United States men's national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann addressed the winds swirling around his team ahead of Friday's match against Costa Rica in Denver, calling published reports of disharmony "rumor" and saying that the debate about the men's team was healthy.
"I'm not here to make everyone happy," said Klinsmann. "If I was, I'm in the wrong job. I'm taking some risks to move people out of their comfort zones, to take them to another level."
"What does it mean, 'anonymous quotes?'" Klinsmann said. "That's just part of our environment. Journalists and people can say whatever they feel, whatever they think, whatever they believe, which is important. I think it's a great sign, all the debate that is going on about soccer in this country. It shows you that people care.
Clint Dempsey, named as the new captain of the team on Wednesday, said that he did not address the subject with the team and that it was not a distraction.
"No, I haven't talked about it with the team. Our job is to focus on Costa Rica. We don't want to be the team that doesn't go to the World Cup . "
Klinsmann repeated his claim that this was a "must-win" game for the USA, and said that he strongly believed he had the team in camp that could win here and in Mexico next week.
"The group that is here has the quality to beat Costa Rica and Mexico," said Klinsmann. "Yes, Tim Howard is not here, but Brad Guzan is playing extremely well at Aston Villa . Look at the backbone of this team: Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clarence Goodson. These are good players.
"The players that aren't here, some of them don't play at all," Klinsmann continued, perhaps a veiled reference to former captain Carlos Bocanegra, who has not played for Racing Santander in Spain since Feb. 5. "And some of them don't even train. And a lot are injured."
Asked about the criticism leveled at him by former national team manager Bruce Arena, about his choice to bring in so many German-American players, Klinsmann deflected it - and then took a jab of his own.
"It's cool, it's his opinion so it's not a criticism. But Americans are Americans no matter where they grow up. We have to identify the best talent with American passports.
"We must not lose the next Giuseppi Rossi, he grew up in New Jersey. Would he look good in our anniversary jersey? I think he would."
Arena famously dismissed bringing in Rossi, now a star with Italy, at age 16 to cap-tie him to the national team program.
The talk now must be backed up Friday at a sold-out Dick's Sporting Goods park in nearby Commerce City. Over two thousand members of the American Outlaws fan group have traveled in for the game, and are expected to be a raucous presence behind the goal.
The forecast for Friday night is now expected to be chilly and damp, conditions that Dempsey says will favor the home team.
"75% of our guys play in Europe, and they're used to the cold. As to the altitude, the national team program has done a good job of getting everyone in as soon as possible to acclimate."
In addition, the American Outlaws and US Soccer are holding an unusual event Thursday night - a "pep rally" at a historic downtown local theater. No such event has been ever staged by the Federation with press officer Michael Kammerman describing it as part of an effort to include host cities in the qualifiers beyond the game itself.