LARNACA, Cyprus – Jurgen Klinsmann has come to rely on his MLS-based players in his two-and-a-half years as the US national team head coach. And the German confessed that he missed the depth MLS players usually provide, as the US were beaten 2-0 by Ukraine in Wednesday’s friendly.
With the new MLS season kicking off on Saturday, Klinsmann spared many of his first team regulars and named a largely European-based roster for the fixture in Cyprus. As a result, the US turned in a disjointed and disappointing performance against a strong Ukrainian side.
“Definitely,” the USMNT head coach replied when asked if his roster was impacted by the lack of MLS-based players. “When you don’t have your main group together, there’s always going to be a bit of a drop of quality. That’s natural. That’s why our job is to zoom in and name 23 guys who are up to the task of the World Cup.”
Only Clint Dempsey joined up with the US team in this camp, following the withdrawal of Michael Bradley through injury, but Klinsmann defended the separation of his team into European- and MLS-based camps.
“It’s still the right way to do it,” he said, “because flying over MLS players, arriving on Monday, playing Wednesday night, flying back on Thursday and playing on Saturday would just be too much.
“We have to make those compromises and we gladly make those compromises because it means we can have a better look at more European-[based] players. And then with the Mexico game [on April 2], we do it the other way round and have a look at the MLS players. It works well.”
With first-choice center-back pairing Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez missing, Klinsmann experimented with Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks in the heart of defense.
“We had to form a couple of new things with this group, starting with a backline that had never really played together, and you could see that in our play,” said Klinsmann, admitting that the experiment ultimately failed.
“But it would be totally wrong now to just criticize what went wrong,” he continued. “We had a lot to contend with; playing a completely new backline, playing some players who are in a difficult moment at club level, not having the same confidence that they usually have. So there’s still a lot of work to be done and to build on.
“But we still got an opportunity to get Brooks back in there and we saw where Gooch is at. Geoff Cameron took the right back role and [Edgar] Castillo flew all the way from Tijuana and played, I thought, a decent game. So it’s understandable that it wasn’t clicking, it would be half a miracle if it was clicking. But we need these type of games.”