Jurgen Klinsmann has called on his United States players to toughen their mental approach as he begins to plot the long road towards the 2018 World Cup.
Klinsmann and the United States exited Brazil 2014 on Tuesday after losing 2-1 to Belgium in a thrilling last 16 game which exploded into life during extra-time.
The Americans, who had confounded pre-tournament predictions by qualifying from a group which also contained Germany, Portugal and Ghana, ran Belgium to the wire and almost equalised as they fought back from 2-0 down.
While Klinsmann was delighted with his team’s performance, the former German international wasted no time in looking forward to the challenges ahead.
A busy schedule sees the US play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup regional tournament next year before a 2016 which includes the Centennial Copa America, staged in the United States, and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Beyond those events looms the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which Klinsmann said he plans to stick around for.
But before then, Klinsmann wants to see his team adopt a harder mental edge.
While basking in the success of their Brazilian campaign, Klinsmann believes his players are guilty of showing too much respect to opponents.
“We are still in the process of learning to take our game to the opponent,” he said. “No matter what their name is, we cannot just wait too long to start our game.
“I think there is a little bit too much respect when it comes to the big stage – why not play them eye-to-eye? I don’t know how many years that takes to change but it’s something we have to go through. The players have got to realise they have to take it to the opponent.”
Klinsmann is confident however that the foundations have been laid.
The future, as represented by teenagers such as Julian Green, who scored against Belgium, is bright, says Klinsmann.
“We will find ways to introduce new young players and develop our program to develop the game at every level,” he said.
“I think we’ve done a lot of work. We’re excited about building a next Olympic team cycle which is huge for us going to Rio de Janeiro in two years (for the Olympics).”
The burgeoning popularity of football in the US, reflected in record television viewing figures and huge crowds at World Cup viewing events, also augurs well, Klinsmann believes.
“The way the people the fans embraced their team and the sport over the last couple of years will only continue to grow, especially with a league which is getting stronger and stronger, and especially with the competitions we have ahead of ourselves,” Klinsmann said. continued…