Jurgen Klinsmann is pleased with his back line but remains disappointed with the United States' crop of young goalkeepers, and plans to continue with the veteran duo of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, perhaps even platooning them in the starting role as he sees fit.
That was one of several interesting notes from the US national team coach – on a range of topics – as he held his latest question-and-answer session with fans via live Facebook video on Sunday afternoon ahead of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad & Tobago in Jacksonville, Florida (8 pm ET; FS1, UniMás, UDN).
“I think we are looking good in our defensive side over the last couple of months, also throughout the Copa America, except maybe the Argentina [semifinal] game, as you guys remember,” said Klinsmann when asked about his defensive corps. “They played a tremendous tournament.
“We have a lot of very good center backs at the moment in the senior national team. That is a good thing for us. Where we always have to find solutions is obviously on the wings. Here and there we rotate Fabian Johnson from the left to the right, back to the left. I think Kellyn Acosta, in our opinion, coaches' opinion, he played a very good game [at left back] in St. Vincent. He's a player that is just growing, getting more mature. He's versatile, he can play in midfield as well, as he does usually with FC Dallas. So it's good to see that our back line gives us options.”
The USMNT boss will have to make significant changes to the back four that shut out St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Friday. Right back DeAndre Yedlin returned to his new club Newcastle United on Sunday morning after earning a yellow card that leaves him suspended for Tuesday's clash, while center back Matt Besler flew home to spend time with his wife and first child, who was born on Friday.
Fans may not see any significant changes in goal any time soon, however. On Sunday Klinsmann laid down his latest pointed criticism of the young crop of US 'keepers like Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson and David Bingham.
“We are obviously blessed with Brad Guzan and Tim Howard,” he said. “As long as the younger ones are not stepping it up even more and pushing them – kind of pushing them out, basically – these two will defend their spots. And in order to have both always available and in good spirit, here and there we can rotate.
“It's not a big problem. They get along. So if one game is Brad Guzan playing and the next one is Tim Howard, it's not a big problem. They handle that very, very professionally. And then we keep waiting. We keep waiting for the next generation of goalkeepers to step it up and to challenge these two very experienced ones.”
Though Guzan started throughout most of the Copa America, Klinsmann announced last week that the two would alternate in these qualifiers. Howard is set to guard the pipes on Tuesday after Guzan got the nod Friday.
Klinsmann also addressed matters like US youth development, the fortunes of Yanks plying their trade abroad and the recent displays of Sacha Kljestan and Christian Pulisic. Here are a few of his notable statements:
On player development: “Youth development in the United States is a very, very different topic than in every other country in the world. Because of the school system, because of the situation that you get, through a sport, to a prestigious or a good university and maybe to a scholarship, sports is driven very, very differently to Latin America and especially Europe … it's a huge country so we're trying as hard as we can to speed up through certain developments. You saw over the last years the growth of the academy system in the United States. Also the fact that Major League Soccer is now investing heavily into youth development, building their own academies, obviously eventually being the lead academies in the country, because that's how it works in every other country in the world. There's a lot of work to get done, still, but I think we're making big, big progress.”
On the return of captain Michael Bradley, who was suspended for Friday's match: “It means a lot to us because obviously Michael is the captain. His experience and his drive is really important. The job is still not done. So we need Michael here on Tuesday night in Jacksonville to make sure that everybody's on board, everybody is tuned in and 100 percent focused to go with the right aggressiveness and determination into this game against Trinidad & Tobago.”
On the prospects of young US internationals abroad like Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers: “We are in contact with our players, we try to help them as much as we can. At the end of the day, they need to be hungry, determined, nasty, and they need to be ready to fight their fights in their club teams and sooner or later break through, like the example maybe right now of Lynden Gooch at Sunderland. He found a way to fight through and now he has to find a way to keep his spot.”