USMNT: Jurgen Klinsmann says he will call in MLS Cup Playoff participants for European friendlies
Just two days after an SI.com report suggested that he would not do so in order to limit wear and tear on the players in question, Jurgen Klinsmann on Wednesday expressed his intention to call in US national teamers still involved in the MLS Cup Playoffs for this month's European friendlies against Scotland and Austria.
Speaking via a Q&A on U.S. Soccer's website, Klinsmann made several statements to that effect in his wide-ranging conversation about the friendlies, set for Nov. 15 and 19 in Glasgow and Vienna, respectively. And he subtly upped the ante even further by suggesting that participation in the matches will help him and his staff see which players are “really 1,000 percent dedicated” to the program.
“Because MLS scheduled their playoffs with respect to our FIFA fixture dates, it’s basically working hand-in-hand,” said the German-American boss in his latest expression of approval for the league's postseason calendar. “We’re going to bring the best players into Scotland and Austria no matter where they play. No matter if they play like Michael Bradley in Italy or the guys in the [English] Premier League, the Bundesliga or the guys in Liga MX in Mexico and MLS.
“Because of MLS creating that window between their playoff games, that helps make our two games really exciting.”
While clubs are required by FIFA statutes to release their players for matches during international windows like the one which begins next week, coaches of the four teams taking part in the MLS Conference Championships may be less than thrilled to see their players called away for a transatlantic trip at one of the most pivotal junctures of the season.
Klinsmann's most recent roster included players from the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.
“We are trying to bring in the strongest group possible, so we follow all the games happening right now, if it’s in Europe or especially if it’s here in MLS with the playoff games,” said Klinsmann. “It always helps when they come in every game and train together. We see so many things in training and in games.
"So for us, in the few opportunities we have to see them directly together, we can send out specific messages, and we can discuss with a lot of players – especially players from MLS and Liga MX – what their offseason should look like after the playoffs are done.
“Having everybody on board, getting everybody together and having those meetings are very crucial to us because we build chemistry for the World Cup. We want to see who’s really 1,000 percent dedicated to everything we do.”
The USMNT boss left no doubt that he sees the physical and mental strain that the MLS postseason exerts on participants. In fact, he actually sounds more eager to call those particular players in this month, to take advantage of their match sharpness.
“It’s extremely competitive. It’s tough. It’s physical because now everything is at stake for those teams,” he said of the playoffs. “When you want to raise the tempo, when you want to raise the bar, you see that you make more mistakes. The higher the tempo, the more you see technical deficiencies, tactical deficiencies, so you start to struggle. This is good! It’s good because at the end of the day what leads you toward the international game is the tempo, the speed of the game.
“If you’re the [USMNT] coach, it’s where you want to see your national team players stepping it up. You want them to put their stamp on the game. ... This is big-time now.”