Jurgen Klinsmann backtracked slightly from his comments that the U.S. needed to play "nastier" following Wedneday's friendly.
It was in that gleeful intonation that the U.S. national team coach talked about his team needing to become "nastier" after a 4-1 loss to Brazil. "Maybe we don’t want to hurt people, but that’s what we've got to do," he said. There was mention of stepping on toes.
A few days later, the German clarified his comments, backtracking somewhat on his implications.
"That was not meant to be anything like hurting somebody or doing harm on anybody," Klinsmann said in Toronto ahead of the friendly against Canada Sunday. "No, it's just closing down the spaces earlier, reading the game a bit faster and being ahead of the curve. Hopefully we're going to show that tomorrow night."
Jermaine Jones eared a yellow for scything down Neymar in the Brazil game. The Schalke 04 midfielder was also suspended eight games for literally stepping on toes – stomping intentionally on the previously injured foot of Marco Reus. But that's not necessarily the type of nastiness Klinsmann means.
"What we'd like to see is a little bit more determination, a little bit more closing people down, stealing the ball faster, taking the ball away, and just step[ing] it up in terms of aggression a little bit," Klinsmann said.
The players say they understood what their coach was getting at.
"I think we all knew what he meant by nasty – get a little tougher, have a little bit more bite," Geoff Cameron said. "It wasn't a vicious thing."
Good thing, because the rivalry with Canada is one of the more cordial ones around.
Following the Canada game, the United States will begin World Cup qualifying. But with Klinsmann calling the five-game stretch a mini-tournament, the team's attention is solely on the Canucks currently.
"We are focusing on Canada, trying to get ready for this game," Kyle Beckerman said. "We want to win that game," Klinsmann said of Canada.
Klinsmann will demand his side reach for extra focus and aggression following the Brazil loss, especially considering how well the yellow shirts sliced through the U.S. defense on the counter.
"Canada is always a team that can score a goal out of nothing, let's say with a set play or with a counter-break," he said. "We're aware of that. We're awake."
Rudi Schuller contributed additional reporting from Toronto
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