STANFORD, Calif. – Thanks to a four-year contract extension signed last December that will keep him on board through the 2018, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has little reason to worry about his job security.
But on Friday he bristled at the idea that his 23-man World Cup roster is a nod to what’s to come in the next World Cup cycle instead of what’s at stake for the US now, even if he included three players 21 years or younger without real international experience.
“This is based on today and what hopefully goes well in the next 7-8 weeks,” Klinsmann told reporters in a press conference at Stanford University. “This had nothing to do with my contract or with the prospective that those young players have for the longer run. It’s our strong feeling that these guys are ready for the World Cup and coming in at any time and doing well.”
Klinsmann’s inclusion of three youngsters – Bayern Munich teenage prospect Julian Green, hulking German-born center back John Brooks and speedy Seattle Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin – led critics to question if Klinsmann had simply included them to get a taste of the World Cup, while veterans like Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson or Michael Parkhurst could have contributed immediately in Brazil.
But Klinsmann insisted this his roster – which has an average age of 27.2 years old, compared to an average of 26 years old for the 2010 roster – isn’t as young as some might perceive.
“If you really go through it, it’s a very experienced roster,” Klinsmann said of the group, which has seven players 24 or younger. “It’s not a young roster. We have a great mixture of guys and some of them have a learning curve ahead of them, there’s no doubt about it – Green, Yedlin and Brooks – but they are ready for that learning curve, and they might surprise some people out there.”
Green and Brooks were two of the most recent German-American recruiting catches for Klinsmann – Brooks debuted last August and Green joined the US ranks in April – but Klinsmann insisted that he never made any promises to either player they would be included on the World Cup roster if they switched allegiances from Germany to the US.
And while he stressed that Green wasn’t picked directly over USMNT mainstay Donovan as a speedy option on the left wing, he did say Green has drawn solid reviews in his brief time among the US players.
“I’m not comparing Julian with Landon, that’s not the discussion,” he said. “Julian is a player that brings certain values to the team that we’ve observed over almost two years. By seeing him and talking to [Bayern Munich head coach] Pep Gaurdiola many times, we see a very special talent coming through….
“He’s very well respected already in this group … We’ve played a lot of games over the past 10 days, a lot of small-sided, very competitive games where you can’t hide. And Julian didn’t hide. Not even one second.”
And while Klinsmann did admit young players like Green, Yedlin and Brooks will likely face a challenge to contain their emotions at the World Cup, he doesn’t feel any additional pressure by including them on the roster over more experienced options he sent home.
“I have to do what I believe is the right thing as of today, and time will tell over the next seven weeks if it was the right move,” he said. “As of today, I’m very strongly convinced this is the right way to go, the right decision we made, and I believe in that. Now time will tell.
“If I’m not getting the job done at the end of the day,” he added, “you know the outcome in the soccer world.”