Klinsmann: U.S. has 'an exciting group of players emerging' in Pulisic, Adams, Sargent
Former U.S. men's national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann said there is "an exciting group of players emerging" for the U.S., and that he hopes manager Gregg Berhalter is given a chance to grow the program.
Speaking to ESPN's Herculez Gomez in the wake of ESPN securing the U.S. broadcast rights to the Bundesliga, Klinsmann stated that he likes what he sees from the current crop of players, several of whom are playing in Europe.
"You know you look at Tyler Adams, you look at obviously Christian Pulisic," Klinsmann said. "You have several players, Josh Sargent, to come out of the Tab Ramos U-20 group over the last few years, who has done tremendously well with the U-20s. So when you have a U-20 national team that now three times went to the final eight of a World Cup, that means that you have quality, you have quality young players.
"So now you have got to feed those young players into the next stage of their careers. So now you have a midfield with Weston McKennie, with Adams, with Pulisic, with Sargent up front. They promise a lot of quality. Younger players coming through and they are trying their best in whatever leagues they are playing. So there is some potential there. Now in order to prepare that group of players then, for a next World Cup, this is a bigger-picture discussion that you need to have because they need the best competition available."
As for Berhalter, Klinsmann said that his impression of the U.S. manager is "very positive," although he needs time to build the current side.
"You wish that he is given a chance to make the players grow," Klinsmann said about Berhalter. "I think he saw things from different perspectives. He played in Europe as well. So he knows a little bit about the European approach to things. He knows obviously how things work in the U.S. He needs time to bring in his ideas and make things grow. At the end of the day, you need the competition and the competition is CONCACAF. So it's a big task for Gregg but I'm positive that he is doing well."
Klinsmann also touched on the failed effort to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which started under his watch. Overall, Klinsmann called his five-year tenure with the U.S. "an awesome time" and that he was "honored" to lead the U.S. program. But he was fired two games into the final round Hexagonal, and replaced by Bruce Arena, after which the Americans ultimately fell short in their bid to make it to Russia.
"Well what went wrong, I was not in charge anymore, so obviously when you don't qualify for a World Cup a lot of things went wrong," he said.
He added: "You were not prepared for finishing things off. You were qualified 99 percent, so whatever reason it went wrong there with the entire environment, it went wrong and nobody would expect that the other two games go in the same direction."
Klinsmann said that he was aware that then-United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati was maneuvering to replace him with Arena, as Arena claimed in a book. The change was delayed when then USSF Secretary General Dan Flynn had to undergo a heart transplant, but eventually took place.
"I knew that, yeah," he said. "It doesn't really matter who at the end of the day leads the program. I think the most important thing is whatever job you are given, you have to get the job done. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. They didn't qualify for the World Cup in Russia, which is very, very sad. Obviously.
"I think the bigger picture in this whole thing is how can you improve the region by itself. Mexico, Costa Rica, the United States: How could they end up possibly in a final four in a World Cup? Because that should be the goal. I mean especially for Mexico, which is completely soccer crazy driven. When it just stays within that region, you aren't going to reach those goals."