SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Respect and coincidence: Two aspects surrounding Levi’s Stadium, where the US national team will face Colombia on Friday (9 pm ET, FS1, Univision).
“I do too have so much respect for Jurgen,” Pekerman said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday afternoon. “We know each other for a long time and he's done a tremendous job before with Germany, where he lead the process that later won the World Cup [in Brazil].”
Both managers had some successful stints with their own national teams prior to taking over their current positions. Klinsmann led Germany to a semifinal run in the 2006 World Cup, while Pekerman won three U-20 World Cups with Argentina.
They faced each other in the 2006 World Cup quarterfinal match when Klinsmann’s Germany defeated Pekerman’s Argentina senior squad in penalty kicks, following a 1-1 draw in Berlin. After the tournament, each left his national team panorama to coach at the club level, with less than desirable results.
The parallel coaching tracks didn’t stop there, as both were considered for the US national team head coach position in late 2006, but neither one moved on with the offer. Klinsmann would accept the position five years later, while Pekerman took over Colombia in 2012.
“We have faced each other numerous times and we talk to each other, even personally outside of any competition,” confessed Pekerman on Thursday's press conference. “He's got a lot of experience and rich concepts, which I'm sure he's passing on to the United States [national team] players.”
Fast forward to 2016 where they will both be at the head of the two national teams to open Copa América Centenario, and they are – coincidentally again -- leading a new crop of players with their respective sides.
“[Klinsmann and the USMNT] know who Colombia is, but they're going to go out there to win it tomorrow,” said Pekerman. “It's a team that, just like us, has players with a lot of experience and some young guys that have come up and are doing well in their local clubs.”
While the USMNT balances a good blend of youth and experience, Colombia will field a similar balance when both teams step out into the field on Friday.
Nine of the 23 players Klinsmann brought to Copa América are 25 years or younger, down to Christian Pulisic who is the youngest player in the competition at 17. On the other hand, Colombia’s squad boasts an average age of 25.6, the third youngest in the tournament.