The U.S. national team coach sat down with Goal USA's Ives Galarcep to discuss a wide range of topics, including Clint Dempsey, Jesse Gonzalez.and Fabian Johnson.
Klinsmann had plenty more to say on issues ranging from Clint Dempsey to American coaches to whether he has any regrets as the coach of the U.S. team. Here is a rundown of some of his responses:
"We definitely have to look for younger players, but he is always in our plans. We have a very open line of communication. We text or call and always have been straightforward with things. I tell him I need to watch some younger players now, so you can have a nice little break, or I ask him, 'Do you want to do the January camp? Yes or no?' It's a lot of work, and he says, 'I'd rather glide smoothly into the season'. It's cool with me.'
"What's important is that we know Clint is there when we need him and Clint is hungry. He's still very ambitious. He looks at the Copa America as well and we can still, at the same time, drive the team right now and look for the next wave and see how far they take it. Before the big decisions are made in June, we see exactly where the youngsters are and, obviously, Clint will be in full swing of his season with the Sounder, so we can make that decision. He's absolutely in our plans."
"I think it's something that we always kind of live with automatically as a country of immigrants. When a decision has to made by dual-citizenship players, then it has to come from them. It is their timing, their heart that they follow and, right now, he says he was just not ready for it, and he knows that he can come in any time later, based on performance obviously.
"I think it's always the right way when the players say 'I feel like this or like that,' because I feel like they are making their decision. I would never want them to feel like they are getting told of doing something. When Jesse makes his final decision to go with either country, then he has to be 100 percent behind it.
"Same with Jordan Morris. Do I go Bundesliga, or do I go MLS? Do I go, first of all, pro after Stanford? Those are all decisions that are really big in their lives and what I want is to have a feeling that they made the decision, not somebody else for them. With Jordan, I feel like he made the decision. We went back and forth over the last couple of months with him. I said just check it out and see how it goes in Bremen and get a feel for it. He came a couple of days ago and said, 'Jurgen, I feel what's best for myself is to take that big step into MLS,' and I said to follow your feeling. As long as they make their decisions, because for the rest of their lives they have to make their decisions. Don't have an agent make your decision or your parents or whoever. That is my hope.
"When Jesse called me and said, 'Coach, I'm just not sure yet,' I said right away, 'Jesse, if you're not sure yet, no big deal. Go to the Mexico U-23 camp that is there.' As long as we have open lines of communication and talk to each other, or you call your coach and your coach calls me, it's not a big deal. As long as we know what's going on, it's not a problem at all.
"The door is totally open (for Gonzalez)."
"I think we still struggle to develop a bigger amount of technically gifted players at a high tempo. We struggle big time developing fullbacks and right now we struggle finding young strikers with a goal-a-game ratio that would help us on the international level. They might help you on the domestic level, but not not the international level. This is a big task for us, and that's why a few years ago I looked at Bobby Wood playing a game at 1860 and I talked to the coaches hoping that there comes a special talent that can give us goals.
"Where is this special talent? Now we have Khiry Shelton and Jerome Kiesewetter. It's all raw talent, but do they give us insurance that they are going to score one goal every second game? It's a big question mark. That transition now, from the generation of Clint, who is part of the older guys there too, to the next wave of younger strikers, that's still a very, very difficult transition because, yes, you want to give the youngsters as many chances as you can, but at the end of the day, can they produce results? Can they produces goals? In terms of developing talent, we still have a long way to go."
"I saw Christian twice with the U-17s in both the December showcases. Highly gifted talent and they tell me in Dortmund that they really like him a lot. Now, they gave him minutes in the first team and that's one week before the Bundesliga starts. That means something. For us, it's really good to see that he's becoming more mature and we will get more feedback. Andi will go out and watch him. He has watched him several times, so we follow him, but it's very promising what Christian is going through right now.
"I think the good side there is that they are playing for clubs that there is much more going on than developing just one talented player. They are not getting that level of attention. Even if I called in Gedion [Zelalem] or Christian, that might be a good story here, but not where they play. They will get put back into place. A Julian Green with Bayern Munich, he will keep playing with the second team, or a Joe Gyau will keep playing with the second team. The same would be with Christian between the first team and the second team or Gedion now, which I think it's good that he's playing now with Rangers just to get playing time. We see them developing without losing ground. That would not be a problem. The biggest problem we had four years ago with our Olympic team experience was that they thought themselves that they were already bigger than they were actually because they were driven by the marketing side so aggressively that they lost ground for a certain amount of time. That cost us London."
"There were never decisions where I personally have something against anybody. I always look at the big context of the team. With the German approach, we say some things sometimes straight out in public in order to give that player the message straight.
"Take Fabian, and Fabian’s decision after that emotional game with Mexico. I then brought him to New York, waited a day, slept on it. Otto Rehagel, a former coach of mine, always says, ‘Jurgen, never make a decision in the locker room or in that evening. Always sleep on it.' I always keep that in the back of my mind, so I waited. Then the next day I told Fabian ‘It’s better if you go home because I think this was wrong. It was wrong. And even if you had gotten injured, you still would have gotten injured for us.’
"Obviously the club covered for him, which was normal, but eventually we talked on the phone and the next time he came in he said, “I see it now differently, I see what you meant now,’ and I said, ‘Awesome, I just wanted you to understand your personal situation in that moment.’"
"I never had the perfect coach, but I learned from every one. Even from coaches I hit the wall with. I remember Otto Baric, a Yugoslavian coach who coached me at Stuttgart. After every game I didn’t score he said, ‘I need two more strikers.’ I was just a young kid and I couldn’t understand why he was saying that and throwing me under the bus every time I don’t score. Well, it was just his way of doing it and he was a damn good coach. But at that time I didn’t get it because I was just a kid. Later on and later on, I had other harsh coaches, and then suddenly I really felt like I could deal with that because when I was 20 I dealt with this other guy.
"You learn from every coach. I’m sure that Benny [Feilhaber], one day when he looks back, hopefully many years still to go as a player, will look back and say, ‘Well this coach gave me this, that coach gave me that, and that coach I didn’t get along with still gave me something.'"
"(I appreciate) whenever there is an opportunity to bring in coaches that want to see or look over my shoulders and see how we do it with the national team program, just to get different approaches or different ideas. It doesn't mean you have to do it that way. It can only help. The more we can get coaches on board that played a very good career, the better. The players look up to coaches that had a certain resume of playing days. They see it when the coaches touch the ball that they know what they're doing.
"We want to encourage the young generation of coaches that come out of their playing times to get their badges and become part of the next wave of coaches because they went through a lot. They can tell them stories. They can tell them how to deal with problems or how to deal with bad moments or disappointments. We want to make sure that we keep as many of the players that step out of the game with us and become the next generation of coaches. This is huge.
"I had coffee with Clint (Mathis) a couple of weeks ago, because he's in Orange County, and said, 'Why don't you come with us to January camp?' He said 'really?' and I said, 'Absolutely, definitely.' I know what happened with the Fire, and the more we can engage the next generation of retired players getting into coaching and putting their stamp on things, the better the development of the game in this country.
"I think guys like Jason [Kreis], who is already a very experienced coach, he went and did extremely well with Real Salt Lake and he had his experience now with New York City Football Club, which nobody can really judge because only he knows what went on there and what decisions were made. It was a tremendous experience that he got, however you want to look at it, and I have the pleasure to work with him. Day One I said, 'Woah Jason, you have it down to the point.' It's really enjoyable, which is important for us as a federation that we have a broader pool of coaches around that enjoy working with the federation.
"Brad Friedel is a tremendous asset for us because of his experience. Oh my gosh, his knowledge, he's outspoken, he's smart. There's no substitute for experience, so having him talk to the 18-year-old kids, it's huge."
"I said to him, 'Test yourself out. Come on in and test yourself out. If you need to skip a session or two, it's no problem.' When you have a group of 22 to 25 players, there will be one banged up that cannot train today but trains tomorrow. What does it matter if there is one more? I said to come on in and experience it and he did. He was doing fine, but then he had a moment where he felt his body lets him down again. I said to take it one day at a time. We are here. Take advantage of us, because you've always been with us, in a certain way. Sooner or later, he will make a decision, whatever that decision will be, but we always gave him the support.
"I'm not the person who would give up too early, but only he knows himself the best. He knows his body. He knows his knees and he has to make that decision. I always told him to stretch it as far as you can. When you stop at one point in time, then going back again is difficult."
"Not really. Not meaning that I didn't make mistakes. We all totally make mistakes, but I look at things like when you make a certain decision, what led to that decision? That specific moment in time, I always believe that the decision was what I felt was the right one. Looking back now, I'm totally cool with every decision I made.
"Even if people might disagree and say, 'Jozy Altidore got injured in the first game.' He looked super healthy and sharp in the send-off games before the World Cup and scored and was on role and the partnership with Clint was outstanding. Then, you should have brought maybe another player. You can run it up and down and say 'What if that guy gets injured?' or 'You should have had that guy,' but the reality is that you did that decision based on believing in everyone that went there. You don't make decisions believing in 'what if that guy doesn't go?' It was all cool in the positive and negatives.
"Always when you look back, you want to have explanations. It doesn't mean that you hide anything or I'm not saying I don't make mistakes. I absolutely do. You have no regrets because at the time, I really thought this was the right decision."