Klinsmann set for tough Costa Rica rival
Klinsmann criticism creates storm
U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Thursday called player injuries and media criticism two "normal" components to international coaching and said the leadership provided by Tottenham Hotspur forward Clint Dempsey would help the team in its quest to beat Costa Rica for Friday's CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in Denver (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET).
Klinsmann said he put little stock in a recent report critical of his coaching style, which cited unnamed players and coaches.
"On the path to a big tournament like the World Cup, you will always have critical voices in the background, that is just the way it is," Klinsmann told the media on Thursday. "At the end of the day, do you know how to get the job done? It is going to be a trek of 10 games going to Brazil and we have crucial ones coming up, obviously tomorrow against Brazil. When that critical voice is there you listen to them and you move on, no problems."
On Wednesday, Klinsmann chose 30-year-old Dempsey to succeed defender Carlos Bocanegra, citing Dempsey's clutch goal-scoring prowess as one key reason he chose him for squad captain. The U.S. team dropped a key match to Honduras last month in the opener of the CONCACAF Hexagonal tournament. Following Friday's match in Denver, the U.S. will face a steep Mexico challenge at its Estadio Azteca. The U.S. has not missed a World Cup finals berth since 1986.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, is still waiting for a verdict on the health of captain and Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio, who bruised his knee in Wednesday's practice and reportedly did not make the trip with the team to Denver.
With or without Saborio, Dempsey said the U.S. team is taking nothing for granted.
"They have a lot of quality," he said. "But we have to play our football, we have to move the ball quickly, put the amount of pressure. We have to create chances, and with the chances we create we've got to score goals. It is good to have the home field advantage but if you are not winning at home your chances of qualifying don't look good."
About being named captain, Dempsey said it was an honor but also added pressure "to step up."
Michael Bradley, son of Klinsmann's predecessor, Bob Bradley, said the team was focused on Costa Rica.
"We get used to dealing with all sorts of different things, you come in you play a game, the next day everyone is back out of there so you take advantage of these weeks of the time to be together to work on things to spend time together building the team," he said. "Most important is that everybody is ready to step on the field and give everything they have to make sure we come off with three points. We know they are going to come in and make it very difficult for us.
"They have good players, skillful players that can cause us trouble so we are committed to putting everything we have into this game we are not looking down the road," he said.
Santos Laguna forward Herculez Gomez said he enjoyed the must-win situation the team is in.
"This pressure I think it is good for us. When you finally get to World Cup, if you can have in the back of your mind that OK I know what this is about, it just makes you a better player and a better team for it," he said, adding that he was not underestimating Costa Rica. "They showed a lot of mental toughness grinding out that point against Panama. They were down 2-0 and fought and clawed and won their way back so I think that shows a lot about their team. They are going to try complicating things for the locals. They are very technical, very possession-orientated, but I think there's a few things we can do to get at them.