LANDOVER, Md. — His side may be riding the wave of a four-game win streak and they're coming off a scintillating attacking display against Scotland, but US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann is not deluding himself as to what his US players will be required to do against mighty Brazil on Wednesday night: "suffer" and "chase."
"Tomorrow night, it’s down to their dedication and hunger and their willingness to suffer in more than 90 degrees to chase these yellow shirts [Brazil] that are pretty good," Klinsmann quipped during his pregame press conference at FedEx Field on Tuesday afternoon.
The US are under no illusion that it will be time to roll up the sleeves against one of the most technically gifted squads in the world, and one that dominated Euro 2012-bound Denmark early en route to a comfortable 3-1 win last week.
"We have to see how far we can take them into their half — if it’s possible — and see how often we can do that," said Klinsmann, who played and coached against Brazil with the German national team. "And it has a lot to do with discipline and a lot to do with sacrificing yourself and closing down gaps. It’s for us a great benchmark to see how we can deal with a system like [Brazil's]."
Although the rhetoric in recent days has been about attacking, goal-scoring, intricate passing and getting numbers forward in the wake of the 5-1 win against Scotland on Saturday night, even the players are talking about a return to basics against Brazil: good old-fashioned, blue-collar soccer that has defined US teams in the past.
"In the Confederations Cup [in 2009] you saw we countered their counter," said US goalkeeper Tim Howard. "We defended well, hit them on the break and on that night we scored a few goals on the counterattack. So you have to be disciplined against a team who likes to pick their spots and likes to break on you. And that’s one thing that the US team is: very disciplined and hard-working. That’s our foundation and the basis for how we want to play and that will stand us in good stead."
If the US are going to get a result against Brazil they may have to do it without two of their stars — Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore — at least when it comes to the starting XI. Although Klinsmann wouldn't definitively rule them out of the starting lineup, he did state they were playing catch-up to the rest of the group in terms of fitness and familiarity.
In the post-practice media mixed zone, Dempsey indicated that he and Altidore stayed behind to do some extra fitness work in the hope of making up the ground, but he still confirmed he is not fit enough to play a full 90 minutes.
And the US will need all the fitness they can use against Brazil. That's just the type of game it's going to be.
"We need to match up in the best possible way to give them a real fight tomorrow night," Klinsmann said. "We want the best players on the field, the best guys capable of giving [Brazil] a real fight."
Klinsmann & Co. ready for Brazil