Ahead of the Copa America Centenario, Jurgen Klinsmann decided to make it clear to the young talent in the United States Men’s National Team that in his eyes, the collective unit needs to seriously improve.
There have been many young players making a push for a spot in the starting squad, but clearly the U.S. manager is looking for much, much more.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Klinsmann was asked how the younger talent in the U.S. pool was doing. “We hope that some would have done a lot better, we hope that some of the younger ones would have made stronger players in their club teams,” Klinsmann said. “We have too many talents sitting on benches in every league. They are sitting on benches in Mexico, in European leagues, in MLS teams. A lot of our younger players struggle to understand that it takes a lot more work and determination and aggressiveness to really make it to become a consistent, driven professional.”
The German has long driven home the mantra that club performances translate directly to national team performance, and that playing time is a big factor in that.
“That talent is not there yet when it comes to the national team, when it gets to big tournaments, when it gets serious,” he said. “Whatever path they took the last two years, we’ve got to make it clear to them you’ve got to do more. You’ve got to live differently, got to sleep differently, feed yourself differently. You’ve got to train longer, train extra sessions. You’ve got to become physically stronger, got to be nastier in training sessions. You’ve got to become a man.”
Later, Klinsmann was specifically asked about 19-year-old Arsenal product Gedion Zelalem. The Berlin-born midfielder had been in the USMNT picture, touted as a major young talent, but has been heard from little since making a loan move to Rangers. “We can tell that this kid has the talent to go very far,” Klinsmann said. “But this is just the first question. Now there are 10 more questions. Is he strong enough? Is he explosive enough? is he aware enough of whatever happens around him? What about his vision? What about his lifestyle? There are so many questions. In the next couple of years we see if the specific talent will break through. He has to go through that process.”
Clearly, the rise of 17-year-old Christian Pulisic, the maturation of DeAndre Yedlin, and the growth of Jordan Morris – left off the Copa America squad after his move to Seattle Sounders – hasn’t been enough to satisfy Klinsmann.
Finally, Klinsmann was asked about the reliance on players over 30 such as Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones, the U.S. manager continued to beat the drum. “Too many of the young players are stagnant at the moment or losing a year or two. That worries us. If it’s Rubio Rubin, or Julian Green still on the second team, or Emerson Hyndman. The years where we lose a lot of our future are between 18 and 22. This is the discussion probably Bruce Arena had before, Bob Bradley had before and Bora Milotunovic had before. How can we get so many young boys who are driven to take their careers in their own hands and [not] to just trust their talent?”