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World Cup 2014: US coach Klinsmann opts for youth, international experience

USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States speaks to the media at Estadio das Dunas on June 15, 2014 in Natal, Brazil.

This piece is part of KPCC's occasional series on the World Cup in Los Angeles, which takes a look at the diverse communities of Southern California through the lens of their love for their country's teams. Let us know whom you're rooting for in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter (@KPCC).

If you tune in to see the U.S. play Ghana today, you may be watching more than just an opening game: you could be getting a glimpse at the future of U.S. soccer.

You won’t see all-time top scorer Landon Donovan in his number 10 jersey. The 32-year-old former captain was cut from the team in May. What you will see are guys you’ve probably never heard of: seven players are under the age of 25 and seven were either born or spent much of their lives abroad, mostly in Europe.

That’s by the design of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Named coach in 2011, he’s spent the past three years building this team.

"I’m very excited to lead the national team because of the moment we’re going through now all together, fans, players coaches," said Klinsmann after a practice game against Azerbaijan in May in San Francisco.

"Ten, fifteen years ago we didn’t have any soccer channels, now we have five, six channels showing non-stop soccer. Obviously, social media changes, as well. It’s so much going on."

Klinsmann is set to coach through 2018, the date of the next World Cup in Russia. That gives him the rare chance as a national coach to plan long-term.

"He’s definitely building for the future," said Steve Han who covers soccer for KoreAm Journal and Goal.com.

"One thing he’s trying to do is incorporate more of an international, European-style of soccer into the current American soccer and what better way than to do that than to bring in players that have experience playing abroad."

Players with strong ties abroad include Aron Johannsson of Iceland, Mikkel "Mix" Diskerud of Norway, and from Germany, Timmy Chandler, Jermaine Jones, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and 19-year-old Julian Green.

Klinsmann made a name for himself as a stand-out striker for Germany’s national team, leading them to win the World Cup in 1990. He also coached Germany to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2006.

One of the players people are excited about is 23-year-old Mix Diskerud, who came to Klinsmann’s attention by playing in Norway.

During that game against Azerbaijan in May, Diskerud battled his way through a crowded defense and rocketed the ball into the back of the net for the US’ first goal of the game.

Afterwards, Diskerud spoke about the thrill of playing for the US team and the thrill of inheriting the Number 10 jersey from Landon Donovan.

"It’s an honor for me, if you look back to all the US national team that have been wearing number 10, Tab Ramos, Claudio Arena, Landon Donovan, so for me I’m kind of just borrowing it right now," said Diskerud.

The team is still led by veterans Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard.

But Diskerud and other younger players will get a chance to make their mark.

After Ghana, the US will play Portugal before facing off against Klinsmann’s old team, Germany on June 26. That will be another match to watch.

 


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