DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado Rapids coach and former World Cup player Pablo Mastroeni took issue with Jürgen Klinsmann’s declaration that the United States has zero shot to win the cup in Brazil.
“I’m different as a coach,” Mastroeni told CBS4’s Vic Lombardi on Xfinity Monday Live. “I want to be the best team in the world. If we fall short of that, and become the best team in MLS, I’m good with that. I come from a different place.”
Mastroeni, who played for the U.S. in the 2002 and 2006 cups, said Klinsmann may be playing head games with his team: “That’s playing psychology with the players. We’ll see how they react.”
The U.S. coach told The New York Times: “We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.”
Mastroeni said that philosophy would bother him as a player.
It’s not the first time a U.S. coach has publicly expressed a lack of confidence, realistic or not. Before the 2002 World Cup, Bruce Arena, the U.S. manager at the time, said, “We’re not going to win (the World Cup) because we’re not a good enough team. I don’t think anyone is going to be damaged by us saying that. I mean, how many countries have won it?”
Mastroeni, for one, believes the Americans have a great chance to emerge from group play. The U.S. pool includes Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
He says the U.S. is “better as underdogs, and when we have Goliath to fight, it brings the best out of the U.S. team.”
“Ghana is a game where if you even get a draw, you’re in a good spot. And then you take down one of the giants in Portugal and Germany,” he said. “I think we have the type of players on this national team that can do that at any moment in the game in Clint Dempsey and (Kyle) Beckerman and Michael Bradley. We have a very solid team, and I think our chances of getting out of group play are pretty good.”
SECTION: World Cup 2014
The Rapids coach said he’s also surprised, like many, that Landon Donovan won’t be playing for the U.S., noting that Donovan is one of the top two American players today.
“(I’m) extremely surprised. Landon brings more than what people know on the field. He’s a class act. He’s a leader. He likes to take young guys under his wing and really preach his experiences and help them along the way. For me, it was total shock,” the Rapids coach said.
Why isn’t Donovan on the team?
“I’m the wrong guy to ask,” Mastroeni said.
His pick for the cup? Brazil, despite the pressure of hosting.
“They’re talented,” Mastroeni said. “Once they get the ball rolling with a win, I think they just become bigger and bigger and at the end they’ll be giants.”
Confidence is a tactic Mastroeni employs leading the Rapids roster, too. He’s in his first year as coach after replacing Oscar Pareja. Mastroeni learned he’d won the job just one week before the first game.
“I tell the guys, ‘If we continue to do the little things right, we’ll have the opportunity to win every game,’ ” he told CBS4. The Rapids are in third place in the Western Conference with 6-5-4 record and 21 points.
He’s shaken up the philosophy of the team, most notably not believing in fixed starters week to week.
“I think of the world differently,” he said in the interview. “I don’t have starters. I’ve never had starters. This is what I ask of all the players is to be ready every day. Don’t take a practice session off. Don’t take anything off. The game doesn’t give you anything. Life doesn’t give you anything. You got to go out and earn it.”
See more of Mastroeni’s appearance on Xfinity Monday Live in CBSDenver.com’s special section.
– Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com