CARSON, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann had praised all four of his players who received their first caps in the US national team's victory over Iceland, but Ethan Finlay wasn't about to take it to heart.
The Columbus Crew SC winger played the first hour on the right side of midfield in Sunday's 3-2 triumph at StubHub Center, and he'd recognized good things in his game and other things that need to improve. Klinsmann's words were nice to hear, but they're only words.
“You don't just belong because you show well in one game,” Finlay said after his international debut. “What I've tried to do over the last three weeks of training [at the national team's annual 'January' camp] – and I hope that's the reason I was able to get the start was I laid a good foundation that the coaching staff liked, and I'll continue to do that.
“I don't think you want to hang your head on one game, whether it be good or bad, and I'm not going to do that.”
For Finlay and fellow debutants Kellyn Acosta from FC Dallas, Columbus' Tony Tchani and VfB Stuttgart's Jerome Kiesewetter, adding another cap to the first – and another and another – requires much work. Their next chance comes Friday at StubHub against Canada, when six more players hope to receive their initial caps.
Acosta, too, started and went 90 minutes at left back. Tchani came on for Jermaine Jones in the holding midfield slot after an hour, and the German-born Kiesewetter played the final 15 minutes on the right flank.
Acosta, 20, one of three Under-23 players to see action, needed some time to find his bearings.
“After he kind of settled his nerves, after 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged in this team,” Klinsmann said. “Really fun to watch.”
Acosta has played at right back on occasion for Dallas and left back for the U.S. U-20s, but he's primarily a No. 6. He found confidence getting up and down the flank as the game proceeded.
“The first half was a little rough for me,” he acknowledged. “I was a little timid at first. I was too afraid to make a mistake. I think that was, like, my downfall, but as the second half went on, I was more committed to getting forward, helping my team in every way possible.”
Klinsmann wants to see if Acosta could potentially develop into a strong left back, a position that's long been problematic for the Yanks.
“We have some issues as an outside-back position, on the international level,” Klinsmann said. “We know Kellyn can play left or right, but also as a 6. He impressed in training, he was very calm, and was very mature for his age. And that was his opportunity then, [and] he was rewarded for these three weeks of really good work.”
Tchani, 25, was called in for his Cameroon's World Cup qualifiers in November but had to pull put with injury. His appearance Sunday doesn't prevent him from committing to his native country.
“I definitely enjoyed this moment,” he said. “I think about those things later.”
Klinsmann said earned the opportunity with his 2015 Crew SC campaign.
“With Tony, you have a player that played tremendous last season for Columbus and has a presence, is strong in the air, is physically strong, so he has his own way of playing it,” the US coach said. “But you see Jermaine and Michael [Bradley] kind of locked in in center midfield. It's very difficult for Tony to make a case and to get him also the minutes on the field.”
Kiesewetter, 22, also is preparing for the U-23s' playoff with Colombia for a berth this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He was active from the moment he came on, in the 75th minute. Klinsmann compared him to US and Sunderland winger DeAndre Yedlin.
“Jerome can play up front or can play wide,” Klinsmann said. “I think playing wide, he's very talented, because he has terrific speed. A bit like DeAndre Yedlin, his weapon is speed, and then going at people and not being scared about anything. And within five minutes on the field, I think he had three crosses already, and two of them almost led to goals. That's a good statement for a young player like him.”
Finlay's camp performance won him his start.
“He was all over the place. He had endless energy,” Klinsmann said. “Sometimes you even has to slow him down, say, 'Ethan, don't need to go 200 mph in every moment.' But it shows his character. He want to really give everything he has and wants to prove a point.
“He was a bit nervous, too, in certain moments. Which is normal, since it's your first camp. It was definitely the right step into this group of guys.”
Finlay was focused on what he can do better when he gets his next opportunity.
“I think it took me a little bit of time to settle in, but once I was able to do that, it was much better. I was definitely more happy with it,” Finlay said following his international debut. “I think just me being more decisive, some of the decision making – coming into the final third, coming to a conclusion, whether it be a shot or a cross, could have been better from me.
“But I'm happy with it. It's a start, and we'll take it from there.”