Team USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann cites lessons learned at World Cup
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SAO PAULO, Brazil - Even with the United States defying pundits by surviving the Group of Death, the Americans still were reminded how far they still have to chase the game to reach the level of soccer's elite at the World Cup.
That was never more evident in the 1-0 Group G defeat to Germany and the 2-1 extra-time elimination loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 Tuesday.
"We get a lot of lessons from a World Cup like this," Klinsmann said Wednesday at a press conference at Sao Paulo FC.
He talked about how it's not about showing up every four years, but for the players to put in the right preparation in the 48 months leading up to the competition. He said many American players might play games only once a week, especially in Major League Soccer, whereas the World Cup demands peak performance twice a week.
"You play every four or five days," Klinsmann said. "You have to be at the top of your game in the tournament. That is really demanding. It is about consistency, living it the right way. It's about keeping the highest tempo, keeping the highest concentration, not giving away anything."
Klinsmann will start searching for younger players for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with several current starters at 32 years old, including midfielders Jermaine Jones, considered the best player at this Cup, Kyle Beckerman and defender DaMarcus Beasley.
Captain Clint Dempsey, 31, would be considered too old to be an effective starter at striker at the next Cup. Tim Howard is 35, but goalkeepers have played at a high level late into their thirties and even their forties.
But Klinsmann isn't necessarily about to jettison the veterans, not with the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2015 and a special edition Copa America in the USA in 2016.
"There is no, 'Thank you and bye,'" he said. "It is always defined by performance. It is always defined by what you bring to the table. A good thing about going in the next year we will have the opportunity to see younger players . . . and give them time to show what they can do right now."
Klinsmann admitted that Jozy Altidore (left hamstring strain) wasn't ready to play against Belgium, though he included the striker on his bench.
He also admitted Altidore's absence forced him to change his tactics after the striker went down with a strained hamstring in the 2-1 win over Ghana in the opener.
Now it's on to the next cycle of national team competitions and taking along the lessons. "Clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you," Klinsmann said.