The U.S. boss made his first public comments since Clint Dempsey's return to MLS, saying it is exciting for everyone in the USA but that his captain must maintain his high level.
Klinsmann, who has not been shy about expressing his wish for his players to be tested at the highest level possible while pushing themselves out of their own comfort zones, issued his remarks on U.S. Soccer's official website following the release of his roster for Wednesday's friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo.
“It’s been a huge week. Having Clint back in the United States and joining MLS is big and I think everyone in the U.S. is excited about the news," Klinsmann said. "I am thrilled for MLS, because you have an outstanding player now hopefully filling more stadiums and getting even more kids and people excited about the game."
Dempsey made his debut for the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night, coming on as a 34th-minute substitute following an injury to Obafemi Martins, and Klinsmann said he sees Dempsey having a challenge in helping raise MLS to another level while also maintaining his high level of play. He scored 12 goals across all competitions in his one season at Tottenham, following a 23-goal campaign at Fulham in 2011-12.
"For Clint it’s a challenge, coming from one of the top leagues in the world, coming back to the U.S. and being back in MLS where we still have to work on a lot of things," Klinsmann said. "Clint himself has set the highest benchmark for himself over the last year. He became our captain, and he has to keep that benchmark and he knows that. I told him that over the last two years that he’s got to go for the next level."
Coming back to MLS has previously been perceived as a step backward, but with the league contributing key players to the U.S. national team pool, such as Dempsey's teammates Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Clarence Goodson, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, that perception has started to wane.
As long as Dempsey's quality of play on the international level does not wane as well, it appears that Klinsmann will be just fine with his captain's career move, even though it may not necessarily jive with his personal wishes for his players.
"Obviously we want the best Clint Dempsey ever, and that’s what we’re going to push him toward as we begin to look toward Brazil," Klinsmann said. "He has set a high standard for himself, and it’s up to us coaches to make sure he keeps that high standard.”