‘‘I really want them to have the feeling that they’re growing individually, and eventually the group will grow as well,’’ Klinsmann said. ‘‘Just believe in your own path and build up your confidence towards the goal that we have to compete with the best in the world. They know that they have to challenge themselves in order to go eye to eye with more big nations.’’
Jozy Altidore has been a particular enigma. He has goals for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, a record for an American in a European season. But he has not scored for the national team — not counting penalty kicks — since July 2011. Klinsmann even dropped Altidore from a pair of qualifiers last fall.
‘‘In his stage where he is right now, 23 years of age, I wasn’t even national team at that point,’’ Klinsmann said, describing Altidore as ‘‘a young player coming through, developing, making mistakes, correcting’’ and predicting ‘‘eventually he will score also the goals for us.’’
Klinsmann said he favored the open, attacking soccer displayed by his German team, where assistant Joachim Loew was in charge of tactics. So far, the Americans have hunkered down for long stretches in road qualifiers.
‘‘There is a little bit of a wrong picture about what is a defensive and what is an attacking midfielder. A lot of people see Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones as defensive midfielders. I don’t see them as defensive midfielders. I see them as going both directions with a lot of skill, with a lot of potential,’’ Klinsmann said. ‘‘Eventually, we would like to shift the game a bit higher up. But again, as we discussed before, it depends on the opponent.’’
Change, he says, takes time. While he says he hasn’t given it any thought yet, he adds part of the reason he might want to stay for another cycle is to give his management team time to make an impact.
‘‘I really enjoy it — the work,’’ he said. ‘‘It took us awhile to build the staff behind the team. And you feel also responsible for all the people that work alongside so, so you want to hopefully give them a little bit of a longer picture there, too.’’
World Cup results are how U.S. coaches are viewed. First-round elimination in 1998 left Steve Sampson a failure in the eyes of many. A run to the 2002 quarterfinals made Arena a shining success, tarnished only slightly by first-round elimination in 2006. Bradley’s term was mixed — he reached the second round in 2010 with an aging back line, but expectations have risen and fans wanted more.
‘‘We still have a long way to go with qualifying and hopefully then our participation in Brazil,’’ Gulati said. ‘‘While results are critical for any national team coach and our focus is on Brazil, it’s never too early to think about long-term personnel issues. Jurgen and I are in the same place on this topic.’’