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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

'The US are going there to win' - ESPN's Tommy Smyth previews tonight's game

We spoke to the American-based commentator about Jurgen Klinsmann, Robbie Keane and the Martin O’Neill era.

Hi Tommy, thanks for speaking to us. Are you keeping busy these days?

I was much busier than I am now. I’ve slowed down a little bit because of a health issue but I used to do about 250 games a year — from La Liga, to Serie A and the Premier League.

I had some trouble with diabetes which knocked me on my arse for awhile but I got it straightened out and I’m coming out the other end now. But the years are starting to go against me!

We all saw how well the US did at last summer’s World Cup finals but how are they looking post-Brazil?

Jurgen Klinsmann is starting to bring through some young players but that is slightly going against him because, like in the game against Colombia, the US have become akin to giving up late goals.

They have lost a couple of recent games and US fans see friendlies as being almost as important as competitive matches so Jurgen has come under a bit of pressure.

He also made a couple of very controversial statements about how MLS players should be thinking about going to play in leagues outside the US. It was basically a conflict of interests because he is also the head of the US academy.

So on one hand he’s telling these young players that “you shouldn’t be playing in this league as you need to be better”, and on the other he is saying that the national team are capable of beating anybody.

With that in mind, does tonight’s game carry a lot of importance for the US team?

Without a doubt, especially after giving up that late goal against Colombia. It means a loss to Ireland would see Klinsmann come under more pressure.

Are there any up-and-coming US players we should be keeping an eye out for?

This guy DeAndre Yedlin is certainly a player and Spurs have agreed to take him at the end of the season. He looks like he has everything going for him including a tremendous turn of pace.

I keep saying that the US teams are probably some of the best athletes in the world. They are as fit as any soccer team in the world but the one thing that they are lacking is a few good technical midfielders. They are very hard to beat and will run at you all day.

Is Robbie Keane nailed on to get MLS MVP?

It will be very hard to beat him, escpecially if they go on to win the MLS Cup. He has just had a terrific season.

Was it a good idea for him to come to the MLS? I think so. He got himself into a league that he fits in well, his face is on buses in California and his he’s up for most valuable player.

It has helped Ireland too because I believe it has extended his international career.

Do you still get to see all of Ireland’s games from the US?

I don’t get to see them in person as often as I would like but watch them all. The last Irish game I was at was Ireland v Wales in Croke Park. I’m generally covering a match myself.

What have you made of the first year of the Martin O’Neill era?

The one thing they are doing different to Trapattoni is that they have taken a look a players and brought some into the fold.

They’re not standing still and saying “we don’t have this” or “we don’t have that.” Having said that, the performance against Scotland wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination.

I know they got a great result against Germany but you’re going to need better than what was shown last Friday if you are to have any hopes of qualifying for the Euros.

The big one will be when they play Scotland in Dublin. Poland are playing out of their skin and they will be a very hard team to beat. They will have to be Scotland in Germany.

You’ve been living in the US for so long but who will you be supporting on Tuesday night?

The Boys in Green. I’m here 51 years and I love to see the US do well — except against Ireland.

How do you see the game going?

I can see it ending in a draw but an awful lot will depend what state of mind the Ireland players are in after the Scotland defeat. It could go two ways.

I do know this, it means a lot to US and they will be going there to win it.

‘Robbie Keane is a role model for American players’ – Klinsmann

5 things to know about USA before Tuesday’s match with Ireland

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Ben Blake

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