FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The US national team can punch their ticket to the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a win over Haiti on Friday night (8:30 pm ET, FOX Sports 1/UniMás/UDN in US, Sportsnet World in Canada) and Jurgen Klinsmann may be looking down the line on his roster to see who might be capable of sticking around for the long haul.
While the US coach expects a challenge similar to what they faced against Honduras on Tuesday in a 2-1 win, he also sounded like a man with a vision past the group stage, which, should they advance, will open up the opportunity for roster moves.
While Klinsmann admits that there is plenty of in-house competition for playing time on matchday, there is also the motivation for players to keep their spot on the roster itself once the knockout stage arrives.
“There’s a tricky situation that especially now in the Gold Cup you play every three days the group games which is a very, very short turnaround for every team,” Klinsmann said at his press conference on Thursday evening. “We think through that. We also still see a lot of competition going on in our own team. There are quite a lot of fifty-fifty situations going on the table.
“There’s also the situation that theoretically every team can switch players after the group stage. The players know as well. So if you’re [the 23rd player on the roster] now, you don’t want to lose anything. You want to be here on the 26th of July in Philadelphia. This kind of all gives it more spice and hopefully there’s a lot of spice here tomorrow night.”
Heading into Friday’s tilt, Haiti actually hold a 5-6-5 advantage over the United States all-time in head-to-head matches.
For Klinsmann, the Haitian roster is propped up with players who have gained experience in international markets and he wants to make sure that his group does not get surprised, as Panama did in allowing a late goal that leveled their contest against the Haitians on Tuesday.
“It’s a team full of individual quality if you look at their roster and the places that they’ve played, a lot of them played in Europe,” said Klinsmann. “I think Panama got that lesson and we have to make sure we’re not getting caught on the wrong foot here.”
In order to ensure that the US do not succumb to what Panama did, it may mean a good hard look at some specific players deep on Klinsmann’s roster.
“You want to kind of give everyone that is here the feeling that we count on you,” said Klinsmann. “They have the head start. In the best scenario everybody stays healthy, actually everybody gets even fitter with every game and every training session, and we stay the same 23.
"If we see that we clearly could have an edge with somebody coming in that is better than the one that is here right now, than we will make that switch as well.”
But the priority to the USMNT boss remains the upcoming game.
“Our expectation is to go through and we want to go through the fastest way possible with three points tomorrow night to be already in quarterfinals,” said Klinsmann.