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World Cup 2014 Expert Interview: Is USA’s World Cup squad a testament to the growth of the MLS?

As part of our World Cup coverage, we have interviewed journalists, correspondents, experts & writers representing each of the 32 countries to give you, the readers, a better understanding of the 32 nations participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Here are the list of interviewees.

USA World Cup Interview

For this interview, focusing on the United States of America, we spoke to Janusz Michallik; he had nearly 50 caps with the US Men’s National Team before shifting to a journalism career, currently working with ESPN, FOxSport, Bleacher Reports, One World Sports and hosting Sirius XM. Find him on Twitter @JanuszESPN

The 2010 version of the United States’ Men’s National Team was certainly impressive, but Klinsmann seems to have taken them further. What are the main reasons for this success?

Klinsmanns approach of course is a key reason for that. Enthusiastic, diligent with an eye for detail and forward thinking in terms of the modern needs of players. He has been honest with players and loyal to those that have bought into his philosophy. Even when the team did not have the best start to the qualifying he found a way to turn it around and finish at the top of the standings. At one point it looked like players and media gave up on him but he stayed the course and persevered. I think that was the turning point and he earned the trust from the wider audience. His enthusiasm is contagious and attacking mentality plays well in to the psyche of an American player.

 Compared to 2010, a large portion of the squad for this edition plays its club football in the Major League Soccer, including key players like Dempsey and Bradley. What do you think has driven this change? How does having home based players help the side, or will it have a negative impact?

I think there is a good balance between domestic and European based players but there is no doubt that MLS has gone a long ways to be a viable option not just in terms of improved level of play but most importantly in terms of finances. Simply the contracts offered to these players could not be turned down. Arguably, they’re on par if not better than those big players in Europe command. Klinsmann has been open with his views that he was not all that thrilled to see those players leave Europe, as he wants them to play at the highest competitive level possible but this is perhaps a signal that MLS is growing in the right direction. This bodes well for the future stars of the National team.

MORE READING | World Cup 2014 Tactics: Analyzing USA’s tactical approach for the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Clint Dempsey is the wrong side of 30 but continues to hold a vital role in the national team. His experience is valuable but does this show a failure on the part of the States to produce talent? Why do you think players like Jozy Altidore (and Freddy Adu) stagnate after initial promise?

We could probably look the opposite way and say that Clint (Dempsey), Michael (Bradley) and Jozy (Altidore) are a very good product of the American environment. They obviously still have a lot to offer and simply belong. The talent is there but I think there is still a problem in finding and recognizing talent in this country so we can nurture players through all the age groups. Big country that needs to get young players in to the system quicker and make sure that there is a coaching talent to help them through the years. It is a huge country lets not forget with many different interests and levels of coaching.

Michael Bradley remains one of the best midfielders in that role and will certainly be a key member of Klinsmann’s team. He and Jones are likely to take up the spot; what sort of approach can we expect from the two in the middle of the pitch?

In terms of Bradley and Jones in the center of the field these two compliment each other well although both have a tendency of being at their best when going forward. Bradley is more sophisticated in terms of sitting deep and my only concern is that when Bradley does go forward, will Jones be disciplined enough to cover the space behind. Jones has an incredible capacity in terms of work rate and plugs a lot of holes but at times that takes him away from the center creating open spaces.

2014 FIFA World Cup Group G

With sports like baseball & basketball proving to be more popular traditionally among Americans, what perception do the citizens have towards the beautiful game? Can it actually genuinely compete with the other American sports, now in 2014?

The game is growing fast and it is here to stay. There is absolutely no reason to compare it to other traditional sports or think it will or it needs to surpass them. It is a niche but a big one. There is no need to lose energy and try to compete with other sports. I don’t think that the game will reach the popularity of American Football but I don’t necessarily think that this is a negative in any way. As I have said before, American kids love the sport, MLS is getting better and is becoming financially viable league for players, the league has signed a huge Television contract and there are plenty of people with foreign background that will support the sport if the proper level of play exists.

We at Outside of the Boot track the progress of youngsters under our Talent Radar feature. John Anthony Brooks and DeAndyre Yedlin have had good seasons and have been rewarded with a call-up; do you see them featuring? What expectations do you have of the youngsters?

Both are very promising but still not ready. Yedlin excites me more as the US team lacks pace in general especially in wide positions. He is very comfortable going forward but still needs to remember that first and foremost he is a defender. In time this could be a player to watch for everyone.

This is quite possibly the most difficult group the American side has ever come across in a World Cup. The possibility of elimination in the group stage is a realistic worry. Where do you expect the side to progress till? What can be considered a success?

Coming out of this group would be a huge success. It would be even for the biggest countries in the world say if Spain or Italy found their way in this group it would not be a picnic. I think it is the best thing that can happen to US as we are at our best when facing impossible odds. Remember 4 years ago in a much weaker group we came out in stoppage time thanks to Landon. There was an expectation then because the thought was that perhaps the opposition was inferior. I like this group and it is not impossible if you know the mentality and patriotism of an American player. We are not novices in this as well. Logic and reality will tell us all to firmly stay on the ground but I am sure our opponents will not take us for granted.

In Japan we beat a Portugal team that was better than this one here even though Ronaldo can win games on his own. Ghana has been our bogey team in the World Cup but in the first game anything is possible. They are very athletic and skillful, but beatable as mentality can still be their undoing. Germany have had their problems as of late in terms of injuries and defensively. I have never bet against them and I am still afraid to state this but this is not the usual clockwork like German machine. Far from it. Having said all that I do realize that all of our opponents are still better than us on paper and perhaps in reality.

Read all our World Cup Interviews here, and all other WC2014 related content here.

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