was the first question manager Jurgen Klinsman was answering at Monday's press conference ahead of Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Mexico (10:30 pm ET, ESPN/Univision, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
"Definitely it's a tough loss for us," Klinsmann said. "Jermaine Jones is one of our leaders here and the way he played that game, the Costa Rica match, was unbelievable. And the foul that he got was about 20 minutes into the game cut a hole into his ankle. We stitched him up at halftime and he kept going until he couldn't run any more. He gave everything he had.
"Not having him, a coach looks for the next solutions and we have players who can step in with Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan or Joe Corona. We have a lot of good players that give us those options."
As for the health of the rest of the 22 players?
"Yeah, looks all good," said an upbeat Klinsmann, who framed Tuesday night's matchup at Estadio Azteca as one that pits "the two best teams in CONCACAF fighting that rivalry and that battle."
And while the Mexican press might be critical of El Tri, Klinsmann was full of praise, complimenting them on "a very good game in Honduras," despite allowing Honduras to tie it up late 2-2. The former German international compared the circumstances Mexico faced vs. Honduras to the same ones the USMNT encountered in San Pedro Sula in a 2-1 loss on Feb. 6: players cramping due to the heat and conceding on set pieces.
"There are very unique challenges in CONCAF for players and teams," Klinsmann said. "It's also fascinating that these things can happen, but it's not a surprise."
If there was a hint of controversy in Monday's session with the media, it came on a question from a Mexican media member about the Sporting News report, which included 11 anonymous players questiong Klinsmann's coaching tactics and communication skills. Klinsmann was pointed with his response.
"It's just normal that people try to bring their own stories into the whole picture, inventing things maybe with fake stories from the past," Klinsmann said. "But I'm not here to discuss these things. I'm here to hopefully make these guys better and my job is to help them reach the next level and to challenge them. I'm not here to pamper anybody and so maybe there we have a little argument down the road.
"But in order to hopefully elevate the program, which we want to do, we want to break into the best 10-12 nations in the world one day down the road. And I have to challenge them and maybe certain players are not always comfortable with that. … I think they did an amazing job on Friday night against Costa Rica and we will be ready for a real real fight tomorrow night against a very good team in Mexico."