Andy Greeves grabs a one-on-one with the USA stopper aiming to keep Germany and Portugal quiet...
How pleased were you with your Sporting Kansas City form last season?
I was pleased with how I performed for my club. When you get called up for the USA you are judged on how you perform in that shirt, but Jurgen [Klinsmann] made a big point to us all about how he’d be watching our club games, and how our performances in those were as important as the matches we actually play for the national team.
People often say there is a ‘Group of Death’ at a World Cup – do you think you’re in it in Group G?
There is no denying the fact that we have a really tough group and getting through to the knockout stages will be difficult. Whether it’s the ‘group of death’ or not, that’s not for us players to say. We’ll leave that to the observers instead. When you look across the groups, there isn’t really an easy group. That’s the nature of this World Cup. We’re in a tournament with 31 of the other best nations from around the world.
What do you see as Germany and Portugal's main strengths?
Germany and Portugal are obviously two of the best teams in the world, both right now and historically – both individually and as teams, their qualities are obvious. But it’s not so much talking about these teams’ strengths, as much to say that both of them have few weaknesses.
How confident are you of progressing to the knockout stages, and what’s the target at this World Cup?
We’re really excited as a group of players right now, especially after beating Ghana. You always want to be challenged as a professional footballer, and obviously we have that challenge here. Despite our opposition, if we play our best football I am confident we will progress to the knockouts. The preparation right now is all about us and not focusing too much on the opposition. Our first game was all important to lay down a marker for the tournament.
What's been your personal highlight playing for the US national team so far?
I have three main highlights playing for the USA national team. Playing my first World Cup qualifying match was massive, getting a 0-0 draw at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico. It was a very good performance and we became the first American team to get a result on Mexican soil. The Gold Cup was a great highlight – my first international tournament, and we were able to win the trophy. More recently, being a big part of qualifying for this World Cup and getting the rewards for our hard work was great. The euphoria of getting your country to a World Cup… well, there are few better feelings than that.
What is Jurgen Klinsmann like as a coach?
Jurgen is a such a positive influence on everyone connected with the US national team. He encourages players to relax and play with confidence. There is also a perfectionist in him and when standards haven’t been how they should be in a training session, for example, he is able to step in, be firm and demand better.
This World Cup will more than likely be the last for Clint Dempsey. As such a legend of the game in the States, how much will you be hoping he can go out on a high?
Clint is the type of individual who wants to do well and will play 100% no matter what the occasion. Thankfully he's already made history at this World Cup by scoring against Ghana. But his competitive nature has been obvious throughout his career, and if this is to be his last World Cup he won’t be looking to do well for personal reasons, but because he wants to do his best for the country.
You’ll probably be too young remember when the USA host the World Cup back in 1994, but do you think that tournament was the starting point for the growth of US Soccer?
I actually do have a few memories of that World Cup, even though I was only very young. I can remember Carlos Valderrama’s flamboyant hair and the US going up against Colombia in one of the matches. I can also remember the penalty shootout between Brazil and Italy, and as a kid who was still learning the rules of the game, this was the first penalty shootout I saw.
That World Cup put the United States on the map from a football point of view, and two years later we had a professional league with the MLS (Major League Soccer). The league continues to go from strength to strength, and the national team has also been on the rise since that competition too.
You got offered some trials by English clubs a few seasons ago but turned them down. Would you be interested in playing in the Premier League or Europe in the future?
Absolutely. The trials I got offered a year-and-a-half ago came at a time when it wasn’t the right situation for me to consider them. I was keen on the project here at Sporting Kansas City and being part of a league that, as I say, is continuing to get better and better. All I’m worried about now is performing for my club and hopefully for the United States at the World Cup. If opportunities in Europe arise after the World Cup, then I’ll most certainly give them consideration. As ever, it’ll be about doing the right thing for me.
In my mind, the Premier League is the strongest league in the world and it would be great to play there. The Bundesliga also really appeals to me with the qualities it has right now. They are the two dream leagues in my mind.