By Michael Lewis
CHICAGO – United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is not changing the way he prepares his team despite being suspended from Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final against Panama. The details, after all, are addressed with the players in advance of the bus pulling into the stadium parking lot on gameday.
“Most of the work will be done once we arrive here at the stadium,” said the former Germany player and manager prior to Saturday’s training session at Soldier Field.” So we will do our pre-game talk in the hotel. We will talk through certain elements of the game this afternoon on the training field tonight in a meeting about Panama. All the work to prepare these guys the best way possible will be done once the team arrives here at the stadium."
At the pre-match press conference, Klinsmann stated that in his place assistant coaches Andreas Herzog and Martin Vasquez will run the show from the technical area.
“They're both ambitious enough to become a head coach someday,” said Klinsmann, who was dismissed from the U.S.'s 3-1 semifinal win over Honduras on Wednesday. “I’m sure that we’re going to get this job done.”
The Americans (5-0-0) will face a difficult Panamanian side, one that has demonstrated it can beat CONCACAF’s best, especially after a pair of 2-1 wins over Mexico in an 18-day span.
“I'm not too surprised they're there,” said U.S. star Landon Donovan, who shares the tournament scoring lead with team mate Chris Wondolowski and Panama’s Gabriel Torres at five goals each. “They're a very talented team. Physically, they're very gifted. And they've had what a lot of teams in this tournament haven't had, they've had a lot of guys who have played together for a while and know each other very well. There's a reason why they've gotten to this point.”
Klinsmann, who has been a member of a World Cup championship team (1990) and earned a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics, wants his players to earn winners’ medals.
“We want to win this thing badly,” he said. “I've said that from the beginning on. We want to keep growing. This is a group that went through a lot of pain through the last four weeks. They have hard and dedicated work. You want them to be rewarded.”
The United States, which has four Gold Cup titles to its credit, is looking to the lift the trophy for the first time since 2007, when it defeated Mexico, 2-1, also in Chicago.