PHILADELPHIA — Starting with Wednesday's friendly against Mexico, new U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he will rely heavily on a core group of veterans in achieving his long-term goal of transforming the Americans into World Cup contenders.
"I think every core of a team starts with your leaders, and it's definitely here: (Tim) Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Landon (Donovan)," Klinsmann told USA TODAY on Sunday. "We want them to become examples and lead in terms of how they communicate and their body language and how they help younger players coming into the program. … I want them really to take charge of the team."
In doing so, Klinsmann hopes the core group can show younger players how to become "full professionals," who show complete dedication.
"There's definitely a heightened sense of responsibility," Howard said Monday of the team's transition to a new coach. "It's an exciting time for us. This team is in a really good place. … We know that he will help continue to put us in the direction we're going."
Howard's among 10 veterans from the 2010 World Cup team on the roster for Wednesday's friendly (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Klinsmann, hired 11 days ago, also called up several inexperienced players, including Brek Shea, Edgar Castillo, Zach Loyd, Michael Orozco Fiscal and Tim Ream.
A World Cup champion in 1990 as a player for West Germany, Klinsmann defines success as going a step beyond the USA's previous best showing in a World Cup. In 2002, the Americans lost in the quarterfinals to Germany.
Klinsmann outlines a deliberate process in improving the senior team and rebuilding the youth program. For the senior team, he points to gathering detailed information and developing plans for improvement for each player.
"This won't happen overnight," Klinsmann said. "Every coach had his really important stamp on that national team program, and now I get that opportunity."