One win in last nine? USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann explains reasons behind rough patch

Jurgen Klinsmann, US national team (Nov. 18, 2014)

CARSON, Calif. -- The US national team has won just one of its past nine games, dating to the group stage in last summer's World Cup, and is winless in its last five outings after Chile rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Yanks last week.

Fitness, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann noted following Wednesday's defeat in Rancagua, is an issue, just one among many, and according to him it points to the evolution of the USA as a soccer nation.

“In many different ways, [the results are] explainable. The tension drops after the World Cup. I think all of the teams go through that, but I think the more experienced teams, the teams that have far more peer pressure in their environment, they maybe allow themselves to drop 10 or 20 percent and not 30 or 50 percent. That is the difference to what we deal with [in] the aftermath of the World Cup in Brazil.”

That drop-off has shown up in a series of poor second halves to matches, with the US conceding late goals in October draws with Ecuador and Honduras, November defeats to Colombia and Ireland, and when Chile tallied twice in the final 25 minutes as the Americans wasted another early lead.

Klinsmann believes education is paramount, and he's working to ensure his pool understands what they need to do with their club teams and during the offseason.

“It's an educational topic we try to talk them through. You've got to understand again to take these things in your own hands, and whatever you lack in that moment, when these phases happen, that you have to work yourself back: 'OK, I understand that I'm not where I should be now ... for sure I'm behind now, so I've got to get myself back into pole position,' and that's what they're going through right now. They've lost their pole position because [the World Cup] was a lot for them. [And] our players are not yet in an environment where they actually get put into line right away.”

The current fitness issue is mostly about players coming off of offseason breaks and needing to build fitness, according to Klinsmann. The January camp always has been seen as something of a preseason gathering, but Klinsmann said the friendlies with Chile and Panama on Sunday (4 pm ET, ESPN and UniMas) redefine it as something more. He'd like to see them further along with their fitness when they arrive in camp.

“It's difficult for me now to get them out of vacation. Some of them played their last game in October. In October!” he said. “I want to help them get back into shape, get back into rhythm, but, oh, by the way, we're going to play [two friendlies]. So some learned over time and prepared themselves really well, and some don't have that knowledge yet.

“They don't have that 'oh, OK, at the beginning of December, go to Athletes' Performance in Phoenix and get myself fit.' That culture we don't have yet. What the other sports are doing really well, they use their preparation for preseason, four to six weeks prior to going into preseason with their NBA team, NFL team of whatever, they go to these fitness institutes and they get themselves fit.”

Klinsmann says he and his staff give the players an outline they should follow, “but the culture is not there. They've got all the material. They should have done that [work] twice a day, but reality is still different. Reality is, education-wise, we are not there yet, that they understand, 'Oh, I've got to do this, I've got to do that.' It's a lot to discuss. It's fine. It's just where we are right now, and we want to keep improving.”