As the US men's national team prep for a pair of friendlies in Europe against Scotland (Friday, 3 pm ET, ESPN2, UniMas) and Austria (Nov. 19, 2:45 pm ET, NBCSN, UniMas), head coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed his hope to evaluate players with an eye on the FIFA World Cup in Brazil next June while simultaneously keeping up the US' run of good form.
"We want to use these two friendlies to see a lot about our players," Klinsmann said in a Q&A with USSoccer.com. "The main goal is to do well and beat both Scotland and Austria, but also to reconnect with certain players to see where they’re at.
“Also, we’re keeping in mind evaluating everyone involved," he added. "We had a close look at the results in MLS for the playoffs. I think number-wise that worked out fine for us. ... The main objective is getting results and evaluating the players six, seven months prior to the World Cup. ... These are a very valuable 10-11 days together with a group of 23 players that have a good chance of going to the World Cup.”
Clint Dempsey has been hampered by injuries since returning stateside to suit up with the Seattle Sounders. Despite missing time with the national team throughout the year, Klinsmann is happy for the team captain's return and is confident he'll be back to his usual form very soon.
“We are excited to have Clint back. He’s our captain. It was a huge transition for him going back into MLS, struggling with injuries, not having had a preseason with Seattle," Klinsmann said. "He’s working his way back to full fitness and sharpness, and he looks good for us.
"The results didn’t work out the way he wanted them to be in Seattle, but we could see that he, step by step, is getting back in a rhythm, attacking the game and looking good. We’re excited to have him back and see him in our group again."
His feelings about emerging striker Jozy Altidore also are evident, especially with his string of great play this past summer in World Cup qualifiers. "He really matured a lot over the last year and deserves a huge compliment."
Four players who didn't make the roster due to injuries -- Brad Guzan, Landon Donovan, Edgar Castillo and Clarence Goodson -- opens the door for players who made the trip with the squad in their place.
“Every time someone is missing because of an injury, it’s a huge opportunity for the next one to come in and get that shot. If an Edgar Castillo can’t come, then suddenly Eric Lichaj has an opportunity to show where he’s at," he said. "... We love these kinds of situations because it gives a special kind of energy to the group because it’s full of guys that want to prove something."
When Klinsmann was asked to explain the development of the team in his time at the helm, he made it clear to players what had to be done, and a transformation is becoming more transparent as the World Cup nears.
"It’s all about competition, it’s all about performance. It’s not about how many caps you played in the past, what you did in the past, it’s always about the moment, the present and the future," he said. "They came quite a long way ... This is all a process we’re going through, but it’s coming along.”