Pretty soon, Jurgen Klinsmann will name his team for the September friendlies. A Sept. 2 game v. Costa Rica on American soil will be followed by a September 6 game against Belgium in Belgium.
I believe that Klinsmann’s approach to talent identification and national squad development will be vastly different from, and superior to, that of previous coach Bob Bradley. It’s very early on, but Klinsmann has already made clear that he expects everyone, even the European-based players, in training camp for the run-up to international fixtures.
"Certainly our goal is to have them (the European-based players) always with us. No exceptions," Klinsmann stated in the post-match interview from the US-Mexico game last month. “Because if they are not flying to the US [but] if there are other European players flying to South America and play for those countries, there is no difference. I made that clear to the players that we expect them in camp every time because they have to defend or fight for their spot."
Bradley tended to treat his European players, and indeed all of his veterans, a little more tenderly. Klinsmann obviously will not, and it also does not appear that anyone has a lock on a starting position. So by eliminating the feeling of entitlement, Klinsmann just made training camp a lot more competitive, which might mitigate the irritating tendency of the US squad to start slowly and give up an early goal. If the coach requires everyone to be ready to go at the first whistle in practice, then readiness at game time should improve too.
Between Klinsmann’s public statements and his coaching decisions in the Mexico game, there is a glimpse of a three-pronged strategy in team development. Obviously, he is going to take the best that MLS has to offer and witness the contributions of Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers against Mexico. He has clearly indicated that he wants to take advantage of Mexican- and Central American-influenced players in order to bring creativity into a side that lacks it. Juan Agudelo and Jose Torres are great examples.
And finally, I think he is planning to plumb the depths of the German leagues, which would only be natural given his experience there. Timmy Chandler is going to get ample opportunity to prove himself.
Klinsmann will cast his net wide, since it is very early in the process and he wants a look at absolutely anyone with the ability to contribute, even if they are longer-term projects. And as he displayed in the Mexico game, he is willing to sacrifice experience in order to put younger players with speed and more creativity on the field.
So with that in mind, here are my predictions for the roster for the upcoming friendlies.